Saturday, 29 November 2008

Yumla, 79 Wyndham St

I'm pretty sure I remember when I realised I had to leave the apartment. It was around the time R, my landlady, put on "Don't You Want Me Baby" and said, "I remember loving this song when I was seven". Hong Kong's a pretty small place. I only know ten people, probably less, but on the two minute walk from my flat in SoHo to the bar I read about in TimeOut, I had run into R and her friends, and found myself in a progression of latenight hangouts - a cool south american themed bar, a street corner, the roof, and finally her couch. I knew though that that wasn't what tonight should be about, and with a jolt of musical apathy I tore myself away from the friendly group of 30-somethings and on to the bar I'd read about, the one that advertised the odd mix of 'breaks and techfunk'. If nothing else, my mission was to find out exactly what 'techfunk' might be.

The bar wasn't where it should have been, and noone seemed to know it. The more difficult it became, the more determined I was to find it, and here it was, down a sidealley and off a staircase. The heart shaking pulse from within told me I'd arrived before I noticed the chalkmarks on the wall outside, declaring 'Yumla rocks' among other slogans.

The music was great, although I couldn't tell you what separates techfunk from other types of techno (or funk). What I can tell you about is how liberating it is to enter a bar/club like this on your own. That's when the pressure's off, bizarrely. Since you don't know anyone, by definition you can't truly embarrass yourself. Moreover there's more of a necessity to be open to everyone around you, so you have a stronger chance of meeting people if you put yourself out there.

Okay, so that's not totally true. I did have one ally going in to Yumla. At about a foot tall and bright blue, an Elmo doll I'd somehow picked up in the previous hour was my new best friend, and he did a lot of the hard work for me. (Edit: What I actually had was a Grover doll. I'm now checking other things I think I remember from my childhood, just to be sure.) He chatted up the barmaid (she was very keen on him, and looked disappointed when I tore him away from her), danced with a hot Chinese girl (he told me afterwards she had a boyfriend, but she blushed and moved away pretty quickly afterwards so I think she was beginning to take a fancy to him) and stole a cigarette off a British girl who knew the DJ but never took her jacket off. Me? I was doing poorly in comparison, making small talk with a Canadian documentary maker (his subject? Water. I'm not waiting for a mainstream release). Then a drunk and (slightly) terrifying northern girl got keen on me, and I was doing my best to avoid the vomit breath coming my way as she pinched my bum and told me she loved me ("but you don't even know my name", "that's just because you haven't told me yet" "erm... yeah").

Luckily, between the foul breath of my new friend and the shiny fur of my old one, I started to get going. She tried to trade up, using me to get in with a tall, chiseled-looking actor-type propping up a barstool. She pointed at me and said, "Have you met my friend?" From his lofty height he gave both her and me a dismissive look and shook his head. "Ah," I said, "But have you met my friend?" It was at this stage I introduced him to Elmo. This he liked, and before long me and L (who turned out to actually be an actor) were getting on like a house on fire, rank northerner forgotten. Through L I met P, a director he'd recently worked with, who told me about a party in a few nights time.

It's funny how quickly things move. I spent the last few days hiding, because I'm beginning to get used to the pace of things when you start to meet new people in a new city. It's manic for a while, testing out how 'worth it' these friendships are going to be. Truth be told, I've spent a few days with a box set of the Office, hiding away from getting going. Still, a night like tonight, which sets you buzzing from your toes to your finger tips, makes you remember why it's all worth it.

Here's to Hong Kong.


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