Friday, 20 April 2018

Bonkers meets Crikey, in another happy intersection of the Perfumista and Monochrome Sets

Source: The Voodoo Rooms
It's good to have a hobby. Perfume, knitting, and the music of a particular band (no prizes for guessing which!) would be my top three. I have knitting friends, perfume friends, fellow music fans - and then very occasionally, friends who fall into more than one category. When that happens, it is as exciting to me as one of those uncommon astronomical events that I often forget to look out for - like the Super Blue Moon Eclipse in January, though I did catch that one, as it happens. The moon wasn't particularly blue though, or even what I'd call 'super', but I daresay these things are relative.

That said, 'knitting perfumistas', while not exactly two a penny, are by no means as rare as hen's teeth - and may in fact be commoner than I think. On the other hand, perfumistas who are also fans of The Monochrome Set are an altogether different - as in highly sliverish - intersecting set, in punning Venn diagram parlance. To date, for example, there is Val the Cookie Queen, who got into the music in the 80s, when she lived in Amsterdam. She and husband Chris have now clocked up four gigs with me in Germany and Austria, where she massively endeared herself to the band with epic feats of impromptu roadie-ing.

Up next is Katie Puckrik, who attended her first Monochrome Set gig in 1980, the same year as me, though she saw the band in Washington DC, and I saw them in the Tottenham Court Road(!). I cannot honestly say whether Katie has an ongoing interest in the music, but I am shoehorning her into our intersecting set until I hear to the contrary!

Then we have Susanna Pellinen, who was a moderator on Basenotes about ten years ago when I used to hang out there - and may still be, indeed! - it's just that I never visit the site now. I know Susanna has a ton of Monochrome Set records, as she has posted attractive montages of her collection on the band's Facebook page, though I can't speak to her gigging history.

But the most striking and dramatic crossover of our two sets has to be Rachael Potts. Rachael has the double distinction of being a perfumista and married to Tony Potts, the band's video maker of yore, who is widely regarded as the TMS equivalent of 'The Fifth Beatle'. Rachael was arguably catapulted into fandom by dint of her attachment to Tony, rather than getting into the band organically like the rest of us through the normal channels of record shops, the NME, the John Peel show etc. However, she is now a card carrying lover of the music in her own right, quite independently of spousal influence / three line whippery. ;)

Finally I could count a slightly looser category of people associated in some way with The Monochrome Set, namely those whose interest in niche perfume I have in some way encouraged - equating to a small handful, certainly. Posts about my fragrancing exploits within the wider band scene do pop up from time to time, for example about Jessica of The Would-be-goods, and her (now happily concluded) rose perfume quest.

Source: Edinburgh Spotlight

And then recently....drum roll...a reader of various perfume blogs (including Bonkers) named Crikey 'came out' as someone who had been to a Monochrome Set gig in the mid-90s, at the 12-Bar Club in London, right before the group split up (again!). I only went to three gigs in the 90s - none of them beyond 1992 - so I was most interested to hear of someone who heard their UK swan song, as it were. Though the swan turned out to have strong phoenix-like proclivities, for here they are, still touring some 20+ years later.

But firstly, how good an Internet handle is Crikey? So quintessentially British, so understated and faintly retro. I am not aware of a blog reader called 'Blimey' or 'Golly', but there is surely a vacancy for both. Crikey and I have engaged in a few perfume swaps, plus she had the misfortune to win one of my most ludicrously lacklustre raffle prizes - a strangely sexist perfume book focusing on mainstream classics of the 20th century - so, you know, we had already had a bit to do with each other postally, and by email.

But when I heard Crikey was thinking of coming to a gig in her home town of Edinburgh in April, I was beyond delighted! There were several concerts in a northern cluster, and I managed to get round them all as well as spending several nights with Sibling and SIL Bonkers (aka Hazel). The Edinburgh gig was the last date, held (as is customary) in the highly characterful Voodoo Rooms, noted for its fin de siecle grandeur, and featuring ornate chandeliers, gilded swag-type architectural mouldings, and special offers on gin. It was in The Voodoo Rooms that I famously spotted an Andy Tauer lookalike called Graeme, and ended up devoting a whole post to this remarkable Doppelgaengerish incident.

Crikey and I didn't make a specific arrangement to meet in advance, as I wasn't sure quite what was happening in terms of my own logistics, plus those of several other friends I knew were coming. These included my 'dancing partner' of 13 years, Ruth from Belfast, and a former band member from Staffordshire(!), now resident in Edinburgh. Things worked out really well though, for Crikey arrived just as our party were finishing eating, and we adjourned to another part of the bar for a proper chat - initially just the two of us, but gradually joined by Ruth, then the current keyboard player, Jon, then Sian, a former keyboard player(!), and last but not least Jane Barnes, the promoter.

While the two of us were together, Crikey most generously gave me a little travel pot of Frederic Malle's Portrait of a Lady, which just happens to connect me to two of the other fumehead fans I have come to know - Katie Puckrik and Val. For when I first properly met Katie she was wafting PoaL on her pashmina - my first encounter with the scent too - while Val has worn it to at least one TMS gig. I distinctly remember her spritzing herself with abandon with PoaL in an underground car park in Augsburg, though not on the most recent occasion, when she was rocking Dior Oud Ispahan. But PoaL is an absolute link amongst us all now - a gossamer scented thread, if you will - and I have worn it several times since I got home, enjoying in particular the intensely rosy note in the drydown.

Before the others joined us, Crikey and I also had time for a 'turbo download' about our respective lives: Crikey is a world class power lifter in her spare time, lifting being another thing she has in common with Val, along with statement lippie, short stature, a love of cats, and more besides. I was also pleased to hear about - and see photos of - Crikey's two cats, the charmingly chubby-cheeked Herschel and the newest addition, monochrome-themed ;) Atkins. In case anyone is curious, Crikey was sporting Encens Mythique d'Orient by Guerlain, while I was in my new winter squeeze (it was still winter then, believe it or not!) of House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved.

And then before we knew it, it was time to go into the venue itself, as the gig was about to start. Jane had thoughtfully reserved a table for our party near the front, so we had the option of sitting or standing, and most importantly, somewhere to deposit coats, bags and drinks!

Crikey told me afterwards that she had very much enjoyed the set - and later in an email added that it had serendipitously featured a number of her favourite tracks - but sadly had to head home straight afterwards, as it was technically a school night, as it were. The rest of us took root at our table, and had an interesting conversation about how all people can be divided into one of two types, foxes and hedgehogs (FYI, I count myself as an out-and-out hedgehog, though with a small 'standby' fox somewhere deep inside, to be deployed in dire emergencies). We also drank the remains of the wine rider, and were finally ejected by the venue staff in the wee small hours (as is also customary).

The next day, I bumped into Jon, who mentioned that he would be glad for me to find him a perfume if I was up for that, and that he was completely open in terms of fragrance style. Are bears Catholic?!?! So I eagerly said yes, and now I would be grateful if readers could help me with that. For info, Jon has long hair and a beard, but typically wears gender bending stage outfits that nod towards the 70s. Here he is in Newcastle the other night...while the shot above was taken in Germany or Austria - I can't quite remember which. ;)

Any suggestions gratefully received! I hope to assemble a little clutch of half a dozen or so samples for him to try. So far I have set aside Rima XI, as it is a wispy woody number that might fit the bill. I wouldn't exclude an outright feminine fragrance either. Also, Jon enjoys a swift half or two, so I wondered also about Penhaligon's Tralala, which has a whisky note and even features in the lyrics of a TMS song!

Finally, I have the good fortune to be seeing Val and Tara and a whole clatter of other perfumistas tomorrow in London! No more TMS fans to my knowledge in our midst, though I should perhaps just check....

Jon looking happy on a train


crikey said...

Thanks again for a really enjoyable evening. Let's do that again!

I've been pondering possible perfumes for Jon, which is a little tricky having no starting point for his taste in smells. But I was thinking about the things that worked particularly well when I was still a smoker, and things that can dance all over any easy definitions of gender... not wispy, but not full on powerhouses (however tempting it is to suggest Fracas and Shalimar).

* Maybe a floral leather. (Jolie Madame? Goodbye Picadilly? Cuir Cannage for that cooler iris touch? Or Bottega Veneta to head towards suede and apricots?)
* Old school raspy chypres with some body (Proper Miss Dior? Good enough for one David Bowie. Or more up to date, Dryad?)
* Something easy and incensey like L'Orpheline? or CDG2 Man?
* Lolita Lempicka?
* A completely non-traditional lavender, like MEM?
* Something unusual but easy like The Smell of Weather Turning? (I love the chamomile and petrichor in that--not something you get in many scents)

p.s. Are you kidding? That book was a fabulous prize. It's hilarious!

Unknown said...

Great piece - sounds it all came together for a wonderful time and how perfect is the venue name Voodoo Rooms! Also love Crikey - memories of Billy Bunter & Just William. I really love Tralala but it's discontinued and really difficult to find - do you know of a secret stockpile somewhere?
I suggest: Signature Ruth Mastenbroek
LADDM (btw uncanny Andy look a like)
V C & A Midnight in Paris or Ambre Imperial

Can supply samples if required.

Vanessa said...

Hey Crikey,

I'd love to do that again, and they will surely be back in Edinburgh - it is a staple destination!

Thanks so much for coming up with those ideas for Jon. I am similarly in the dark about his taste in smells. I get the impression he hasn't previously worn scent, so we do have a bit of a blank canvas to work with.

Clever of you to clock his being a smoker. I am not, but find myself increasingly drawn to perfumes with a tobacco note. I may devote a post to this strange phenomenon sometime!

I have vintage Jolie Madame and Bottega Veneta - the latter in particular is very accessible and gender neutral.

I also have vintage Miss Dior, as it happens, and Dryad!

Not got any of the others but I would like to include something easy and incensey, not least on account of his Irish Catholic heritage. Might have a few other options there.

I think Doux Amere by Serge Lutens (sorry to mention them!) might tick the non-trad lavender box. Or do I mean liquorice. Quirky but wearable.

And though I don't have that Lush scent, I think Jon would really appreciate having a petrichor note in his perfume - he is a true wordsmith.

PS Glad you weren't mad with me for the ueber lame prize!

Vanessa said...

Hi Bejoux Noir,

Lovely to hear from you! The Voodoo Rooms is a pretty nifty name, no question. Oddly, I once went to a 'create your own perfume' session many years ago, hosted by The Perfume Studio organisation here, and my friend made a fragrance he named Voodoo!

Ooh, I loved Billy Bunter and Just William - and Jennings!

Re Tralala, I have a secret stockpile thanks to Tara, who got involved in a three way split on a bottle and kindly gave me the third split as a gift. I would be glad to help you out with a sample of it, just PM me. Given my SABLE situation (see previous post), I need to get this stash used!

Thanks for your recommendations - I have LADDM, which is a great idea, and Dzongkha is also excellent. I don't have that, but you have reminded me I have Dzing! Jon's stage act is quite theatrical and circus-like in parts and I think he would appreciate the humour of a dung note. But the same would go for the pencil shavings note I seem to remember is present in Dzongkha.

PS Thanks for endorsing Graeme as an Andy Tauer Doppelgaenger. I did do a doubletake on the night all right, though the chances of a perfumer being a Monochrome Set fan are admittedly vanishingly small. ;)

Jennifer Wells said...

I don't keep up with Monochrome Set, but Eine Symphonie de Grauens cracks me up. : )

Vanessa, I'm also with you on the tobacco notes. I like the tobacco smell and also think it's a little bit gross, all at the same time. But maybe that's because my grandpa chewed tobacco ("Red Man" brand in the green pouch) and I loved my grandpa very much even if I thought his habit was icky.

I come from a family of real, true hillbillies. Sorry!

crikey said...

I'd be happy to help out filling gaps if you think any of these sound like they might be interesting for him to try. (seconding Dzing! as a good idea--it always makes me think of Angela Carter's novel "Nights at the Circus")

p.s. nope. I read bits aloud every now and then when taking a bath, for instant entertainment.

I still love my Lutens scents. One grumpy experience isn't going to kill that :)

Undina said...

Google/Blogspot has changed something recently, and now I seem not to be able to comment from my mobile phone, which is annoying because that's where I often read posts before going to sleep. It's annoying because now I read posts at night but then have to go to the same post the next day if I want to comment. I know that it's not your blog's issues because I had similar problems with a couple others. Grrr.

Back to the post. Enjoyed it, as always. And I'm envious with you meeting all the nice perfumista and music (and knitting?) friends. I hoped to get to some perfume-related event tonight but plans have changed (not because of me! :( ), so I'm doing ironing instead ;)

For your friend I would recommend to try Atelier Cologne - Bois Blonds, Trefle Pur, Santal Carmin or Oud Saphir. It's a good brand because it makes interesting perfumes, they are both accessible and reasonably priced.

Vanessa said...

Why, thanks, Crikey, that is appreciated. Will see what emerges in this first round. It might take a couple of eclectic sample selections indeed to find a perfume that hits the spot! Glad you like the sound of Dzing!

LOL at your book reading MO. And I am glad that you can still love SL despite your frosty reception at their HQ.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jennifer,

You are acquainted with Eine Symphonie! That was the very track that got me into the music 39 years ago. ;) It is weird as all get-out, and even Bid, who wrote it, has no idea what it's about, though a shedload of fans have tried to tell him over the years.

Glad to meet a fellow tobacco fan, and I am rather envious of your hillbilly ancestry! I think my grandfather smoked a pipe, but he died when I was about seven, so I have almost no memories of him.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

So sorry that Blogger has been up to its tricks again, messing with the settings and making things even more difficult for would-be commenters - not that they were particularly easy to start with! Thanks for persevering though I appreciate it takes more effort now.

Sorry too that you missed your perfume event, but I know how much you enjoy ironing! A worthy substitute, hehe, and one that beckons for me later on.

Thanks for those suggestions - have definitely got some Bois Blonds in the house. I agree that Atelier is accessible and inexpensive - a bit like Jo Malone in that regard, though the line has upped its prices over time.

Tara said...

Not sure what happened to my comment, Perhaps I forgot to press Post.
Anyway, lovely to hear about your time in Edinburgh and I'm jealous of the select members of your perfumista/TMS sub-set.
I wonder if the Voodoo Rooms are open for non-gig activities. If so, I'll ask Davina if we can go next time I'm in Edinburgh. I love the décor!
Thinking about a perfume for Jon. How about Dear John by Gorilla Perfumes? It's described as "reassuring and nostalgic" with hints of coffee and smoke.

crikey said...

It's a regular bar. Do go there, it's lovely!

Tara said...

Thanks crikey, I will!

Asali said...

Because I just read your post about Denise Hamilton’s Damage Control, I cant get Sycamore out of my head. It’s rumoured to have been Bowie’s perfume, and the combination made me think that it could work. I loved the idea of Jolie Madame though.

Vanessa said...

Crikey beat me to it, but yes, there are two beautiful public bar areas, one where we tend to eat, one more for drinking, but the arrangements may be flexible.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

That is an absolutely inspired suggestion for John. Perfect in every way. Will seek it out forthwith!

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

Good to hear from you, and thanks for seconding Jolie Madame. It is definitely on the shortlist. I didn't know that nugget about Bowie and Sycamore, but how interesting. I had heard he wore Minotaure by Paloma Picasso, and Rachael above scored herself a vintage bottle for that very reason!