Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Elite Force Musings 002 : The Near East

[originally published on Beatportal]

As I pore over my itinerary for the coming months, sifting through travel plans to the outer reaches of our increasingly accessible planet, there's one word that always resonates with me, that gives me a warm glow, and where I know I'll be welcomed with open arms: every DJ has their rock solid 'home games', where the crowd & the vibe just feel like family .... in fact, I'd say that most clubbers feel the same, being the loyal, tribal bunch we are.

For me, the word that fills me with a warm glow of anticipation is 'Hungary'.

I've been going out to the 'near east' for a number of years now, and whilst I've touched down in a number of former Easter Bloc countries, it's Hungary that's hosted me on more occasions that anywhere else (maybe 10 at the last count?).

The Chi Recordings crew were the first to bring me to Budapest, playing at a halloween party on a small wooden boat stationed on the Danube, just as the arctic blast of winter was starting to kick in ... the boat was bedecked with the regular paraphenalia associated with halloween, and I remember the streaming rivers of condensation on the windows, sending the lights on the danube into a kaleidoscope of urban exotica.

More exciting than that though, were the sets of my hosts, Kevin (Fine Cut Bodies) and Naga, who seemed completely comfortable & at one with their crowd, teasing them with a riot of sound which seemed to snake from one genre to another without missing a beat, and it was then that I realized straight away that this would be a night to treasure; a night where I could grab pretty much anything from the darkest recesses of the CD wallet and run with it, because the residents had created such a free & open palette from which to cherry pick their selections.

This is something that's _much_ overlooked in my opinion; find a cracking night that you love to play at, and that people love to be at year after year, and I guarantee you that you will find at least one (and usually several) unsung heroes who have created something special through their own careful nurturing of their crowd, and their innate understanding that to kick the night off playing the hugest, most anthemic wall of sound is not the best way to welcome people to your night, and to get them warming to the idea of, er, dancing!

Since then I've been back time & again, and one of the greatest privileges of these regular visits has been the continued void of musical snobbery that often afflicts the 'scene' in other countries (not least the UK): this open-mindedness reminds me of the halcyon days of acid house at the turn of the 90s where we chased sound systems across the south west in a cat & mouse game with the police, for the promise of a night of elicit, underground sounds from DJs who were just glad to have made it & to have been asked to play; the last thing on their minds was whether their house music was 'deep' enough.

It was this eclecticism that first attracted me to electronic music & clublife, and it's a continuing inspiration to find dozens & dozens of countries out there who will accept a DJ at face value, and put themselves squarely in their hands for the duration of their sets .... meritocratic and inclusive, not exclusive or divisive.

One weekend last summer, I played at a festival in Tokaj, some two & a half hour's drive from Budapest, and whilst I was a little dishearted to hear that our sets had been curtailed by an excess of live acts (and yes, without wanting to be immediately divisive, I did have to sit through 2 hours of Banco de Gaia before I played, which was pretty unsettling - my eclectic spirit clearly does have it's limits after all), it was actually quite a buzz to be given the challenge of playing for only an hour - normally this is something I hate as it just allows for nothing in the way of subtlety at all, but events such as these own nothing to subtlety - they are about big, rock & roll gestures through sound & vision and I have plenty in my armoury that fits the bill ... so out went the light & shade & in came the frugging moshpit-inducing wonky house & techno, epitomised by the likes of Solid Groove & Sinden's 'Red Hot', Jamie Fanatic & Jesse Voorn's 'Fire Time' the Switch mix of the Klaxxons & I was really pleased with the reception a new mix I'd just finished for Miles Dyson's 12 inch recordings label [G.D.R. - Powder].

All in all a great night, and the sight of 1500 people pogoing like crazy to my closing tune (a re-rub of 'Smack My Bitch Up' that I did last year) was something that sustained me over the few weeks of the summer whilst I took a short sabbatical to become a first-time father.

Exciting times :)

By way of a bonus, here's a recent set to download from the excellent Fine Cut Bodies, a DJ who we should all see an awful lot more of in the near future.

Fine Cut Bodies - Ablak-A-Dubra RadioShow 09/Jul-08
Link to ALL FCB radio shows over the past 5 years (!)

1 comment:

Neil Cocker said...

Great post! I love playing in Hungary and it must be about 10 times for us too. And the hospitality of the likes of Kevin and Grasshop has always been a joy. And I totally agree about the meritocracy that thrives in a scene so devoid of ego, which I feel in Hungary as much as anywhere. I remember playing in a forest, somewhere near the Slovakian border, and just being over-joyed at the atmosphere. Hope we'll be back there very soon. :)

Neil (Phantom Beats)