Steaming in London at White Mischief's Ghost in the Machine. << Prev Next >>
Special UK Correspondent L.C. Longo takes us to London for the premiere Halloween steampunk event, ...
By StaffWriter on Nov 29 2011 Category:Events
All images courtesy of LC Longo.
Halloween night, of all weekends in your calendar, is undoubtedly the one with the most entertainment options. Every year London’s steampunk community is faced with scores of wonderful events all aimed at the rising numbers of individuals interested in ‘dressing up’ themed parties. A forerunner in the world of subculture entertainment is White Mischief, an assortment of entertainers and artists who regularly host events throughout the UK. Originally conceived in 2007 by the tribal pop band Tough Love, White Mischief has grown in leaps and bounds, hosting events at a variety of locations from a Georgian mansion, to the former art deco cinema Scala, to the 30,000 strong festival Bestival. Organized by Mr. Tobias Fauntleroy Slater, unique performances are the name of the game and White Mischief sports a killer line up. This year, on October 29th White Mischief's The Ghost in the Machine event, played host to Abney Park, who were on a mini UK tour; the hard hitting anachro-steampunk band The Men That Will Not be Blamed for Nothing; Nine-piece brass insanity from the Hackney Colliery Band; as well as vaudevillian greats The Boy With Tape on His Face, Lili La Scala, The Covent Garden Chainsaw Juggler, aerial performer Jackie Le and many more. And if that wasn’t enough, White Mischief’s innovative approach to audience participation means even waiting in line at the bar turned into a performance. The Girl in the Jar aka Miss Amelie Soleil, along with stilt walker Miss Bliss, The Blue Lady from Tricity Vogue and the ‘Psychedelic Kidnap Experience’ from Hernandez, not to mention the other weird and wonderful artists, keep you company throughout your night, creating a feeling of total immersion. Fancy a bit of primp and pamper? Why not get your hair styled by Hairy Poppins, or your silhouette drawn by 18th century physiognomist Johann Casper Lavater? Steampunk satirical cartoonist Doctor Geoff was even at hand for a quick sketch or two. Finish it all off with some amazing DJ’s and the ever popular, pith helmet totting Professor Elemental as your all night MC, and there was no question where I was spending my extra long Halloween.
That’s right, with an extra hour, thanks to the clocks going back, it was easy to forget just how many hours I spent parading around the beautiful venue at Scala. The theme of the night was echoed in the ‘chain and cog’ décor of the beautiful marble staircase, lovingly decorated with cog carved pumpkins and cobwebs along the landings. Performers set up their individual acts in marble alcoves, leaving just enough room for passing traffic and group photo ops. I was quickly taken aback with the level of attention to detail in some of the costumes passing me by. Similar to any large convention, the gloves had come off, with everyone dressed to impress. While dressing up is not mandatory for a White Mischief event, it is strongly encouraged with individuals often planning a year in advance for events.
I procured a VIP ticket for the evening, giving me access to an above stage gallery and private bar, along with some welcome air conditioning, though I did chose to spend most of my night on the ground among the rest of the masses. Opening up with Sister Darling, (a sax and trumpet band), Professor Elemental brought the crowd to a boil with some of his own brand of hip hop, and set the stage for The Men That Will Not be Blamed for Nothing, who once again turned it up to eleven. Dancing, with fists pounding the air, their punk homage to some of histories greats saw me with bruises the next morning and happy memories of a very ‘greasy’ steampunk lady joining me in a jig. After my corseted flailing in the main stage room I shifted my attention to the bar for a double gin and tonic. Of all the things that could be said about the bar at Scala, the word ‘cheap’ would not be one of them, but that has to be expected for a London venue. So with pockets slightly lighter I began work on finding someone to buy my drinks for the rest of the night. I was in luck, as it just so happens Herr Döktor (Model maker Ian Crichton, creator of the Brass Goggles Ring) had managed to find himself some traveling German documentary film makers who were in the process of putting together a program about Steampunk in the UK. For a few brief words and some footage of me generally going about my business, my cup was full for the rest of the night.
The entertainers in the first floor bar were well into the swing of things, with handpicked members of the ‘audience’ being taken onto the mini stage and given strange activities to do, such as press an accordion at speed to produce small black beans that by the end of the night, were scattered across the floor. The artist’s area was packed with people, and it soon became clear why when I saw the Abney Park merchandise table. Armed with my camera I waded in and snapped a picture with the ever charming Nathaniel, (who spoke to me about Abney Park's upcoming Whitby gig and how happy they were to be back in the UK), then swiftly departed. Spotting cult comedian Andrew O’Neil, and singer Andy Heinz (both of TMTWNBBFN) in the distance I made my way over to a grouping of steampunks, each sporting splendid outfits and happily chatting away with the band. After a conversation with bassist Marc Burrows about zombies, I saw the tell tale signs of a crowd on the move and made my way back inside the stage room for Abney Park’s set.
With a pleasant smile and camera clicking I managed to get to the front again just in time for the first darbuka beats. The crowd lit up and it was clear most of the people in attendance were avid fans of the band. Ripping through new and old material alike Captain Robert played the crowd with his energetic style and compliments on the attendee’s appearance. The band performed on a picture backdrop displaying the inside of an airship all the while never standing in one place. Jody in particular, danced her way through the set. While the show was ultimately successful and wildly enjoyed there were clearly a few technical hitches with pre-recorded backing instrumentals threatening to skip on a few occasions. Regardless, the band carried themselves off with professional swagger and created a cataclysmic conclusion to the nights live acts. With electro-swing by DJ Markabre Charade playing me off, I made the rounds saying my good-byes, snapping those last few pics and regretting my footwear choice. Once again Tobias and the rest of the White Mischief cast had out done themselves and I will eagerly await my email telling me of their next trip down the rabbit hole.
If you're curious to learn more about any of the varied and wonderful performers who were at this event, they are all linked at the White Mischief web site. And if you should find yourself in London on New Year's Eve, there is a new White Mischief event in the works.
Special UK Correspondent L.C. Longo has been described as a force of nature unto herself, an enigma of both time and space, a hero of the dance floor and a time bandit of noted distinction. Currently residing just outside of Central London after permanently moving over from Pennsylvania in 2005, Ms. Longo makes it her business to have as much fun as is humanly possible. Working by day for the British government, by night she can be found at any sort of party provided they are serving gin... and cake. Flying the sepia flag for lovers of the post apocalyptic aesthetic, she has been known to roll a multi-sided dice from time to time and keeps a zombie survival guide by her bedside with notes in the margins. Leanna is available for parties and weddings and enjoys nothing more than meeting new steampunks and listening to their ideas. Knowledge is power, and each steampunk has something wonderful to bring to the table. Her favourite book is The Lies of Locke Lamora, she enjoys moon lit walks at night on the beach, laughing at herself and not taking life too seriously.