There are many things in the evolving 21st century that fly in the face of all the horror and uncertainty and inequality and rotten pop music. The ubiquity of cupcakes. Touch screen technology. Still having a job. Fifty looking sexy.
And being able to like, love, be and enjoy all kinds of whatever you want with no fear of being socially cast out.
And I should know. Not simply because, well… you’ve seen my hair, right? But also because I have had an inordinate number of people admit publicly to liking Momo’s damn-fool music lately. We live in enlightened times.
I mention this offensively obvious contemporary truth because in days of yore you – yes, you, you well-adjusted ordinary person – might well have instinctively mocked someone joining a dating agency. And now you’re signed up to one. And similarly you don’t see anything remotely socially funny about dropping into the local arts centre to browse the merch stalls of a science fiction convention.
In fact, you fit in a treat, now that you have all those tats and piercings and steampunk boots and a ukelele. But then, you always were a bit of a fashion victim, bless you.
I’ll tell you now, I don’t know who is a geek any more. Or rather, I don’t know who isn’t. We are so many of us out and proud – it’s fun to really love something. Or really know about something. Especially when it’s something deeply imaginative and playful and clever and perspective changing.
When four of us leaped up the steep steps of the splendid old Exeter Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, it was into some corner of my own private universe, I think. There was a Tardis parked outside. A pink dalek called Candy trundled about in the foyer. Darth Vader passed with two storm troopers. Oods queued at the bar. The bar served a nice humous wrap. Two apes from Planet Of The Apes joked in the corridor. An X-wing pilot politely squeezed past me. And many assorted friendly people in Victoriana swapped conversations in the gallery spaces that were showing different interpretations of a post-modernist fixation with vintage futurist architecture. While OMD or something played on the sound system.
Simon and Lee had not put on Phonicon before. This was the very first attempt at a science fiction convention in Devon and they had no idea if anyone would really actually come along. As we passed through the crowded, grinning, chattering rooms of the friendly former Victorian college, it was obvious that they had in fact very much come along.
I’ve not had this confirmed, but I think the lovely first lady of Momo and I have reverse-engineered the name here.
The Exeter Phoenix is presumably so named because it arose from the ashes of a good few sad years completely empty and unloved. Phonic FM, broadcasting from its basement, presumably felt it immediately obvious to take its name from an abbreviation of the venue’s into a nice play on words to do with sound. Simon Brett and Lee Rawlings, DJs on the community station, were drawn together by a love of electronic music and put together a show dedicated to this – but subsequently discovered a mutual love of iconic TV programme Doctor Who as well, and convinced the possibly skeptical broadcast board to give them another monthly radio show for the presumably seen as rather self-indulgent purposes of blathering on about it for an hour. I can then imagine the obvious shining eyed moment of glee and tea mug clinking at the quick development of the name of this show to The Phonic Screwdriver. When Exeter’s film community and nerd family began to inexplicably swell behind the idley bandied about boast of throwing an actual whole fan convention on the back of this show, a quick promise to the radio station that it would be a fundraiser for them secured both a location and an unavoidable name for the event – Phonicon.
But I’m only guessing.
Some months before all this pantomime joy, Simon had gotten in touch with me out of the blue with an inexplicable amount of enthusiasm about Momo:tempo. Through the kind thought of a Momo Sobo amigo called Shep, Simon had been tipped off about “this bloke in Bournemouth making slightly bonkers electronic music you might really like” and subsequently lit up said bloke’s social media with follows and sign-ups and a bashfully muttered crazy idea about playing a scifi con in the West Country.
Now, I grinned. But it was only as Simon went on to explain the almost accidental development of Phonicon that it began to dawn on me that getting involved might be just too much fun to say no to. For, as he had approached actors and writers and other creatives connected with Who and other spacey cerebral goings on, he’d begun to hear about their other creative exploits away from their better known fan-loved work.
It was when he said: “It’s basically going to be a sort of collision of science fiction, arts and electronic music” something in my head said loudly: “HANG on…”
And then it had another idea. One that might test the bold assertion that we’re all beyond cool nowadays.
Setting up in the oddly comfy-seeming big old rehearsal room known lavishly as the Voodoo Lounge, I had to be immensely grateful to our fellow main act for Phonicon And On that Sunday night, a couple of months later. For Low Tide Theory were not simply genial, patient and gracious, they took up very little stage room and set-up time. Which was a massive mercy, given how very the opposite a certain Momo:tempo Electro Pops Orchestra usually is. And definitely was.
“So sorry, chaps. Our percussionist alone can footprint half of any stage. Thanks awfully.” I muttered, awkwardly. Paul and the other chaps made no fuss and went on to share some delightfully civilised and melodic OMD pastiches from their new LP Big Sky, released the following morning.
By the time I rolled up behind the white piano and hit Play, I had been up for quite a while. Not least of all because my brother-in-law had been down for days until only the afternoon before with five of his less than inhibited kids. So it will come as no surprise to you as a politely interested follower of Momo’s antics that the bloke berking about at the front forgot half of what he was supposed to play, say, sing and do during the hour or so’s set.
Oddly, though, undoubtedly due to the professionalism of the five musical heroes who joined me all the way beyond Dorset’s western frontier, the god-love-’em Phonicon tribe jumped about and cheered and made me feel as though I wasn’t some visiting work experience boy. They seemed to, dare I say it, rather enjoy our big beats and horn blowing and chapping about incoherently. Very rather, in fact. I couldn’t have been more grateful or made to feel welcome.
I must say that of all the very kind Twitter comments and Facebook thanks we received on the delirious drive east that night, the one that seems to sum them up is from an artist who kindly joined us on stage for one number, adding a touch of terribly needed alternative edge and glamour – Mojo Jones. A ‘nerd burlesque’ artist, as she puts it, Ms Jones shared a neon fan dance to I saw you get on would you like to get off – and subsequently said online afterwards that Momo “makes music that spreads joy”.
I can’t think of a compliment higher, can you?
I have to say, I know we all felt the story of Momo’s playing at Phonicon would likely be one of our best live recollections, and now we’ve been we all came away feeling loved up and appreciated. I can’t think of a little community that has welcomed us more or joined in with our musical outlook so generously and enthusiastically. And such very nice new chums I have met.
To Simon and Lee in particular, so good of them to open Phonicon’s arms to us with such positivity. But also to Mark at Nerdology who has done so much to also promote Momo through his podcast and a very nice interview we did over Skype before hand. To Mojo too – a witty, interesting nerd queen, I think – and to others such as Cameron the sound engineer, who was another interesting chap and gave us some of the best hassle-free sound we’ve enjoyed as a challenging sonic set-up.
But of course, whenever we ride out, it is to the family of maestros I owe the greatest thanks – John, Pat, Mark, Mellish and Addy on this occasion. Admittedly, I can’t promise burlesque dancers every time we play, but they make it fun and fulfilling wherever we daftly find ourselves.
And that creds-testing other idea? Our first ever cover. And something that is very sexy at fifty.
Who cares about cool, anyway these days?