There are times when you’re trying to get into a club like your life depends on it and failure is not an option. Over the years I can say that there have been far too many club nights to remember. Which also means that those few which do stand out were pretty dam amazing. They’re filed away in my memory bank under: One of the Best Nights of my Life.
There have been times when I’ve been one of the last to leave a venue. The promoters have handed out the last cash in sealed envelopes. Technicians are rolling up cables. Bar staff clear away the detritus of the dance. In the glare of the harsh house lights I’ve been standing there asking, “What da fuck! Did all that happen here tonight night?”
Do the rewind. Check the energy radiating around the whole night: the pre-match vibes, the barely contained excitement in the queue, the explosion of beats-people-lights-chemicals-shouts that are the essence of the main arena – Yeah that what you expect of a good night.
That’s standard… Generic. But there were those killer nights in the memory banks that were something extra; something truly special. Burned into my mind like a cerebral tattoo, the madness came at the right time and in the right place. Here’s the Top Ten Jungle Drum & Bass nights.
Roast / Telepathy
Jointly flying the flag for Jungle are the promotions Roast (‘91/’92) and Telepathy. I’d hate to place one above the other. Their nights were always road blocked and deeply intense. Come wearing your designer garms, ready to blow your horns. You can’t write Jungle History without including Roast and Telepathy. Telepathy founded way back in ’89 deserves a special mention for the inventive and entertaining ads broadcast on pirate radio stations. ‘Telepathy… Expand your mind.’
Scant spitting distance but around the corner from the Astoria – was Fabio’s club Speed. Originally opened in October ’94 Speed was to showcase Drum& Bass, then the very antithesis of Jungle or what Jungle had become. The media had descended on Our Music, keying into the visuals and social
demographics of what they perceived Jungle was all about. Then on Thursday nights, came Speed; a place where those media types could safely chill out – without the ‘fear of being mugged.’ And Drum & Bass took the top spot. LTJ Bukem was catapulted onto TV and the Sunday Supplements. But the punters who queued down the street to get in, politely craning their necks towards the entrance returned because of Speed’s vibe and music. MC Conrad was on the mic, the likes of Photek and Markus Intellect spun the tunes and we moved to ‘Intelligent’ on the dance floor.
1994 spawned another premier club – Movement. Originally opened in Chelsea by Dave Stone of SOUR records and legends Bryan Gee and Jumping Jack Frost, Movement moved to the West End’s, Bar Rumba and into the history books. Movement at 14 years old, became the scene’s longest running weekly Drum& Bass club. Some of the best clubs are in a basement and Movement was no exception. Musical explosions occurred on the intimate dance floor.
The punters were a mixture of Londoners, industry and multi-national tourists. Movement was the focus of after-hours celebrations when Roni Size won the Mercury Award. Movement specialised in presenting music from right across the Jungle Drum & Bass spectrum and managed a balanced mix betwixt MCs and DJs. It was truly a shame when like many other club nights Movement shut its doors in 2009.
Ram Recordings at The End
The thing about The End is that it was the first club in London set up by a DJ/producer – Mr C, for DJs and punters alike to experience a quality nights clubbing. Mr C didn’t fail. The best thing about The End was its clean sound system and the way the DJ box sits on the dance floor, appearing to float in a sea of turbulent ravers.
Check the name which comes up as Best DJ each and every year and there’s one name – Andy C. It’s easy to chastise voters for lacking originality and being predictable but every time I see him, it’s easy to understand why. Other DJs have the tunes and the skillz but Andy has the X factor. I’ve never seen so many people crowd around a DJ box, just to get a glimpse of the master at work flinging barbed B-lines around The End.
Nights of Rage
Roll back to Summer 1992 and a back room in London club Heaven, which once held Rage each Thursday. Folklore has it when DJs Fabio and Grooverider played certain off beat breaks and rhythms, the crowds would scream, “JUNGLE”. In the skool of Jungle Drum & Bass, Rage was the nursery. Many people who went on to make their mark in Our Music were in da club. Kemistry & Storm were just ravers/aspiring DJs gazing at the decks for their weekly master class. And Goldie would hand Rider another fresh dub plate. Over the weeks Rage – too large for the back room was moved into the main room where it raged on until sometime in ’93 when, the management shut em down. In their view, Rage had become Heaven’s Hell. As Fabio recalls, “We Ghettoed the whole place out. It was too much for ’em.”
If Rage was the nursery, AWOL was the university. Held in Islington’s Paradise club, the DJs were more competitive than ever. Gachet, Darren Jay, Mickey Finn, Kenny Ken and Randall battled over every mix. Legend has it that AWOL was the first club in which crowds demanded, “Rewind the mix!!
Rewind the whole goddam mix!!!” And Randall would rewind the whole double impact, double dropping grooves. But the real essence of the place was the crowd. Just after the dawn of Jungle Drum & Bass, the crowd knew their beats, riding every mix. AWOL was the kind of place in which artists from
across the scene would end their night. With sessions hosted by one MC – GQ, Saturday night would roll into Sunday lunch times. As one of those punters in the crowd – Andy C said, “It was definitely inspirational.”
Sun & Bass
Check the scene. Blue sky. Dramatic seascape. Palm trees waft lazily in the Mediterranean breeze as Flyte, Storm and Bailey spin for revelers encrusted around a sculpted, crystal clear pool. The place resembles shots from a Snoop Dog video. So why would am I so annoyed? Because I didn’t listen when people said, “Reach Sun & Bass — It’s Drum & Bass Heaven!”
Now in its 10th year, Sardinia’s Sun & Bass Festival has a remarkable pedigree. Astonishing as the business model shouldn’t work. Invite a succession of top Jungle Drum & Bass artists to one of Europe’s far-flung islands. Ask them to stay for a week – paying only expenses but no appearance fees. Explain that their names might not be on the flyer. But there’s little or no advertising anyway. Oh and by the way, there’s no special VIP treatment. The music’s the VIP.
And the only other VIPs – the very important punters jet in from Australia, New Zealand, the Americans and all points European – especially from Jungle Drum & Bass’ UK homeland. They book their tickets without knowing what the line-up is. It’s always quality. In a scene which prides itself on playing the full 360 circumference of beats, Sun & Bass is a fully three-dimensional affair. Unapologetic fully paid-up members of the Junglists Movement mingle, chatting Jungle day and night for the entire seven days.
The Mannheim/Berlin based founders and their team run the epitome of smooth operation. Excuse the stereotype but their organisation is second to none. In a pure example of, “If you build it they will come,” the promoters have built a week long gem.
There’s the beach venue, the pool venue, the secret location and the outdoor restaurant venue where diners chow down thinking, “Drum & Bass has never tasted so good.” The night time venue where an indoor club space flows around a luminescent Mojito splashed bar, into an outdoor arena is where Markey makes mincemeat of a moving mountain of ravers and I have one of the best ever nights in my Drum & Bass life.
And tears are shed as the final fader is nudged down to zero. The only solace is gained from rewinding the on-line sessions, buying the CD pack and booking next year’s festival. It runs for a week but the vibes lasts forever. It is Drum & Bass Heaven.
Jungle Fever must rank as one of the biggest, most militant brand names in the business. It’s against the law to shout, “FIRE.” In a theatre because of the mayhem it would cause. But at Jungle Fever you’d be dealing with mayhem in the arena. At their 3rd birthday party at the Astoria in ’94 Fever killed it. Jungle Fever is the party wing of the multi-award winning pirate radio station Kool FM. In the Jungle Drum & Bass continuum, Fever was definitely Jungle. Jungle and proudly Street. In ’94 you could cut the atmosphere on the streets in Hackney with a knife. You treated Jungle Fever like an old
school dance. Wash n wax your wheels, sharpen the grooves in your hair style, slip into the freshest designer garms, hit the town, do the mosh pit queue, get on one, grab the champagne, pulse into the arena shouting, “Fire! We g-unn bun de place down.” I had to search for some dropped notes. There pounding the floor was this unholy stampede of heels and trainers. On stage, Brockie, Det, Navigator, Ron, 5ive0, Flirt and ‘All de mans dem’ were tearing the place apart. And outside the Astoria… Roadblock.
The Centre Point building was a mass of people. The police blocked off the road
shouting, “If you ain’t got a ticket – Go Home.” Oh mi daze. Still out there doing their thing, I’ve always said, “You ain’t a true Junglists till you’ve lived a Jungle Fever.
Metalheadz at The Blue Note
I was chatting over old times with some friends. “If you had a time machine which rave would you go back to?” “Sunrise” said everyone. “Ok then which club would you go back to?” “Metalheadz!” No contest. The Metalheadz sessions at the Blue note were history in the making. The setting – The Blue
Note was a much loved old Jazz club situated in the then back water of Hoxton. Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clark personally stopped the club from closing when it couldn’t pay its taxes. Clark’s an ardent Jazz fan. In July ’95 every Sunday night, those Jazz fans noticed all
these trendies with Attitude starting to queue up right down the street. You could feel the vibe in the whole area.
July ’95 – the first series of One in the Jungle rolled out across the land. And Goldie, its first DJ opened a club to showcase the heavyweight sounds of Drum & Bass. Kemi & Storm did much to ensure the club was full, rinsing their address books and calling everyone across the scene. Goldie and
Grooverider headed a list of DJs including: Kemistry & Storm, Bailey, Peshay, Doc Scot, Dillinja and Adam F.
Adam actually wrote that devastating tune Metropolis explicitly for Blue Note saying, “I wanted to hear that sound coming out those speakers.” And those speakers were supplied by Eskimo Noise – the ‘Valve sound system’ of the day. Jazz vocalist Cleveland Watkiss was the only MC. His voice provided an excellent counterpoint to the raging beats.
And the crowd – these were the knowledgeable graduates of the scene. In came the Tottenham boys, Soho trendies, industry faithfuls and Japanese film crews. In the basement with its low ceiling, they danced with no room to dance – lost it on the tiny stage, in the alcove and on the stairs. Justin
Keery mixed pre-recorded and live visuals onto a screen behind that stage of manic movers; rays of light cutting through clouds of ganja smoke. And at the bar Bjork sipped champagne. You could chill out upstairs and have a meal but be invariably dragged downstairs by mega shouts and screams as it all goes off again. Sadly the noise was a problem for local residents. So those Metalheadz sessions at the Blue Note came to the end. While they lasted those were the best nights and totally unforgettable.