BRIONY BATES wants to love Denim, but is thwarted by its terrible sound.

Friday 16th March, The Union, £7/£8/£9

[rating:3/5]

I’ve had a very queer couple of days: it was all high kicks and following your dreams for Footloose at the ADC on Thursday, then to Denim for glitter and glamour and sleaze.

I didn’t realise until recently how lucky we are to have such a great LGBT presence in Cambridge. OK, in a lot of ways the Cambridge gay scene is limited – there are only so many times you can go to The Cow on a Monday – but friends at other unis were surprised and impressed that one of the biggest events of term was a student-run drag night.

And Denim is no gay ghetto: all the straight boys get their lipstick and fishnets on too. Seeing pride colours in the Union chamber, a space created exclusively for straight white men if ever there was one, was fantastic. I love the fact that we have Denim. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite love Denim itself.

The blame for this must be laid at the feet of whoever was doing the sound. The Denim aesthetic works well, situating the event firmly at the trashy end of camp. The tinsel palm trees and Hollywood “Walk of Fame” for the likes of Anna Drogynous were cheesy in just the right way, and I was sad to find that I’d arrived too late for the fire-eaters and paparazzi that were around outside. Instead, Glamrou (Amrou Al Khadi) and the other drag queens and kings wandered around entertaining the queue, which was a nice substitute.

The projections in the chamber weren’t the usual spliced together film clips, but stylish black and white behind-the-scenes footage, teasing us for what was to follow. The Denims themselves set the bar as high as their wigs for looking fabulous, and it’s now established that the clientele follow suit: fluorescents are apparently a must. And of course, a few gyrating, glittery, topless men are always welcome. I was impressed. A lot of thought had gone into pitching this just right. But then the show started and the problems began.

First, the mics didn’t work. Then when they did, the singing was too quiet and the band too loud. Everything was painfully wrong. Some people I spoke to said that some of the performers weren’t the best of singers anyway (although Rebecca Fitzsimons’s rendition of Let’s Get It On was sensational), but for me that wouldn’t have mattered. This was about showing off, and that is something the Denims do well.

The set-list was full, as you might expect, of some serious camp classics, opening with Get Happy and moving on to Bad Romance, nicely juxtaposing classic and current gay icons, and the energy was high. However, the sound was genuinely so awful that I couldn’t stand to listen to most of the show.

It’s so disappointing when one crucial thing spoils an evening. I’ll put the problems down to the ghosts of some indignant straight white men haunting the machines and look forward to the next, more technically proficient Denim.

  • Gay

    You Philistine.

    Denim was amazing.

    Glamrou is a goddess.

    Someone obviously didn't get laid on Friday night… :-P

    • Tom

      Rasmussen?

    • Disgruntled

      Denim is a drag night. Drag nights can be very good. Denim is average at best. A lot of people think it is cool to like Denim, because they see the LGBT scene lifestyle as in vogue. But drag acts are not celebrated for simply being men dressed as women. They have to be funny and talented singers as well. The Denims are not selected for their ability to sing, and in fact it is sometimes excruciating watching the hordes of luvvies screaming praise as Glamrou and co swan about the stage singing out of tune gay classics.

      I have no problem with high quality drag culture. But I do have a problem with people subscribing to thinking Denim is 'fabulous' simply because it is a) so rare to find good quality 'LGBT' (an offensive lumping together. if we're being honest) nights in Cambridge and b) because the heterosexual male community can indulge in showing how in touch with their gay side they can be.

  • Claudia Blunt

    Frankly Bryony, I am disappointed in this review. Obviously I am biased. However, it saddens me that you spend almost half this review discussing a technical difficulty. To clarify, the radio mics that the Denims were wearing on the evening did not work. The Union provided an external AV company and the problem was not the fault of the Denims or any student techie. The problem with the radio mics was apparent for two numbers. Thankfully, the focus for these numbers was on dance. The cast then made do with two hand held mics between 8 of them. It was an error, but not the fault of the Denims.

    I do wonder whether you actually noted the feelings of euphoria amongst the crowd during the performances. The crowd were pawing at the performers and begging for more. I saw this from the side of the stage – perhaps your vantage point didn't allow that.

    You also seem to have bipassed the point of Denim altogether. Yes, it is show. Yes the technical aspects were not up to scratch. However, perhaps if you had arrived on time, witnessed the fire performers, topless waiters, make up artists and photographers – you would understand that Denim is the closest thing to an LGBT ball that there is in Cambridge. It is the first and only event of its kind and the hour and a half of performances only scratch the surface.

    What Amrou has achieved over the past year with Denim should be applauded. Friday provided an opportunity for self exploration and liberation. It is in a totally different league to anything provided by CUSU, because let's face it, Monday Night at the Cow often has the air of desperation about it. With Denim, all types of sexuality are embraced and celebrated. The performances are enormously important but the message that Denim is trying to convey is that bigotry must stop and everyone no matter sexuality, gender, subject, college or year should be able to come together at the epicentre of Cambridge debate culture and make a large statement about putting an end to bigotry once and for all. That, is what this review should have focussed on and applauded. Not a technical difficulty that was impossible to correct with 800 screaming students in close proximity to the stage.

    • Pedant

      Bryony did actually mention the topless waiters:

      "a few gyrating, glittery, topless men are always welcome"

      • Wait a sec…

        So simply for existing this should get 5 stars? Fair play people enjoyed it more than the review may suggest, but you can't dismiss the review because the technical difficulties weren't there fault or because it's the closest thing to an LGBT ball. It still has to be good.

        • Pedant 2.0

          their*

    • 3 stars

      Firstly, getting a 3 star review isn't that bad, so i don't know why you're so pissed.

      Secondly, Bryony specifically mentioned how glad she is that Denim exists, for precisely the reasons that you have given, if a little more brief. in fact, if the 'focus' of the piece is your issue, it might be worth noting that she spends more words talking about the general aesthetic, and the brilliant phenomenon that Denim is than talking about the mic issues.

      But also, sometimes little shit like that can ruin an evening, and i have to say there were times when it made what would and should have been a good show almost unlistenable. it's really great that lots of people weren't bothered by that, but a reviewer has to reflect their own subjective experience to some extent. like, fair if you disagree, no problem, but that's just how reviews go.

  • Denim fanatic

    agreed that the first part of the show had mic issues – but this a shite review through and through, and you obviously didn't experience the show like everyone else in the audience, who were all going nuts…what a crap stupid piece of writing to coincide with what was a beautiful and exciting event and show…

    • really?

      the fact that you disagree with something doesn't make it crap and stupid. lay off. just like, no need to be rude. also, whilst i know that a lot of people really enjoyed the show, and that's great, the sound issue was a fairly big problem for me and the people i was with too, and as much as it didn't ruin the night for me entirely, it did drastically reduce my enjoyment. that's a shame, and it's not the denim's fault, but it was the case..

    • jason darulo

      agreed

  • Sal

    I think you don't know how to have fun and party.

    Lighten up, it was a FABULOUS night.

    You obviously like a night in knitting, that's all I can fathom.

  • ANGRY

    Bryony Bates= Loser

  • Honest opinion

    How anyone can find this denim rubbish entertaining I have no idea, its abhorrent. Why can't people just be homosexual or whatever themselves, why does it have to be loud and in your face to the rest of the world. Frankly these people are an embarrassment to the average community and cringeworthy. People seem to act like the LGBT community is still ostracized and fighting for survival, increasingly I feel its the other way around.

    • Stickittothemanonman

      Exactly. As a straight person I feel like I'm ostracised and fighting for survival. How can I be expected to look as fabulous as the gays?

    • Love

      This is an unfortunate comment. Abhorrent? The average community? Fighting for survival? INCREASINGLY YOU FEEL IT'S THE OTHER WAY AROUND??! I think we have a bigot on our hands people! Eek – go back and think about this.

    • really?

      with people still suggesting that people should keep any non-straight sexuality quiet and out of the way, as you have done, i don't really see how you can feel ostracised. although it is a fairly common tactic of the oppressive majority to paint themselves as under threat in order to continue to oppress.
      plus like, i went to Denim, and am straight, and – given that unlike you i have no more problem seeing lgbt people being "loud and in your face" than i do seeing straight people doing the same, as one must see on a regular basis – it didn't bother me in the least.

      • So Brave

        " i went to Denim, and am straight"

        Hey! Hey everyone! This guy's ok with gay people!

    • Suggestion

      If you don't like it, don't go. It's not as if the advertising didn't make it very clear what the event was aiming for.

      You might as well turn up in the Arsenal stands and shout "Pick up the ball! I prefer watching rugby".

    • Andrew Davies

      "The gay sex makes me rather queasy."
      (Andrew Davies directed the BBC adaptation of Hollinghursts' "A Line of beauty")

    • Faith

      omg yeeaaah why can't we have a WHITE civil rights movement, or a NON-DISABLED person campaign, or a STRAIGHT pride, or a RICH PERSON shelter, jeeeeeeeez

      • The Pitt Building

        Rich people shelters do exist

  • Larry Zhukman

    I had a fabulous time thanks very much ;)

  • Guy Woolf

    In defense of the sound issues, yes there were problems, but as Claudia rightly said it didn't matter because the audience were loving the dancing and that came across. And then it was solved very quickly and as efficiently as possible with the introduction of the hand held mics. I just don't understand how you could give such an incredible night three stars when what Amrou, Claudia, Gareth and all who put it together made such a clear impact on everybody involved.

  • Let's be fair…

    The opening of the live performances was flawed, admittedly, but the team were consistently open and constructive about the route of the problems. The intense enjoyment clearly shown by the large crowd that gathered for the performances was, in fact, the most problematic factor. The ability of theatrical radio mics to transmit over a large amount of ambient noise (due to the absolutely brilliant audience singing along at the top of their voices) proved to be the root of the issue, and clearly, as the review comments on the vocal ability of one of the performers in particular – the vocals were clearly audible! How else would this distinction be made?
    It was a truly fabulous night, and the amount of effort, stress and organisation that went on behind the scenes, as well as the commitment of the performers, staff, and general followers and fans, seems to have been entirely disregarded on the basis of a completely unavoidable issue that was clearly resolved.
    Though not entirely ignorant of the technical aspects, so many audience members and party-goers praised the incredible dance routines, enthusiastic performances, wonderful outfits, and buzzing atmosphere; that this night was the perfect blow-out end of term party.
    The next morning, seeing a large percentage of guys with the dregs of eyeliner and glitter was a constant reminder that, despite some complications, this night was all it promised and more.

  • TROLL

    I totally agree with "Treat Day", but actually, as a non-fashionista, these were the weakest photographs. Fit models though, keep it up!

  • Lottie

    I had a brilliant night! thanks so much DENIMS!!! – the atmosphere was all that mattered to me, and it was GREAT.

  • Fan

    The night was about more than the show, and for that reason the review is unfair. There were sound issues in the show (which made up roughly 1 hour of the entire night, about 4/5 hours long). To knock off 2 stars for that alone, when the dancing & performance was fabulous, the atmosphere was great, and the little touches everywhere (b&w video in the chamber, pride flags, walk of fame, topless waiters, make-up artists giving out diamante and glitter paint, fire dancers…) made the evening far more fabulous than 3 stars.

    (And indeed far more fabulous than it was last time, when the Tab gave it 5 stars…)

    Denims you were fantastic

  • A Liberal Union

    I do find it odd that some people like to perpetuate the myth that all grand and old establishments such as the Union Society were, and in some way still is, meant for white heterosexual men. "The Union chamber, a space created exclusively for straight white men if ever there was one". This is not true.

    The Union Society wasn't created for straight white men. Perhaps it was membered by certain bigots along the way, but the establishment was never meant for them nor were they ever in control of it. Keynes, famously homosexual, was president of it in 1905, and there have been Jewish presidents since the 19th century (at least since 1852 with Arthur Cohen), and there was an Indian was President in1938.

    Sure, women weren't allowed to be members till quite recently, but it must be remembered that women were only encouraged to attend university in the last few decades. If it is of consolation, Henry Sidgwick who pioneered women's education in the University, was a president of the Union Society in 1861.

    • Union Insider

      Finally someone who does a little research.

  • DJ issues

    Had the reviewer mentioned the AWFUL DJ from about 2am onwards then 3 stars would have been about right. This really ruined it for me as the music was great until that point. It was techno, but not even good techno, and the mixing was absolutely horrible. Despite technical difficulties, Emma Roberts was brilliant, her song choices etc. But whoever played after should never call themselves a DJ. Seriously awful.

    To Claudia: Sure its an impossible technical problem, and it may not have been anyone's fault, but you have to bite the bullet if you are in charge of the show. It is frustrating, but it is a problem to bear in mind for next time. Those who you mention were going crazy in the crowd – those were probably less aware of the sound issues because of screaming etc. However the other 50% who werent in the pit, who were focused on the music, did not get good sound. That is a fact. The reviewer was fair to knock off a star. I wholeheartedly applaud the message behind denim, and I think the Denims did fantastically. But like another reviewer mentioned, this show cant get 5 stars by simply existing.

    • Techno?

      I don't recall hearing techno at any point that night..

  • Am I the only one…

    who doesn't understand why you are REVIEWING A PARTY?

    IT'S NOT LIKE A SHOW! THIS IS SUBJECTIVITY TO A COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS LEVEL!

    My tiny little mind just disintegrated.

    • Not exactly

      If you have to pay £9 to get into things, it's only fair that you have an indication of how successful past events have been.

      One of the good things about this review is that although it criticises this show it also makes it clear it's worth going to future shows.

  • Gareth

    I AM A KING AMONGST QUEENS. Denim was indescribably awesome.

    • Connor

      Yes, yes I was

  • Judge

    really?

    • Maureen

      oh yes

  • Granrou

    Knitting.

    Knit him.

    Knit me now.

    Just knit the floor.

    And cream your pants.

    • Gran of Granrou

      Crochet the night.

  • will attenborough

    Denim WAS indescribably awesome! sing it loud and proud! WOOHOO!!!! x

  • But the question is

    … who was hottest?

  • hele
  • THE TATLER

    I thought it was rather spiffing, actually

  • straight guys

    in fishnets….gross and creepy right?

    • dickless

      More like confusing. I wanted dick but EVERYONE LOOKED GAY and I couldn't tell where to aim for