The last bastion of Britpop culture, Bangers ‘n Mash keeps raking in the crowds with the help of a star studded line-up. Last month saw the 20th anniversary celebrations of Oasis’ iconic debut.
You can already tell by the legion of stripe-wearing, spectacle-bearing boys and girls that make up the long queue outside the venue what sort of a club awaits you. Down in the basement of Marie Laveau the 90s are well preserved on the raw cement dance floor at Stockholm’s very own Haçienda where the drums have been banged for Britpop every month for the past nine years.
Weeping Willows front man Magnus Carlson and his mate Robert Plaszczyk rule this domain, delivering the indie gospel from the raised DJ booth overlooking the dance floor. Their impressive roster of guest DJs have included Mani from The Stone Roses, Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order fame, legendary Happy Mondays and Black Grape frontman Shaun Ryder, and former Oasis member Andy Bell, who was a regular contributor to the club during his Stockholm years. With a track record like that, Mariatorget might as well be another district of Manchester. In fact, the visiting DJ tonight is Paul Gallagher, the eldest of the Gallagher brothers, and he’s here to lead a night of celebration for the 20-year anniversary of Oasis’ iconic debut Definitely Maybe. It’s nearing midnight and the crowd is starting to get antsy with anticipation for Noel’s familiar roaring guitar and Liam’s raspy vocals. Paul knows how to build the sonic suspense and he looks like he’s been spinning records since before Noel ever strummed his first chord, with his mini-flashlight between his teeth, guiding him through the thick stack of records he rapidly flips through.
Behind the DJ booth, the VIPs are having their own private party, sipping canned lager fetched from a bottomless ice bucket while the rest of us are doomed to stagger around with our plastic cups, spilling beer on each other on the dance floor. I run into one of the club’s regular hangers-on, Kaisa Palo, who flawlessly fits the indie girl bill with her perfectly-formed fringe merging with her horn-rimmed glasses. “Unfortunately, I was too young during the Britpop era to appreciate it. But finding The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in my parents’ record collection led me to start listening to Oasis in the late 90s, and then I just kept digging through the treasure that is Britpop. What I love is the perfect mix of great influences, working class romanticism, and fantastic melodies. Bangers is the only place in Stockholm where I can go out and listen to so much of my favourite music.”
Back amongst the club commoners, shuffling their Adidas, Converse and Doc Martens to the lads’ well-crafted set of Northern Soul, sixties psych and mod beats, and of course our beloved Britpop, I meet a couple of young mod boys from local 60s-inspired band The Echo Fields. Frontman Tomas Hellberg is a Bangers regular. “You never hear Oasis played at other clubs,” he tells me, when explaining why Bangers is one of his favourite clubs in Stockholm. It’s clear that he’s an Oasis fan when we start discussing Britpop and how he first got into the sound at a very young age. “I first heard D’you Know What I Mean?’ in 1997 after my father had bought the CD. At first I thought it sounded crap, but when Liam’s voice came in in the first verse I was blown away – he sounded so confident and cool. Afterwards, I watched the video on MTV and he looked just the way you imagined, like a true rock star. There is so much more to them than just Wonderwall. There is a psychedelic kaleidoscope to be discovered in almost every song they recorded. Although I must admit that Be Here Now is a bit over the top, guitar-wise.”
It’s time for a trip to the bar. Pushing through a crowd that has now started to call out for the band of the hour, chanting “OAAAASIIIIS!” near the end of every song, I run into a couple of mod veterans, Jannis and Tony, that I’m familiar with from Stockholm’s booming 60s scene, and that I’ve seen at Bangers every time I’ve been here. In fact, they tell me they’ve been frequenting the club pretty much from the beginning. “One of the best nights here was when Mani from The Stone Roses jumped up and played bass on I Am The Resurrection with Magnus singing and with the whole basement chanting along like we were at a football stadium – absolutely beautiful!” Tony tells me. “I also remember when Håkan Hellström came by and played a few live songs, which was very unexpected. Bangers is one of maybe three clubs I always go to and the music played here sounds like it’s coming from my own living room. I discovered Britpop back in the 90s when I was about 15, and was drawn to the mod influences and how the bands displayed this heritage proudly in their aesthetic. This shaped my taste in music, clothes and so much more that is still with me now 20 years later.”
A quick dance floor break renders me by a row of pinball machines buzzing brightly in a room completely covered with graffiti. There’s a high ratio of hipsters hanging out here, at home in this Berlin-esque environment. Moving about I get talking to Julia Fenkart, a Bangers convert of four years. “This place still gives me goose bumps every time I’m here, as it did the first night when I was standing on a table singing Don’t Look Back In Anger at the top of my lungs. It’s always a crazy rollercoaster when you’re here. Sometimes you’re dancing with your girlfriends to all the tunes no other club plays and every tune is welcomed with a big ‘yeeeeah’ because it’s another hit or a long lost song you’d totally forgotten about, and then you go and buy the vinyl the next day and listen to it over and over and over again. Other nights are more about partying with the boys, too much beer and singing, because every song is an invitation to sing along and, trust me, the boys I hang out with know every single line of the songs played here – it’s astonishing. And then there are those nights when all of a sudden you’re standing next to Carl Barat from The Libertines and you’re just totally speechless when he casually asks you if you want a beer – that’s how easy-going this club is. It is totally my favourite club in Stockholm. The only time you leave the dance floor is to get a beer or to freshen up, and every song they play runs in my blood and it is impossible to stand still or not sing along.”
I’m annoyed when I can’t bring my beer with me to the smoking room, but all is forgiven when I see that the room boasts a piano – what other club in Stockholm invites you to play music while puffing? It has become more and more clear to me with each visit that this is the spot indie Brits tend to gravitate toward, and I run into one such example, expat Kevin Riordan – looking gorgeous in his psychedelic shirt and red boots — who’s been living in Stockholm for a couple of years. “I guess I was looking for an indie club reminiscent of what I would find back home in London, such as Borderline or the legendary Metro Club. There aren’t many club nights around town which cater to the indie scene so my monthly fix of B&M is always a welcome addition to my weekends out.” When asked about his favourite moments at the club, he answers with a grin, “My memory is a little fuzzy when it comes to my nights out at Bangers, but a fuzzy memory is always an indicator of a good night out.” With Kevin is mate Tom Eastland, on his second visit to Stockholm this year, that both have included trips to Bangers. “It’s a lovely venue and atmosphere and I appreciate the personal space; in London a lot of places lack that and you turn into a drunk sweaty heap quite quickly. I was about 13 when I got into Britpop and I guess it was the pop in Britpop that appealed to me as I’ve always been a sucker for a good tune. I remember seeing Blur at the Brit Awards and quickly started cutting out articles of Blur from newspapers and things. Then I realized my little sister had a crush on Damon and I used said clippings and photos as means to bribe her. Blur had a far greater depth and musical spectrum than Oasis, who had some swagger but only one decent album.”
Drink refilled and nicotine craving answered, the music pulls me back to the dance floor, which has gotten slightly more beer-soaked with every song, but who cares at this point. We could be dancing on hot coals without noticing any discomfort. Then finally, Paul drops the record we’ve been waiting for all night and that simple and steady drum beat intro we all recognize, followed by Liam in his trademark Manc accent, fills the room: “Mayyyybe, I don’t really wanna knooow, how your garden grooows, ‘cause I just wanna flyyyy…” The crowd goes mental, those of us that are 30+ slipping into a nostalgic frenzy, having spent the past 20 years trying to match this feeling with further musical discoveries that somehow always ended up paling in comparison. But during the chorus Paul cuts the sound and we are forever frozen as teenagers in the mid-nineties as we roar as one: “YOU AND I ARE GONNA LIVE FOREEEEVEEEER!” It may be 20 years since Britpop was at its peak, but at this moment it truly feels it will live forever.