Friday, 13 December 2013

22nd November 2013: Love Amplified: Portsmouth with Adam Beyer

It was always going to be very different to going out in London, but clubbing in Portsmouth was a bit of a culture shock. To begin with, it took me back to my days of being 15 years old and clubbing in Zeus in Chelmsford - only worse. Thankfully though, it got much better so bear with this review…

First we drove to Portsmouth: A great taz down the pitch dark A3, post rush hour, with Techno blaring and my mate Hilda regaling me with her tales of Drumcode Total at Berghain last month got the evening off to a flying start. Had I not been accompanied by the worlds biggest Drumcode fan, I may never have made the trip in the first place but, this woman was on a mission and I was the one to get her there.

We parked at our mate’s house, downed a vodka and walked to Envy. The event page had warned that everyone would need ID and yet Hilda came with none. It took a lot of pleading to get us in which was a bit annoying seeing as none of our group would pass for under 25 and IDs were not being scanned or recorded, so it seemed a bit harsh to be so thoroughly questioned just to get through the door. But then we were in: No pat-down. No bag search. Whatsoever. So if you are under 18 you can’t get in. But if you are over 25 with a knife or your own vodka or a coat full of drugs, it appears that is OK?! I should perhaps state for the record that we had none of these things, I’m #justsaying.

We entered the club at 11:35pm and were smacked straight in the face by a wall of sound. I complain in London about things being too quiet quite a lot. Well this time I was totally abused between the ears. I could not think. I couldn’t even shout loud enough to be heard. The same guy who put this rig together also provided one for our mates wedding this summer. I am told he uttered the words “it may be too big for the job” earlier in the day. Well yes. Yes it was. But it looked great and it sounded immense. Glasses rattled on tables. The floor shook within 3 ft of a speaker. Nice.

The place was packed and the fun began.

11:45pm: As we queued for the cloakroom we saw a guy, all of 5ft 3, being held against a wall by way of a forearm to the neck by a security guard, as 4 other security guards stood by “just in case”. I can’t say what the guy in question had done but this heavy-handed treatment seemed totally out of order to me. I was not in Kansas anymore and things work differently in other places, so I gave it all the benefit of the doubt.

Having gotten our drinks (The bar bill outside the M25 is a joyus thing) we played it safe and stood behind the rig as the dance floor was in the center of the room. Here we could just about chat.

11:57pm A topless guy runs past me. Stops. Turns and holds his hands out, palms upturned and gives the bouncer behind me a “come on then” gesture. I step aside as a bouncer bounds past me like a bowling ball. Topless man is grabbed with his arms behind his back and is taken out of the nearest double doors faster than you can say “get yer coat love you’ve pulled.” I wonder if he ever got his t-shirt back.

12.07am as I return from the loo, I see two police in full high vis uniform walking through the middle of the dance floor with security. Is this normal? Should I be worried? Is something dangerous going on? I have no idea, it seems they are just out for a stroll.

I was trying to imagine what it must be like in the adjoining venue next door – “Liquid” – which offers drinks packages that can only spell a weekend long hangover for anyone who takes them up. It must have been carnage in there!

Venues in Portsmouth do not close late. They usually shut at 2am. This place has a 3am license. When you don’t have to stay up all night and you start drinking straight after work, this chaotic, unclassy, rabble of drunkards is the result. Welcome to Portsmouth. I’m sure it’s much the same at Tiger Tiger on a Friday night but I can’t handle huge crowds of drunk people – it’s maybe why I hang out in nightclubs and not bars. That, and the music is usually better.

Yes, I had not forgotten, this review is about a techno night. I just hadn’t actually really been concentrating on the music as I dodged fights and the slightly inebriated.

I missed Chris Vaux warm up set and had entered the building whilst Jon Gurd was playing. The dance
Jon Gurd
floor was packed and from up behind the rig I took stock of the venue. The central dance floor was surrounded by booths and seating. You could be as engaged with the tunes whilst you sat down with a drink as you could on the dance floor. I liked this – clubbing is a social thing so being able to take five and chat is a good thing. The dance floor, I noticed, was made up of 80% men. At first I could see only one girl – and she was only noticeable as she was front center with a glow stick. Jon Gurd’s set was fine. Actually, it was better than that. The crowd were loving it. It may not have been my kind of techno but this was not my usual crowd and he delivered exactly what they wanted so kudos for a great job.

Reset Robot was the penultimate DJ of the evening. By this time the crowd was thinning significantly. The dance floor itself was heaving but the heavy drinkers were mostly leaving/being ejected from the building. I was a little dubious as to exactly how many people would be left by the time Adam Beyer hit the decks. I’d guess that the dance floor could hold 150 people max.

Reset Robot’s set, in my opinion, was on this occasion quite beige over alI. It was light, safe, fun, good party music. As the crowd allowed, the tunes would get more intense and the beats tougher but even then, a safe housey vibe underpinned the whole set. This is no bad thing if you want a house night, but it was too safe for my liking so far as techno goes. But what do I know? Everyone on the dance floor was truly having a fine old time and it’s at about this point that I started having fun. Security had left with all the heavy drinkers and what was left behind after their clear up operation was a spacious venue, with an epic rig and a dance floor full of people just loving the music. 

There was not a shuffler in sight. EVERYONE had their hands in the air. EVERYONE was smiley. Everyone was very merrily drunk but in a good way. I was surrounded by sunglasses and backwards baseball caps (one was even trimmed in LEDs) and I felt like I was about 15 at an old school rave. Good times all round.

The luxurious carpets, the flocked wallpaper and the booths are a tad more luxury in a club that I am used to these days. The toilets… well… there were at least 15 cubicles in there and only ever 4 girls wanting to use them. It was a purpose built venue rather than one being used as a club because there was no where else to put a club. Warehouses may be cool, they may be a nod to the days of illegal parties, but lets face it, they are cold, uncomfortable and dirty. This was quite lovely in comparison. They say a change is as good as a holiday after all.

The last 15 minutes of Reset Robot’s set picked up dramatically, revving the engines for Mr. Beyer. A tough funky vibe played out and I felt he was finally playing what he wanted to be playing. The crowd level had stayed steady and the dance floor was full, even if the rest of the place was virtually empty as Reset Robot ended to rapturous applause and Adam Beyer started his set.

The dance floor was an absolute joy to be on! More girls had surfaced, there were a few Drumcode T-shirts in the crowd and the whole place held a really friendly vibe, with no attitude and some serious fun and dancing happening. This is the kind of atmosphere I wish for in London clubs but barely ever find as everyone is rammed in, has no space and are all too cool to really let loose and let those limbs get a work out (not everyone of course, but the majority at most techno nights). Whilst Hilda lives for the front of the dance floor I am usually found at the back, but I made an exception for this night and I loved it.

Adam Beyer delivered a set par excellence; as per usual. I am a big fan. Whether it’s a house set with
his Mrs or an earth shattering and rare trip into the dark side of techno at Berghain, Beyer’s knack for reading a crowd and delivering just what they want to hear is uncanny. Love him or hate him you have to admit that the man has skills. One of my friends is a big dance music fan but hates techno. He just doesn’t get it at all but he saw Beyer (at Gashouder at ADE) and said that his set was one of the best sets across any genre that he has ever seen.

I see many people making comments on Facebook when we are off to a Drumcode party or to see Adam play. So many of them dissing him for the fact his style has weakened, or that he is selling out by playing party techno to the masses. But where else do you go in your career if not upwards and outwards? Why is it a bad thing to appeal to more people and further yourself in life? It’s possible to get too precious about staying underground and earning fuck all. Take some notes… If you want pounding industrial arse kicking death marches, go see Speedy J. If you want some soundscapes and bleeps and squeaks and thunderous bass to stroke your beard to then go see Diamond Version. If you want to be guaranteed a night where you dance your tush off and feel good and smile and enjoy a party with a great bunch of people - you should go to Drumcode night. The reason that Beyer and Drumcode have such a big following is that it has been worked for. Beyer has learned what people want and with his carefully selected label of artists he delivers great parties, and great sets. 

Admittedly this was not an all out techno onslaught of a set but that is not what the crowd desired. The tough and edgy side of things we like in London is an acquired taste that we are lucky enough to be subjected to a lot. But if you don’t know what’s coming, a set like that could just as easily put you off a genre as make you love it. Go hard or go home was not the theme of this event. This was a party rather than a club night; A celebration. 

Sadly now that everything was going well the party came to an early end. The extended 4am license appears to have been a bit of a myth. I think we only got left until 3:30am to avoid a clash with next door emptying out at 3am. As the applause erupted for Beyer’s set, we exited asap to avoid any “crowds vs bouncer” action outside and headed towards a comfy sofa for a cup of tea good nights sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Like the line about the security clear-up operation! Wonder if I would have survived it.