He walks on stage in a barbershop-quartet-style straw hat and braces, pushing a giant hula hoop. Waving at the crowd, and with a manic grin on his face, he climbs in to the hoop, clings onto the rim and starts to roll.
It's not 1946 in Chicago- it's still November 2016, and in Victoria Warehouse in Trafford Park, Party Like Gatsby is in full swing, with the emphasis on 'swing.'
Let's put the needle at the start of the record, shall we? Manchester Cool Bars organised a trip to Manchester's Gatsby Party after the organiser saw the event online. The parties had taken place in the likes of Reykjavik, Dublin, Budapest, Oslo and pretty much every major German city on the map.
Inspired by The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald's novel of excess and exuberance (and a dreadful case of one-itis) The parties consist of live music in swing-style, stage shows, acrobatics and 1940's style fashion.
We started in Albert's Schloss on Peter St, ideal for its similar retro themes, live music, vintage outfits and fancy cocktails. I tried the Dirty Birtie. I'm sorry, but this cocktail was gross. I let one of the girls in our group try it- she regretted it. I've had others there that were much better.
Hugely popular bar that reached capacity not long after I got in. After the group convened we shared taxis down to Victoria Warehouse.
I was wondering how a promotional team could turn an old empty warehouse- usually used for packed dance music nights- into a location for an exuberant, glamorous old-fashioned party. But they managed it, starting with plenty of curtains and roaming floodlights. Balloons, aerial dancers and fire breathers all played their part in bringing the glam cabaret-style show to life, to the point you forget you're in a large former trading mill in South Manchester.
The club steadily filled up with men in suits, braces and trilbies, and women in elegant gowns and headpieces. Some had evidently spent a small fortune on their outfits. I already owned all of mine. I just gelled my hair into a side parting before I left.
The bar was a problem: the staff were obviously drafted in for the one-off night; they were under-trained and didn't gel together. Serving times were lengthy, and drinks were routine. I was hoping for cocktails from the era, but that would have been too big an ask.
Before long there was a fanfare of sorts, the lights dimmed in the hall and the stage was illuminated. Cue Ben Hart, compare and entertainer, a talented young chap who was standing too far away from the edge of the stage and we couldn't really see him. We got the gist of his performance, though, an impressive attempt at combined stripping and juggling, or as he called it, 'struggling.'
Burlesque performers, acrobats (one of which looked just like Bugsy from Once Upon a Time in America), singers, a live band, aerial dancers, fire eaters- the show was packed with in-theme entertainment that appealed to the whole crowd- men, women, late-teen students, forty-something-year-old professionals- the theme struck a chord with everyone there.
The modern pop songs done in swing-style were a real treat, and each number left you guessing what track had been Gatsby-fied right up until the opening lyrics, or even the hook.
DJ Annio (bearing more than a slight resemblance to Radio 1's Annie Mac) polished off the night with a well-fitting electro-swing mix- 20s-40s music with a contemporary house music beat. This strayed into hard core dance later on, which was a little out of character, featuring songs about albatross and a llama in a living room. Bizarre, but still entertaining. After the event had finished, the cloakroom offered the same issues as the bar: very lengthy queues. As the event took place in November in northern England, everyone had a coat to collect.
Issues aside, this night was well worth seeing. The meetup was well attended, the outfits were stunning, and the entertainment mostly spot on. If this runs again in Manchester, I expect Manchester Cool Bars will be hosting a meetup there.
|Nas' shoes, ladies and gentlemen|
|This guy made sure the acrobats- performing in the middle of a packed dancefloor- had room to move. He looks the part, no?|
|One of the performers stuffed this into my top pocket before he started his act|