White Mischief, London's steampunk variety night

Last night I lucked into attending White Mischief, a mad, steampunk-themed variety night held at the old Scala cinema in King's Cross, London. The event was organised by copyfighting musician Toby Slater and the band Kunta Kinte, who headlined the night, but the entertainment ranged from a screening of From the Earth to the Moon to live, 1920s-themed Edward-Gorey-inspired cabaret to a twisted "flesh harp" performance from Skinphony, who mic strings that are anchored to hooks piercing the skin of the performers. The place was packed, and hundreds of people got into the spirit of things with inpsired steampunk/Victorian outfits (my favorites were the guys with the goggles, jetpacks and admirals' hats).

As for the music, it was completely kick-ass. Kunta Kinte played a show that felt like something from Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense tour, with funky, rhythm-heavy numbers that I enjoyed from the first song.

This was just about the perfect night's entertainment, and it's a semi-regular affair, with more to come in future. I almost never have the time to out to shows anymore, but I'm going to do my damndest to make it to the next one. Link, Kunta Kinte MP3s on Google Pages, Kunta Kinte streams on Last.FM, Kunta Kinte videos: 1, 2, My photos from the night


  1. Oh that does look wonderful. I can heartily recommend British Sea Power, they sing about the countryside and is the only band (I know of) whose online store stocks Brilliantine, an old fashioned scented hair pomade.

    Their latest EP is available as mp3s from rough trades digital site, if anybody is interested.

  2. Cool, glad to see British Sea Power are still a going concern. Great band. As MRA mentions above, one of the fun things about BSP is their, uh, unconventional lyrics, like a love song for the dying Larsen ice shelf.

  3. I love BoingBoing, but the constant barrage of steampunk references are a little annoying. The first 5,000 were charming, but it’s gotten a little tired.

  4. I certainly would have loved to have witnessed this, and most especially the dressed-up persons in attendance. I have dreams about alternate futures of steam plasma technology, where fastidious dress prevail and blue denim dungarees never gain popularity due to the death of a young Levi Strauss in a hydrorocket dirigible collision.

  5. Cory, hi, it’s Alex de Campi, the co-organiser (with Toby Slater) of White Mischief. Glad you enjoyed the evening. Sadly I couldn’t make it to my own party: I was been called back to America to nurse my father, who died last night of cancer – shortly after White Mischief ended for the night, ironically. So, understandable that you didn’t mention me as an organiser.

    Just to note, we were only steampunk this once – the theme is whatever strikes Toby’s and my jaded souls as interesting at the time in our quest to provide a sort of New Vaudeville. It grows organically out of our the venue we select and the performers/musicians who catch our fancy. I think I had a big George Melies/Jules Verne head on back in July when we were first thinking this up, and Toby thought it just felt right for this event. April’s White Mischief (at Conway Hall) was more of a jungle-exploration / carnival theme.

    It’s in some ways a very selfish evening, as Toby and I refuse to bow in any way to popular taste or even to our own theme. Which is why you had a 10-piece soul orchestra and one of the best early Black music DJ’s at a nominally steampunk evening: because they are awesome, and you should experience them.

    White Mischief (and Myspace, if you must)
    Kunta Kinte (Toby)
    Lot 49 Films (myself)

  6. Ok, any of the fonts they are using, or even the style?

    An antique, or bookman maybe? I’m far from a font-geek, though I wish I was.

    Gretagretchen: I appreciate the information, but I need to do a lot of small things, all different. A hand press would be prohibitively expensive.

  7. Re font identifications: I know John D. Berry sometimes shows up here. He would be able to call those.

  8. You are seeing a glorious mish-mash of styles. Oldstyle, modern, and transitional faces are all in use here. I prefer the transitional and modern for this purpose, due to the contrast between thick and thin, but mixing it up is the idea. Display faces appear in a few spots, in the case of the entertainment names at the bottom, but sparingly.

    The general idea of this neo-victorian style of design is an overall mixed appearance, a “Wall of Type”, to paraphrase Phil Spector. I might add that this is perhaps more difficult to do well than it appears at the outset.

    I recommend the search term “engravers”. Some of the results will be sans serif, which you might want to avoid in this style. The following link will take you to that search.


  9. JIMH:

    Thanks a bunch, that is at least a very solid start. I really enjoy the “wall of type” style, and am having trouble coming up with it (I am unfortunately an engineer, not an artist).

  10. *Sigh..*
    Where are the dutch steampunk theme party’s…

    *Spit-glues a brass gear on his forehead,and goes
    ”hisss hisss Clonck” at his wife,who tells him he’s a nutter…again*

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