Posted a huge rant to  about big club deaths the other night, then followed it up by going to a big club last night. Here’s the story:
Speaking as an outsider, I think the bigger clubs are suffering from their own weight these days, which in my mind is a good thing since most underground DJs will never step up in a big space. With the wealth of tunes and DJs around now, it’s no wonder larger clubs book who they do, and who can really blame them? They are there to support a larger audience, give people what they want, etc. Unfortunately, very few of those larger clubs have found a way (or maybe just the balls + insight) to sustain themselves while appeasing an audience that come for what they know, and are sick of it at once (as illustrated by The Orbit).
To this end, I think it is amazing the kind of lineups Fabric pulls in while constantly filling to way beyond capacity. They push boundaries much further than The End (which also fills regularly) on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, the place has a somewhat deserved reputation for pulling in a load of wankers, and even more unfortunately, the DJs who spin there rarely extend themselves in that venue. Rob Hood played a great set on my birthday, but it wasn’t his most adventurous outing. Francois K and Jeff Mills each played good sets late last year but nowhere near their best. Very few performers really have enough faith in that audience to say ‘f*ck it’. I can think of three nights in the last year when I got that treat, and on each occasion the crowd responded more than usual. One was Fabrice Lig opening up (for nearly four hours I think), earlier this year. Another was Octave One live (Stacey Pullen followed with wank) while the Jedi Knights held it down all night in the 3rd room for six hours. The third was Technasia live (following Dave Angel, who sucked).
Basically, as much as I would like to place the blame on hugeness, I think most of them have dug their own graves through complacent bookings rather than some inherent flaw in being large (as Fabric illustrates), and what dissapoints me most is that when artists who play both medium and large venues get a chance at bigger spaces with a good agenda, they rarely capitalize on the opportunity. Fabric could be such an amazing nexus, but most DJs aren’t willing to take a chance there. I think with few exceptions the performers are equally to blame. Just look at Fabric’s lineup for the next month and tell me it shouldn’t kill: http://www.fabriclondon.com I’d be surprised if most of those DJs live up to their potential though.
Francois K may be the prime example of this. He’s deveoping quite a reputation for playing brilliant eclectic sets where he has faith in the crowd, and really flacid effects-laden techno when he doesn’t. As a result, it further separates the small and large audiences. This ‘knowing your audience’ thing has gone way too far… When a DJ who has 25 years under his belt can stun his crowd one weekend and deaden them the next, the formula has failed. This is why I’m seeing him on a boat tomorrow, and couldn’t care less about his performance at Fabric next weekend, even though for once, Fabric is cheaper and it has the added bonus of Aukufen.
So I was saying I thought this was a good thing. Maybe I don’t really, but given that I don’t believe things will change, I’d rather just get to see who I want where I know they will actually play good music. And while I really hope Fabric’s amazing lineups continue, I think the DJs need to do a lot to bring the heads back into those spaces.
That was the rant. Here’s last night’s bit:
Further to my rant, I attended Fabric’s birthday party tonight after another wicked Bleep (Emile/Plant 43 played a very nice set). Got there around 12:30 – line around the block. I wouldn’t have gone unless I was lucky enough to get guestlist via a friend, but that is what typically makes it enjoyable. I usually hate that crap – but @ Fabric you normally have a bit of a reprieve up there, with a great view of the dancefloor and no hassle.
However, it was so unbelievably rammed (I’d estimate nearly 200 people over capacity) that there was a 15-20 minute wait for drinks up there and you could hardly even move in that ‘exclusive’ space. There must’ve been *at least* 250 ‘VIPs’. To state the obvious, it was even more packed downstairs. At 3:15 LFO live came on, and it was a perpetual fight just to stay put, about 10 deep from
the stage. At one point, some f*cker barged up behind me and said ‘come on – give us some space’, so I turned around and screamed ‘THERE IS NO F*CKING SPACE’! It was rather annoying. Nothing new for Fabric but amplified beyond the usual levels of chaos.
Anyway… LFO live was not so much ‘live’, as it was a bizarre hybrid of DJing and live performance. It was fantastic though. He started out with some proper, reminiscent-of-mid-’90s-Mark-Bell-minimalism, which switched back and forth between that and his newer brand of noise-coated electro, mixed with a healthy dose of jack. His 2nd or 3rd track (if you could call it that – the whole thing was seamless and integrated over long periods) was a really varied minimal techno track that very well could have been his, but on the 7th and 8th beat of every few bars the whole track would drop out and that LFO sub bass sound from ‘LFO’ kicked in. Seriously mind-bending. A few minutes later he was well into some other song and the primary synth line from ‘LFO’ kicked in. This kept up for a while, with special emphasis on the Chicago jack, then about 30 minutes in he got really into noisey IDMish electro territory, then came back out into a switch back and forth between that and electro stage, and then suddenly it was over after 45 minutes. Very sudden. He played a couple tracks off the new album along the way as well.
So… we ran over to the other room to catch the last 1/2-hour of Villalobos (through some feat of unbelievably crappy scheduling, LFO was 3:15-4:15 and Villalobos was 3:30-4:30 in the other room). WTF??? Anyway, when we got in he was playing this really crappy electro song, but after that he settled into a very Chicago-sounding Perlon style for most of his last 1/2-hour, which really hit home. Very nice conclusion! I will make a point of finding him again. Then I left well before the 10am finish.
In the end, I came out feeling like it was a great night, despite the even fuller and wankier crowd than normal. I guess if you’re seeing something once in a lifetime like LFO live, you make do with an annoying surrounding. I think that explains a lot of why a club like Fabric can maintain.