For the past few years, whenever people have asked me what I’ll be doing on New Year’s Eve, I haven’t had to think long about my answer.
If I’m in the UK and haven’t lost the use of my legs, come December 31 you’re going to find me at Torture Garden’s NYE party at Mass. It just feels so right.
In the past few years these end-of year shindigs in Brixton have, for me, consistently achieved a balance of onstage and offstage fun as near to perfect as can be found at any TG event.
Other big TG nights at other venues may attract bigger crowds and offer a broader range of entertainment. But the combination of the venue and the crowd and the particular kind of high spirits that NYE engenders in audience and performers alike makes this particular night unique.
Despite its cutting-edge reputation, Torture Garden can sometimes seem a bit repetitive in the live entertainment department. It has a habit of choosing most of its performers from a relatively narrow circle of regulars, and sometimes seems to go for rather obvious choices for its fashion show slots.
But if a bit less formularism would be welcome at some TG events, the club’s formula for a New Year’s Eve at Mass is precisely the thing that guarantees this night will be perv partying gold. As, indeed, it was on December 31 2010.
New Year’s Eve in London is a time when just planning how you’ll get to and from an all-nighter can be stressful enough. So knowing pretty much exactly what’s going to be served up by TG at Mass, when, and in what order, removes some of the uncertainty from the whole evening.
With this TG night, you know you’re going to get one big, wild fashion show that will start on the main stage a little before midnight, and climax as Big Ben chimes, thereafter degenerating into a frenzy of balloons, giant party poppers, models spraying champagne over the audience and lots of random, drunken face-eating.
You know this will all be done to the accompaniment of that stomping version of Those Were The Days that The Leningrad Cowboys recorded live in Helsinki (with Russia’s Red Army Choir, if you’re interested).
All very moderne — no linking arms for traditional Scottish songs no one can remember the words to.
You know there’ll be two or three other eye-catching alternative burlesque-style performances on the main stage, and several installation shows around other parts of the venue.
And you know that if you want to escape the stratospheric noise levels of the two dancefloors, the basement will offer quiet, comfortable chilling space and other less comfortable distractions for those so inclined. And it all just works.
New Year’s Eve TG seems to be when stalwarts of the fetish partying scene ‘proper’ make a concerted effort to top their previous outfit bests
Whereas the Halloween crowd at Debut/SeOne can be somewhat diluted by ’nillas in fancy dress, New Year’s Eve at Mass seems to be when stalwarts of the fetish partying scene proper — including a goodly portion of pervs from beyond our shores — make a concerted effort to wear something that tops their previous bests.
It’s not easy to pick favourites from among this collection of sartorial superstars. But judging by the number of compliments aimed in their directions, designers Amy Day (aka Am-Statik) and Lacing Lilith deserve special mentions.
And not only for their individual costumes — unicorn and inflatable rubberdoll respectively — but also for their enthusiastic demonstrations of mutual support throughout the evening.
I also encountered a significant number of newbies who had Made An Effort and seemed on the whole to be people who might become Torture Garden devotees in 2011, rather than just TG tourists on a once-a-year visit.
Friends — and friends of friends — from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA added style and colour to the enthusiastically circulating crowd and in some cases also contributed to the onstage action.
Lady Lucie’s midnight fashion show fielded as cosmopolitan a bunch of models as you’re likely to find at any fetish event, sporting some great new outfits from one of London’s favourite latex designers, and leading the midnight revelry with genuine enthusiasm.
Separate performances and installations from the likes of San Francisco’s Samar Soriano (doing an amazing horizontal flesh-hook suspension) plus Vivid Angel, Sophie Landi, Syban, Amrita and Kazuyo provided the evening’s other diversions along with plenty of trouser-wobbling sounds from the usual suspects on the decks.
The happy, upbeat vibe of this night was genuinely infectious — sufficiently so to take my own mind off the frustration of The Fetishistas’ site being down between Christmas and New Year as a result of a serious server crash in Germany.
And when I finally decided to leave at around 4.30am, I (like many others) was able to take full advantage of the one night in the year when London’s tubes and local trains run more or less throughout the night.
Pathetic though this attempt at 24-hour service might seem to those who live in cities like Berlin where all public transport runs non-stop through every weekend, it was an unexpectedly civilised end to a great night of partying.
The happy, upbeat vibe of this night was infectious enough to take my own mind off the frustration of The Fetishistas being temporarily offline