The older I get, the younger everyone around me seems to get. I’m not that old though, am I? I grew up during the birth of home video and the reward for this was an affinity with ropey VHS horror. Once regarded as the lowest of the low, now considered ironic kitsch highbrow by the hipsters. But there are some of us who can recognise genuine skill in the directors of these ‘video nasties’. Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Aldo Lado, Mario Bava; these men understood cinema. And in the case of Argento, my past tense couldn’t be more appropriate.
For Halloween this year I’d treated myself to a ticket to see frequent Fulci collaborator Fabio Frizzi perform several of his horror film scores live at Union Chapel in Islington. There’s no denying I was excited by this, but by the same token I was well aware that this was the third-best ideal. Sure, we’d probably all rather see Goblin or better still, though less-connected with the horror scene, the sublime Guido and Maurizio De Angelis. But somehow the idea that Frizzi was by no means the best in the field was more of a draw.
I’m not a people-person, a going-out person or a sociable person. People annoy me. The older I get, the less I want to go out and experience them. As one of my companions on this trip sagely pointed out, that may actually be the cause of my irritation. The evening was possibly one of the most irritating I’ve experienced for many reasons, but the key factor in all these reasons were those people experiencing it around me.
Union Chapel was a terrific venue for this event. For those who’ve never been, it’s a glorious mix of solid stone and solid wood which for this event had been sufficiently lit and decked out in the requisite Halloween cheesery. Pumpkins, spider webs, even a skeleton. But the atmosphere was a fitting tribute to the work on display.
A big screen projection accompanied many tracks – albeit a rather lacklustre effort. No doubt the limitations on licensing the visuals can likely be blamed for this, but these visuals contributed to one remarkably distressing observation for the evening: very few of these twenty-somethings paying to see this gig had ever seen a Lucio Fulci film. They didn’t know who Fabio Frizzi was. This was instead a social media badge-of-honour. Look what I’m doing! I’m in a church! Listening to some Italian guy! Aren’t I great? (click like if you agree).
Maybe I’m being cynical, maybe they faked their appalled reactions to the eye-gouging from Zombie Flesh Eaters and maybe their shock at Fulci (I bet they didn’t even know it was him) repeatedly driving over the hitchhiker from Cat in the Brain was fake. But it certainly didn’t sound that way. If they were acting, they were convincing.
Then there’s the slower numbers, those without video accompaniment. Presented by Frizzi in his words as “a change of tone and pace” a suite from his score for Fulci’s gloriously grizzly western Four of the Apocalypse saw the majority of this young audience get up and wander off for a drink or to evacuate their bodily fluids. Those that didn’t began conversing and loudly discussing what they were going to do after the show. How much longer has it got? Will we be out of here by ten? Two idiots even had their chat less than five feet from Frizzi as he played and sang ‘Movin’ On’.
Unfortunately the majority of this set I missed owing to the two people sitting in front of me. A possibly Irish, possibly American woman whose accent slipped depending which swear words she was tripping off her tongue, and her pony-tailed, cretinous beau seated beside her. From the very start the pair of them had been talking throughout. It was during this quieter set that their inane chatter tipped me over the edge and I leaned in to impolitely ask them to shut up. This, apparently, was beyond the pale for her. She flipped. Standing up she started slinging insults at my companions and myself, swearing, taunting, threatening. I’d like to hope she was furious at her own behaviour rather than mine, but one thing was clear: she wasn’t enjoying the evening and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to storm out loudly and didn’t come back for a good half an hour. A really good half an hour it was too. One of the best I’ve enjoyed. Pony-Tail leant over between tracks and said: “You better apologise to my girlfriend when she gets back.”
This had pretty much ruined my evening by this stage. I saw Frizzi, guitar in hand, playing such a beautiful tune, distracted by her shouting and our argument. I felt awful. I wanted to apologise to him while he played but the damage was already done. These two fools had spoiled things, simply because they wanted something different to post on Twitter or Facebook that evening.
She missed some of the best stuff too. Frizzi opened his Zombie Flesh Eaters set with the quirky calypso music that marks the arrival at the Antilles. Another telling moment that the audience weren’t familiar with the work. Coupled with visuals of what looked like out-takes from Weekend at Bernie's, the audience began leaving their seats again. But then Frizzi’s masterpiece, the minimalist and instantly recognisable Zombi theme kicked in. They recognised that. They’d probably heard it at Laser Quest or something. As they took their seats and the video footage showed the zombie punch-up with a shark underwater there were impressed shouts. Not of knowing awe, but of first-time astonishment.
One supposes that if just one of these mortgage-less oafs goes out and buys a Fulci DVD or Frizzi LP because of this show then it’s a good thing, but given the rapidity with which tickets sold out I think it’s a terrible shame that he wasn’t among a more appreciative and respectful audience. A standing ovation at the end following an encore of both Nino Rota’s Amarcord theme and Frizzi’s music from The Beyond was a pleasing sight, but Pony-Tail and Gobby stayed seated. As far as I could tell, the only two people in the Chapel still seated. Shame on them.
Frizzi’s work was done justice by the small 9-piece orchestra on stage. He was clearly a humble man, unimpressed with modern cinema and proud of his work. Thirty years on it must’ve been gratifying to have sold out such a reasonably sized venue and actually be invited to the UK to perform these tunes.
I just wish he’d given us Ibo Lebe.