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Staying alive! 13 years of Feeling Gloomy

Landmark for long-running night that celebrates miserablist songs and their authors

07 September, 2018 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Carl Hill is set to ‘celebrate’ 13 years of Feeling Gloomy

MORE than a decade ago, when Carl Hill lost his job and was despairing at having no work, no house and no girlfriend, The Smiths took over the airwaves.

But as Morrissey sang those fatalistic words, “If a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die”, a seed was planted that was to grow into a monster.

“I was lying on my bed feeling a bit sorry for myself, and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out comes on and then the line about a double-decker bus made me laugh. From there, I thought about the healing power of sad songs,” said Carl.

Together with his friend Mike Toller, they came up with Feeling Gloomy – what was to become a long-running night celebrating miserablist songs and their authors, first starting at The Albany, then taking up a weekly residence at Islington Academy. Next month (October 6), Feeling Gloomy marks its 13th birthday with a celebration at its current home, The Phoenix. Since its inception, the night has become a staple of the London club scene – a haven for those seeking refuge in the soundtracks of depressing anthems throughout the ages.

The likes of Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, The Sisters of Mercy and many more have scored the lives of those who have followed the night as it moved from Islington Academy – its home of seven years – to The Phoenix, garnering such a name for itself that it has been invited to host nights at Glastonbury, Latitude, Bestival and countless other festivals, and has had sister nights in Berlin and New York.

They have even been asked to DJ at a wedding of a couple that met during one of their nights.

Carl’s alter ego, Cliff, and Mike’s Len, used to compere the night with a stage show. These days Sullen Sean has taken over from Len and he and Cliff will be overseeing the birthday celebrations.

“There will be birthday cake (stale, obviously), confetti (which will probably land in your drink), birthday cards (written by us to us), balloons (deflated) and still the best sad songs known to humanity,” said Carl

“Come and mark this birthday with us, you’ll need us next year when the Brexit hits the fan. Come, dance, drink and make misery, for tomorrow we may diet. Morrissey may be dead to us but the gloom continues to light the way in the darkness for all those who like to put on their red shoes to dance those blues.”

Over the years, the night has attracted a number of guest DJs, including Jarvis Cocker, who nearly missed out altogether due to a fire on Eurostar, luckily managing to find a ferry to take him over, Suede’s Brett Anderson, whose set was dramatically cut short when a gloomy guest threw a pint in his face, and Jimmy Somerville, who quite possibly misunderstood the theme, when he proceeded to play a set packed with happy house hits to a sour-faced reception from regular gloomers. Over the years, the stage show has been dropped and the setlist refined but the essence has remained the same.

“It’s a slightly different beast than when it started,” said Carl. “I think there’s a perception we get a lot of weirdos, but we attract normal people, all very nice, fully integrated into society, a slightly older, very loyal crowd. We play anthems of doom and gloom and misery. You go in feeling sad and hopefully leave a little happier. It’s a mix of tunes and stuff you might not hear in other clubs, we’ve always tried to mix it up. Musically it’s got a bit deeper than it was. I don’t think it’s changed massively.”

And the secret to its success?

“It’s the beast that refuses to be killed. It’s got a momentum of its own. I don’t really understand how it’s made it to 13 years,” said Carl.

“To have made it to 10 is a milestone, if we can do two more to 15 it will be phenomenal. I don’t know why it’s been so popular. There must be a gap for it, some sort of need. I’m very pleased it has been successful but why any night’s successful, I don’t know.

“I’ve had some great nights and they have failed, some of my proudest achievements haven’t been a success. If I knew I’d have about 50 nights out there.

“I guess we did something we just wanted to go to – people did something they like, put their passion into it and it turned out all right on the night.”­

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