Friday, 14 February 2014

Abbi's Adventures 1st Birthday: Oval Space Music 1st February 2014 @ Oval Space

A year ago to the day I had been to the first club event that I ever reviewed. A year on, I was out with the same people and a load more friends and techno acquaintances I've met along the way to enjoy an anniversary night out. After a month of the usual staying in for January being sensible and skint, it was time to get my stomp on.

I hadn’t been to Oval Space before but heard good things about it last year, with the only grumble being it that it was a sweat box, so I was relieved to arrive to a pretty chilly main room at midnight. I’d not been out for nearly a month and had really been looking forward to hearing the spectacular line up of residents Jozif & Fritz Zander with Shifted, Luke Slater, Jerome Sydenham and legend Robert Hood.

The UK’s very own Shifted was on the decks when I arrived and the place was about half full. Us Londoners are slowly catching onto the European way of things and heading out much later, pushing on well into Sundays. There was plenty of room to dance down at the front so, I grabbed myself the first very reasonably priced vodka and lemonade of the night, and got down to business.

Soaking up the venue; it was spacious, with a sofa
Outside at Oval Space
area, bright clean toilets, decent lighting, posh crisps and popcorn available at the bar, a great undercover fairy light lit outdoor bar and smoking area outside and a great balcony outside the length of the building. Added to this are floor to ceiling  windows right down one side of the entire main room, with raised platforms down each side of the dance floor, the back and behind the DJ booth – which creates a great feeling of togetherness amongst the crowd from wherever you stand. The layout works really well, aside from the fact that the ladies loos are right near the front of the dance floor so if you are anywhere else in the room, they are a total battle to get to. On the upside at least you can dance as you queue. 

I had a vague sense of de ja vu. The last time I saw Shifted was at a venue called Undercurrent in Amsterdam. That too was really open with floor to ceiling windows down one side. And that also had a sound system that did not exactly knock my socks off.

Shifted’s set built nicely. It was spacious, industrial and relatively chilled to start, building in intensity as the crowd grew larger and by the end of his set the place was heaving and the tunes were doing the same. It was a well crafted warm up set that totally responded to the crowd and grew with it. Hats off. However, the volume was too quiet. I was right at the front and there was barely any bass and whilst the tunes were awesome, they weren’t loud enough to get under my skin. One of these days I will get to see him play somewhere with a kick arse sound system and will no doubt be blown away.

Next up was Luke Slater… 
Although I own a few of his records from over the
Luke Slater
years, I’d somehow not seen Luke DJ before and was looking forward his set. The sound was still too quiet, although at least at the front it was better than the back.

The sound system at this venue is what let down this night. I have a distinct lack of much to say about the music because it was incidental to the rest of night. I know that there are noise restrictions that have to be observed, but there are ways to make a bigger impact without breaking those restrictions. The speakers here are virtually all at one end of the room, flown high so that the sound carries across the entire venue, with one small speaker hung either side of the room two thirds back. What is there is good – it’s just not enough. The bass is shockingly low. I am sure that if there were a lot more speakers spread out around the venue, then the sound would appear louder without the volume needing to be turned up too high. It needs addressing. It’s not the worst I have ever encountered but when everything else at the venue is above average, to have a sound system that is not integral to the design of the dance floor – well you may as well have just not bothered with the rest of it in my view. There is a great video on YouTube of Luke’s set and you can hear entire conversations happening, witness the shuffles and the energy:

Luke played a blend of clean laptop mixes and raw vinyl. You could hear the difference between the two and the more pumping engaging parts of his set were played on vinyl... everyone was just shuffling about and then every now and then came alive and danced to some slamming techno. The energy came in waves from shuffley background techno to some filthy dirty lift the roof off shenanigans, with the biggest crowd pleasers having that trademark tinge of electro. It’s just a shame that these amazing chunks of the set were only brief spurts and the set didn’t build or have any flow. There were also plenty of skips and mistakes in the beat matching – and when you look at the fact he was mixing vinyl with no headphones on sometimes, you can see why. Overall, I prefer his production to his DJing.

James Ruskin
Robert Hood cancelled this gig due to snow preventing take off from America. This put a bit of a dampener on the anticipation that had been building pre-event but James Ruskin stepped in to make up the numbers. Personally we’d had enough of being near the front by now. We appeared to be fighting for space with three verrrrrry drunk girls who had no idea how to stand up straight or in one place. And then there was another one with a rucksack – it’s just as well they check bags for knives as its always tempting to just cut the straps on dance floor rucksacks. They should be banned. We traded volume for sanity and the chance to chat and get to the bar.

The vibe of the place was really nice. Everyone in a good mood, good tunes, for many a first night out since New Year. I’d not seen my mates in weeks and it was wonderful to stomp about a bit and
natter. So that is exactly what we did for the next hour. I heard some 80s old school rave, a touch of rap and 80s synth pop from Ruskin but I really wasn’t paying attention, or dancing. From a distance he appeared to be playing what he assumed the Robert Hood fans wanted to hear. It’s certainly not a set like I’ve ever heard him play before. I’m not sure how well it was received as I was being that annoying wanker that won’t shut up whilst you try and dance. To be fair, everyone around us was doing the same. It was pointless to keep complaining that it wasn’t loud enough and we were never going to get swept away by it, so we just had a great social instead. What we could hear provided a great audio backdrop.

We decided to leave half way through Ruskin’s set to continue our nattering at home and get some sleep so that we were fresh to head back out for some Sunday dance floor action. So, we missed the final set from what I hear was an allegedly very wasted Jerome Sydenham. Ah DJing: the only job where you can turn up for work quite obviously twatted off your face and nobody seems to care. I can’t comment as I wasn’t there but I am told we didn’t miss much.

Nothing about this night offended me. Nothing about this night made it particularly stand out. I will be going back to Oval Space at the end of this month to see Ame on the 28th Feb. I shall reserve my venue judgment until then. I gave Fire a bad review for a Kompakt night being way too quite a while ago and then, on New Year’s Day the sound there was great and I had the best night ever. So, watch this space… Oval Space ticks many many boxes and may well win my heart yet.

This is not a photo from this event, just the venue in general.

1 comment:

  1. This is actually a very good review. Totally genuine. I'm so skeptical with reading these sorts of club reviews as most of them are just "everything was great" or in some way biased. Actually, no not everything is great, sometimes organisers need to be aware of the issues so as to address them. And this review is spot on! Especially re: the sound quality. I thought it was poor, especially considering the artists it's hosting. You'd expect better, was a let down. Every other aspect of the night was really good, had a great time, great atmosphere.