I did not quite know what to expect from The Junction, a venue more attune to punk, rock and reggae, now playing host to an evening of both DJed and live classical music put on by The Parnassus Club.

Stepping inside felt almost like being transported back to a pre-1950s bar (or at least what I’d imagine that to be like), an impression created wholly by the music itself and perhaps, on a more negative side, the dated sound quality of some of the recordings. Ranging from Mozart to John Adams, the DJs’ selections were broad and with a primarily orchestral focus.

Not quite the utopian fantasy of metalheads and local crack-dealers swooning to the sounds of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, as some might have hoped; the crowd would not have been out of place at any other concert. But the difference here was in the ethos of the whole spectacle. The raw enthusiasm of the two DJs for the music they played was as refreshing as seeing an audience enjoying classical music in a more laid back context, void of the rules and expectations that can put-off potential classical music lovers. The DJs were even open to requests, allowing a platform for the sharing of musical enthusiasm that is so rare in classical genres outside of a very limited sphere. The symphonic nature of a lot of the music occasionally resulted in something a little too intrusive for the background and I, personally, found it quite difficult to concentrate on a conversation whilst I the rest of my brain was elsewhere. Ironically, the live music was of more of a background genre, yet most people felt compelled to listen quietly.

To some extent, the appeal of the evening was found in its eccentricity and bizarreness. The feeling was most akin to that of seeing some of the marvellous things travellers find abroad. ‘Opera Toilets’ in the Vienna underground spring to mind, and indeed, I found myself in a similar situation here, staring at the graffiti in the grimy toilets whilst listening to The Planets Suite!

No-one could argue that the evening was exceptional in the standard of its musical output, nor could anyone claim that it was particularly revolutionary in the demographic of the audience it drew. Yet the music seemed to be well received by everyone and it was certainly not an experience that I would easily forget, even after 5 pints!

Simon Birch 17 Feb 2010

Simon attended a Parnassus Club concert on 14th February at The Junction, Bristol