13 February 2006

Barbarian invasions on New Year's Eve

Beside the Piazza della Repubblica, the Emperor Diocletian built his immense baths for the people of Rome. Centuries later, the Church and Michelangelo appropriated the ruins and washed the pagan stain away by constructing the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli out of it. This New Year’s Eve seemed to be an effort by the young people of Rome to return it to its rightful pagan owners.

Earlier that day I overheard a woman asking a handsome young chap behind the information desk about the New Year’s Eve events in Rome. He’s excited. He smiles. “We have cover bands! You know, Elvis, The Police, Sex Pistols... You like SEX PISTOLS?”. She left.

Everywhere, explosions like percussion grenades. People light fireworks and throw them down where they explode around your feet. They’re throwing them from balconies. Clouds of cordite, cigarette smoke and dope waft over the crowds. It's like the Tet Offensive. I'm having 'Apocalyse Now' flashbacks.

The musicians are pumping it out on a stage constructed at one end of the circular piazza that wouldn’t have embarrassed U2. Only the band is not U2, but a succession of dodgy reception centre dwellers who wouldn’t be out of place at a 21st birthday in Balwyn.

What is impressive is the video projection all over the surrounding buildings encircling the crowds. The idea seems to be a tour of popular music over the last fifty years, with all the icons you’d expect, and I did see Elvis, The Police and the Sex Pistols. Only it seems to be stale and commodified, wrapped up into a neat collection of visual cliches. I’m expecting to see ‘Drink Coca-Cola’ or something any minute now, and then sure enough, there’s a logo and it turns out the whole thing is sponsored by a Lotto company.

Kids get sick of this and start tossing empty champagne bottles in the air. It’s pouring rain as the laser light show continues out from behind the Fountain of the Naiads. It’s like the invasion of the barbarians all over again. I see a couple of flares held aloft in the downpour; like a soccer riot, only without the soccer.

We decide to get out before the human sacrifices start, just as the band is cranking into the late 60s and the pseudo-Hendrix guitar solos start to clock up the minutes. There’s a bottleneck up at the top of the Piazza dei Cinquecento and people are filing through the gap, pressed up against each other, trying to avoid having their eyes gouged out by umbrellas. The rain is pelting down, with silhouettes of falling bottles against the glow of street lights. I’m grasping hold of my partner’s hand, I’m wet and it’s freezing cold and I’m enjoying myself immensely.

1 comment:

I am the Queen of F*%&ING EVERYTHNG...OK!! said...

Brave brave person....would have been an experience that's for sure. Luckily it was'nt reclaimed whilst you were there :)