Oct
28

Fabric 11th Birthday

It’s that time of year again. The evenings are drawing in, the first ice is visible in the mornings, and Christmas decorations are appearing in shops. It can only mean one thing: FABRIC BIRTHDAY.

A year after launching their series of “On & On & On” parties with the 10th anniversary bash, Fabric again opened their doors for no less than 30 hours to celebrate the passing of another 52 weeks at the top of the UK foodchain. And what a year it’s been – even though I rarely get to go more than once a month or so, I’ve still had unforgettable nights featuring Claude von Stroke, Magda, Radioslave, Erol Alkan, John Digweed, Dinky and Ivan Smagghe (to name but a handful) during the last 12 months alone. Of course, as anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of standing in room 1 while he’s playing will testify, no fabric night (indeed, no night anywhere) ever comes close to the truly life-changing times when a certain Mr Ricardo Villalobos is playing, so it’s only fitting that he’s headlining the proceedings tonight.

Except he isn’t. Arriving at 11pm to check out the set times, an A3 piece of paper stuck to the wall of Charterhouse Street breaks the news – Ricardo is ill and wasn’t able to fly over. At first glance, I don’t see any other text on the poster, and my heart sinks. Who else would be able to keep a thousand people glued to the floor of room 1 for the duration of Sunday daytime? Who else do people fly all over the world for? Who else can construct a set that feels like a constant challenge to the crowd: “Yeah – but can you dance to THIS one?” Quite simply, the answer is no-one. There are plenty who try, but there aren’t any that even come close. This was clearly fabric’s understanding too: reading further on the poster, they’d managed to get Luciano to come over and play in Ricardo’s absence. I really think that this was an inspired booking by the fabric people – don’t try (and fail) to get a Ricardo impersonator, get someone with an entirely different vibe instead. Where Ricardo is challenging, Luciano is accessible. Where Ricardo is dark, Luciano is fun. Where Ricardo is weird, Luciano is – well, pretty normal. Anyway, Luciano wasn’t around until 1pm, so it was going to be a while before I saw how the substitute DJ would work.

Grabbing the wristband early to get a sneak peek at the set times, it was impressive how big the queue was. Even before the official opening at 11pm, the line was 4 or 5 people deep and went way back round the corner. Upon returning (I literally went straight home for a disco nap after getting wristbanded), the negative aspect of such a queue was very evident in the club: it was absolutely packed, and there really wasn’t space to dance comfortably. Still, fighting through room 1 to somewhere near the stage paid a dividend, as a small spot opened up and pretty much remained there (with me in it) for the duration of Ame’s set. Playing live, Ame (well, actually just Frank) put on what was a strong contender for my favourite ever live set at fabric. Not enormously danceable, but unwaveringly musical, it was a snapshot of the very best aspects of electronic music in 2010. As a peak-time booking in room 1, it was a clear signal that “functional” minimal growing purely out of percussive loops was on the decline, and that chord progressions and traditional song structures were most definitely in. A stellar performance.

As Craig Richards (undeniably the best resident DJ in the world outside of Berghain) took over alongside oft-partner-in-crime Lee Burridge, the numbers in room 1 got a bit too much for me, and it was time to head off for another disco nap. Returning a little before 10, the crowd had mercifully thinned in time for the start of Tobi Neumann’s set. A solid long-term feature on the Cocoon booking roster, Neumann has been playing huge parties the world over for more than a decade, but somehow I’ve never managed to catch him before. His memorable housey set, played to an enormously receptive room 1, was to set the tone for the rest of Sunday. Although it most certainly isn’t always the case, when the crowd at fabric is good, a really special feeling resonates throughout the place. Sunday was clearly a good day.

1pm rolled around in the blink of an eye, the shutters were opened (although I still have no idea why fabric announced that they were doing this in advance – imagine how amazing the cheer would have been if this had happened unexpectedly?) and Luciano began. Within minutes it was clear that he was the right booking. With his trademark tribal-tinged sound, Luciano tore through 4 hours of cutting-edge electronic music, bolstered with more than a smattering of classics. Whether there was one too many such “golden oldies” seems to have been a hotly contested debate ever since. I personally think he was treading on thin ice by the end – one more 90s accapella and I think he could well have lost the support of a decent chunk of the crowd. Having said that, it was fabric’s birthday. Its was a party. There’s slightly more license to do these kind of things at parties than at your run-of-the-mill Saturday night events.

Closing the afternoon was Dixon. A while back, I’d become resigned to the fact that I’d never get the chance to see him in London, after he slammed fabric in an interview for not having door selection. Dixon reasoned that the average person on the street was not the kind of person that he wanted to be partying with, and that fabric was plagued by the fact that they let pretty much everyone in. A bold statement indeed, but all seemed to have been forgiven as 5pm rolled around and he launched into an evening of deep underground grooves. Again, the crowd was excellent, and Dixon’s was, for me, the standout set in what was already a standout day.

Going out to party during the day on a Sunday isn’t something that we’re typically accustomed to in London. With Sunday parties being this good (and far less disruptive to having a “normal weekend” than standard all-night events), I can only hope that this changes in the very near future. There’s honestly nothing I’d rather do on a Sunday afternoon than spend time with my favourite people, dancing together to our favourite music and generally enjoying what’s becoming our increasingly precious spare time together. As our career paths take us all in different directions – and, more tangibly, to different places – spending a Sunday afternoon like this is really something to cherish.

The only thing left to wonder is what could have been. What if Ricardo had been in town? The set-times would certainly have been vastly different, and there would have undoubtedly been a different vibe. Luciano played an entertaining and memorable set, but where Ricardo truly dominates Luciano is in song selection. As someone recently pointed out to me, the reason that Ricardo is so incredible is that his record box contains gem after gem that pleases the people who want simply to dance, but also keeps even the most hardened of vinyl junkies scratching their heads. This wasn’t really the case with Luciano. Having said that, as I emerged from the club back into the night, the afterglow from the party was intense. Ricardo does have a tendency to completely mess up on occasion, and if today had been one of those days, the whole party would have been flat. At least with Luciano you know what you’re getting. Even if it does include Whitney Houston.

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