Club Culture Feet

To be fair, Wednesday’s a little late to ask someone how their weekend was. “What did I do?” Jodie Harsh muses, then remembering her DJ set on the Isle of Man. On the Friday, Harsh also appeared at Omeara near London Bridge for ‘Feel It’, the queer club night she coproduces with Little Gay Brother. It helps her keep a foot in London queer club culture, she says, “where I started and where I will always be. You hear the best music in queer clubs, the best ideas, all the new kids coming through – I like to be around that.”  

I see photos of ‘Feel It’ and think queer nightlife is safe as houses, but then we hear about venues finishing left, right and centre. “Yeah,” the musician says, “but they always have. I’m sure there were amazing spaces for queer people in the 80s that lasted a few years, then they were turned into flats.” People with deep pockets, she says, have always built things on top of cooler things. “A club is more than just a club, isn’t it?” she resumes. “It’s more than a building. It’s a place where memories are made and cultures are born. So, it is sad when they get shut down and million-pound flats are built on top, but it’s always happened and will continue to do so.” 

That said, “I think London’s pretty vibrant at the moment. There’s loads of really exciting stuff going on – it’s a good time. The age of the queer venue,” she says, “might be coming to an end. Now it’s more about interesting nights and events happening in spaces that aren’t traditionally queer.” 

Where I’m based, I tell her, there’s one LGBTQ+ pub and one queer club, but there was a good deal more 10 or 15 years ago, a long time before I started going out. Is it important for me to know about the club culture that came before? “I like to know,” she answers, “because I’m interested. But I think some people really just want to go out, have fun, and escape the working week.  

“A nightclub is a space to go and forget your worries, have a good time for five hours, dance, meet new people, hear new music, and get off with someone. Some people probably just want to do that. Some are interested in the culture behind it, though, which is cool.”  

Last year she presented the podcast, ‘Life of The Party’. Fatboy Slim, Amy Lamé, Munroe Bergdorf, Nile Rodgers and more joined Jodie to explore club culture’s past, present and future. With Annie Mac, Erol Alkan, and Róisín Murphy also part of the series, it’s perhaps unfair to request her favourite guest. “I loved Paul O’Grady,” she offers, “because he had really cool stories from Royal Vauxhall Tavern and stuff – loved that.” At one point in the O’Grady episode, the comedian says he never worked behind a bar in drag, before remembering the one time he did in Halifax. He’s had a life so full that bits and pieces take a couple of seconds to come back to him. I wonder if Harsh, though decades younger, ever takes a while to recollect gigs. “Well, as I’ve just demonstrated, I can’t even remember what I did at the weekend.” 

Speaking of her performances, in December she’ll bring a show to London’s Oval Space, her “next key moment”. She’ll DJ the music she’s been creating and releasing – her current single ‘No Sleep’, by the way, is out everywhere now – accompanied by visuals. The venue is “a bit warehouse-y”, she says, predicting a rave atmosphere. “I don’t really play in London as much now, so it’s more special when I do.”  

Also coming to London soon, ABBA Voyage, where digital versions of ABBA (‘ABBATARs’) will play a specifically designed arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It’s a concert Harsh (who considers ABBA one of the top five pop bands of all time) plans to attend. “Maybe one day I’ll be a hologram,” she says, and I consider how performers qualify for hologram status. She suggests you have to be a certain age, “or dead”. 

Across the pond, I want her take of this year’s Met Gala garments. “That feels like ages ago now,” she says, trying to recall who wore what. “Let me just look, one second.” There’s quiet as she does a quick online search. “Met Gala outfits… Met Gala outfits… oh, Kim Kardashian’s was kind of clever,” she remarks of the Balenciaga look which saw Kardashian’s face completely covered. “She’s arguably the most famous person on the f*cking planet, a figurehead of modern celebrity culture. She’s so famous she didn’t even need to show her face. I thought that was the most Andy Warhol thing [to have happened] for ages.” 

Does she find it easy to go unnoticed in places? “Yes.” And does she like that? “Yes. I don’t have any interest in being switched on all the time, I’m quite private.” There’s the world in which she works,  

giving folk “fun, glamour and music”, but there’s life away from that too. There’s happiness, she says, in being able to do what she loves and put on a show for people, but not have to do that all the time. So, when she concludes a set, it must be really nice to put those club culture feet in comfy shoes, get in the car, and go home. “Yeah,” she confirms, “love.” 

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Jodie Harsh Plays Oval Space, Friday 10 December 2021.  

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