Celebrating the return of one of Glasgow's leading venues for independent film Photo: Max Crawford
For a time the fate of Glasgow's Centre for Contempory Arts seemed uncertain. The aftermath of the (second) devastating blaze to tear through the Mackintosh Building of the School of Art left much of the surrounding area in chaos for months, with residents unable to return to their homes and several of the smaller local businesses forced into closure. The loss of the Mac was already a blow to the city: for the CCA to have fallen to the same incident would have been heartbreaking. Fortunately, Glasgow is made of sterner stuff: the CCA is back with a bang, and that means party time.
It's after 10pm when I arrive. The free beer ran out at around half seven, the free space about eight o'clock. The current hot commodity is breathable air and there's precious little of that. I breeze cheerfully past the queue snaking out of the front door: of the perks of being a photographer, ignoring inconvenient things like queues is second only to Getting To Stand On People's Furniture Without Being Shouted At.
Setting the tune Photo: Max Crawford
I'm in time to catch the end of DJ Cucina Povera's set. It's weird and a bit mental and very dancable and makes me wish I'd left the house earlier. There's a few folk doing their best to bounce around up towards the front of the stage, but for the most part the venue is a crush of bodies locked in a convection current drawing empty-handed punters to the bar and sending them off precariously clutching pints of Joker and plastic cups of red wine. We're right in the middle of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival, and by a wild coincidence everyone present is much better dressed and much better looking than your standard Friday night crowd. They're also absolutely lovely. Apparently quite smitten with the event, a young woman with a freshly-shaven head loudly declares her love of Glasgow. "Where are you from?" I inquire. "Edinburgh," she replies, ruefully. "Sorry to hear that," I commiserate, acting now in my official role as ambassador for stealing good people away from Edinburgh and bringing them to Glasgow where they belong. The buses are shit but you can buy fast food after 8pm and the streets obey the laws of Euclidian geometry. Join us.
There's a sudden burst of activity from the stage, as it appears that Kübler-Ross are ready to do whatever it is they do. 60 seconds later, I'm absolutely livid. Why has nobody told me about this band before? I feel personally let down by everyone I know. I take enough photos to make sure I've got something useful, then tuck my camera away to get on with the serious business of flailing about like a tit. The breathless fusion of house, trance, filth and nonsense leaves me wondering why more dance acts don't have live drums. There's something primal about stomping around a sweaty dancefloor to the sounds of someone bashing things with a stick that no amount of electronics can ever fully replicate. Anyway, Kübler-Ross are incredible. Buy one for your mum this Christmas.
All smiles at the CCA's return Photo: Max Crawford
I'm behind the front desk rummaging for my camera gear when I field a rather unexpected question: "Excuse me, do you have any tampons?" I do not. I explain that I don't really work here work here, and I don't know where everyone who does work here has wandered off to, but I do know where there's a 24-hour shop, as it seems to be a matter of some urgency. As I escort my new friend to the shop and back, she informs me that she's never been to the CCA before and didn't really know what to expect. Well, this is a hell of an introduction. A very understanding bouncer makes us an exception to the "if you leave you're not getting back in" rule, to the dismay of the people still queuing outside. The venue's been full for hours, but Glaswegians are nothing if not determined.
Back inside, I run into an old friend and we discuss new projects and the current state of arts funding. Then she introduces me to one of her friends and we spend a good 20 minutes camera geeking at each other. Truly, the CCA is Art Wanker paradise. Poisonous Relationship is on the decks, providing a solid mix of I'm-not-sure-what-this-is-but-I'm-really-enjoying-it and hold-the-fucking-bus-is-that-Marilyn-Manson? The crowd continues being adorable, as a beautiful boy with electric blue lips asks if he can take my photo and makes a first class job of it. I don't mean to keep banging on about how lovely everyone is, but it makes such a difference to a night when everyone's on the same page and gets to just relax and be themselves.
Anyway, it's about this time that I run into Jude. We instantly click and become drinking/dancing buds for the rest of the night. Jude is dedicated to the cause of fun, and can actually dance instead of deploying the school disco shuffle that most people seem intent on taking up my precious dancefloor space with. Have I mentioned how much I love my queers? Only about eight thousand times? Okay, then. Diligent journalist that I am, I ask Jude how much shite Beatles patter she has to put up with. "I get it all the time", she replies, "usually from straight boys who want to sing to me." Take a hint, lads. Don't be that guy. Jude suggests shots. I suggest she's paying, as my dress doesn't have any pockets. We end up with two small glasses of liquid regret, or as they call it down Mexico way, tequila.
SQIFF shares the party Photo: Max Crawford
One of the artists in residence is wandering the floor interviewing people, camera-human in tow, and I manage to score an 'I <3 CCA' badge. A woman with a gorgeous smile and a glorious afro compliments my dress and indicates the queue of hopefuls still standing outside. "How do I make it so that everyone black and queer doesn't have to wait to get in?" she asks. "Just … go and demand that?" I suggest, and she apparently takes my advice. I later discover that this was Sarra Wild and this was her event, so maybe it actually worked. I decide that eighteen thousand photos is probably enough and pack my gear away for the rest of the evening.
The next three hours are a blur of rum and shenanigans. My bud Nasim insists on dancing on the stage while a weary technical crew do their best to dismantle it, but she's got the moves to back it up so I'm going to have to take her side on this one. Jude's flatmate insists that she'll be fine going home alone, and no, Jude should absolutely stay and enjoy herself. Ten points, Jude's flatmate. There's nothing obviously debauched going on, but the spirit of Bacchanalia hangs heavy in the air regardless. It's clear that if it wasn't for stupid things like 'licensing laws' and 'barstaff having lives' there would still be people here dancing till next weekend. I hadn't intended to stay till the death, but 3am has that way of rolling around faster than is at all reasonable, and we find ourselves spilling out onto Sauchiehall Street stinking of sweat and adventure and a lust for chips. I bid Jude a fond farewell and plot a route home that involves not having to go anywhere near the Garage. Welcome back, CCA. We've missed you.