It seems that during the Fringe every spare room in the city becomes a venue. Down the stairs of SpaceTriplex – just like a rabbit hole – a spectator reaches a rather small room, where they are greeted by a seven-piece band enticing them inside with the sounds of ‘Boogie Wonderland’. With this funky melody comes a promise of excitement and what we’re all here for: “A Brief History of Disco”.
Indeed, for a while, it is very exciting: the band has a lot of fun on the stage and the instrumental section (made up of a keyboard, drums, sax, guitar and a base) offers a good quality performance. On top of that, there are the excellent female vocals and fantastic hosting skills of the male singer within the group.
As for the show itself, A Brief History of DISCO begins in 1972, and chronologically covers a set of well-known songs, from ‘Get on Up’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’, ‘YMCA’ to the final medley of the legacy the genre has left behind. The night ends with, as the performers themselves put it, the epitaph of disco – ‘I Will Survive’. At this point, most of the audience is dancing and having fun, and there is no doubt that the contagious energy of disco has been channeled through.
And yet, there seems to be something missing.
Disco sounds great, but the title of this show suggested more than just a concert. As the audience travels from funk to modern pop, appropriate notes on their significance or context are inserted before each song. There are a lot of musical changes to be discussed, yet the focus here is on racial, gender and sexual orientation; or rather, social issues that have shaped this journey through time. Without a doubt, these are crucial to what we now associate with disco, and many genres that accompany it, and it is admirable that such an attempt at anthropological analysis has been made.
However, we must question of how much and what exactly should be inserted into a 50-minute performance like this. In this case, there is an obvious miss opportunity to explore the visual aspect of disco; fashion and design; sub-cultural activities; dance practices; the development of rhythm in popular music culture and so on. Even if the objective historical truth or dry academic research is not the goal or purpose of the night, the choice to look deeper into any musical phenomenon has been done, hence the responsibility of giving it justice. On this occasion, this was sadly not the case
There is no doubt that A Brief History of DISCO offers an entertaining night, and the fun was achieved in a professional and somewhat creative manner. Yet at the end of the gig my friend turned to me and said: “I really want to go party now”. It is certainly similar to a set of tunes put on at pre-drinks or an end-of-party playlist.
Disco in itself is a great amount of fun, but it is not only that. This essentially is the curse and the blessing of A Brief History of DISCO.
A Brief History of DISCO
Until 26th August
Photo credit: Max Halbach