‘Tip of the top hat to you, Alfresco Disco. In amongst all the hyperbole, all the rush for tickets and the entire ‘Where is? What is it? Who’s going?’ pre-party piffle, the bare fact remains reassuringly clear after the smoke (and our heads) have cleared after The House Of Curiosity did its work. This was the best party Crack has ever had the pleasure of attending. That’s not hyperbole, that’s fucking fact.
Crack readied itself with an array of Dickensian gentleman, shoe-shiners, street-urchins, waifs and a crew of ladies who either looked like royal aristocracy or Bob from Blackadder. After ringing the party line, we discovered the location of the event was a 1.2 million pound Tower House mansion in Almondsbury. House party anyone?
‘Post-party, Crack did some homework. The hero that allowed their house to be opened to roughly 700 people to celebrate the turning of the year was one Graham Pendrill, a 64-year-old millionaire antiques dealer. On further inspection, Crack discovered Pendrill was in the news in 2008 after he was looking to relocate to Kenya after becoming inspired by the dress and ways of the Masai tribe. As Crack arrived at Tower House, one of the first smiling faces we saw was Mr Pendrill himself readying bacon sandwiches in preparation for his guest’s departure at least seven hours later. Wonderful British eccentricity personified.
In the outside garden area of the house, Crack was treated to guitar based treats from the LCD Soundsystem and Joy Division influenced Transformer and the Scandinavian jazz of Lund Quartet complete with turntables and double bass. This took place in the rather spectacular Crystal Palace Dome adjacent to the rather warming and at the same time intoxicating cider bus. Upon arrival this was as perfect an appetiser for the evening as one could wish, with the Crystal Palace Dome proving yet again no expense had been spared on creating an exuberant and exciting stage, even in the cold weather.
First up a gripe with New Years music. As a DJ you might only ever have one chance to create a memorable moment at midnight. Mentioning no names, Crack has had the displeasure of watching DJs pass up this awesome opportunity time and time again. It’s New Year, no one wants to hear the latest on-trend house release as they eat the face off their missus. That didn’t happen tonight. 5,4,3,2,1, Bang! I Would Die For You by Prince, spun by Pardon My French. Job done. It left the upstairs master bedroom/drawing room/whatever room we were dancing in going utterly batshit.
‘In order to celebrate the turning of the year in the correct fashion, Crack restrained itself from a total exploration of Mr Pendrill’s quarters until later in the night so we could fully appreciate the magnitude of where we were. First stop, the staircase that led upstairs to a solitary bedroom with a solitary double bed. Private access to the house? After negotiating the couple necking in the hallway, clearly waiting for an opportunity for everyone to disperse, we got involved. “Hold the camera mate, it’s photo opportunity time.” It’s amazing the fun you can have with three in a bed – honk!
‘You know that feeling when you’re at your mates house as a kid and you go for a sneaky peek in his Mum’s bedroom. The ‘I really shouldn’t be in here’ feeling. Well, as we managed to find our way into the upper reaches of Tower House there was definitely a conversation between Crack and one of our cohorts. “I don’t think we should really be up here?” Had Mr P forgotten to lock his upstairs? Oh well. So as Crack settled down on the bed with some excellent company, we felt quite privileged to be where we were.
Open for business as usual, the library, one of the many other bedrooms and a bathroom in which one member of Crack decided to get in the bath for a bit. You know, what you do at any standard New Year’s Eve party? Get in the bath for a bit. Amazing.
As the night went full motion there was still plenty of time to discover a room concealed with a door disguised as a bookcase, some awesome music upstairs and downstairs provided by the cream of Bristol’s selectors. Special mention to Jay L and Tom Hodgson upstairs for playing the hits, vinyl selector Nick The Record for bringing the expertise and JG Alim downstairs for keeping it melodic and bouncy. Downstairs there was even a specially designed Technics 1210 gramophone. That’s a proper antique.
Going to Alfresco is about having your senses entirely dismantled and re-assembled as the night goes on, and the standard of dress this evening did as much to do that as the epic levels of effort from the organisers. Parties don’t perform without people and lets be having it straight, no one was messing around tonight. That includes the staff, who worked in costume and with an awesome level of enthusiasm. This was epitomised by the gentlemen who showed up at 2am to play a Punch & Judy show and ended up playing five shows over the course of the night. He obviously got involved.
A final hazy trip to the garden at 5am heralded the last surprise of the evening in the form of a derelict bus and a cocktail bar. After scaring off a few rather weirded-out individuals by announcing to them they couldn’t get on unless they purchased a childs single to Mordor, we retired back to the house to see people leaving with smiles on their faces and bacon sarnies in their hands.
But we weren’t finished there … after realising we’d mislaid our jacket, Crack went on a hunt round the house. And what a hunt it was. There was a whole new wing/quarter we hadn’t seen, the unmistakeable aftermath of a joyous party, and then there was a private audience with Mr Pendrill. Cool as a cucumber, despite the obvious pandemonium and debauchery that had just taken place in his gaff, he announced to us it was “his pleasure”. No, no seriously Mr P, the pleasure was all ours.
Alfresco Disco, we’ll be honest. We didn’t think it could get any better. It did. Again. We should never have doubted you.’
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Words: Thomas Frost
Photos: Chris Cooper