Gatecrasher 2019 AKA “Homecoming” 09/02/19
The drama continues!
After the 25th Birthday event (see my review to refresh your memory if you need to) and The White Party 28/12/18 had led to widespread controversy and discontent due to last minute venue changes and other issues, Gatecrasher offered free tickets to all who had been at these nights to what was billed as a homecoming event back at Area. To be fair, they didn’t have to do this and it was a generous gesture, although for most people there’s no such thing as a free party when you take travel and accommodation costs into account, let alone drinks, food and so forth on the night itself.
Obtaining the tickets was a quick, easy, and efficient process after which we waited for customary announcements about lineup, and we waited, and we waited some more. we continued to wait as the deadline for canceling our hotel booking approached and there was still a deafening silence. My normal excitement and anticipation during the run up to a rave was replaced with increasing anxiety and irritation, not least because I had booked 2 days of precious annual leave to be able to attend. The tide of speculation on social media was reaching a fever pitch and we were almost on the point of getting tickets for another event when the announcement was finally made at 6 o’clock on Friday evening with a lineup and the expected venue change to Plug. The lineup and prospect of seeing our Crasher family was just enough inducement for us to attend so we abandoned our alternative plans.
Indulge me in a brief digression about the White Party. Despite the last minute venue change, it was generally agreed as being a really good night. Code is a really pleasant venue, very unlike Area as it has far lower ceilings that don’t lend themselves to the same style of production but the atmosphere was good and musically we were spoiled for choice. I enjoyed excellent sets from John O’Callaghan, Ciaran McAuley, Cold Blue, and Shugz. I caught parts of sets from Bryan Kearney, Matt Darey, and Paul Pearson, and all of them seemed to be on top form. My poor white Converse that had taken a battering at the previous White Party may never recover though.
The change back to Plug was not particularly welcome, but we were promised a full complement of lasers and reasonable drink prices, which addressed two of the worst complaints about the 25th Birthday. With only 5 DJs on the bill it was clear that there would be only one room, and shortly after the announcement the finish time was changed from 7 o’clock to 6. Around about this time the event was renamed from “Homecoming” to “Gatecrasher 19”. It’s abundantly clear that after the issues with the last two events a lot of people have had enough and decided to give it a miss. Its not at the point where one could call it a Boycott, but it’s getting awfully close, and shows that promoters can only count on loyalty and goodwill up to a point.
The journey up the A1 was uneventful in bright sunshine for the most part, and the Swedish Hearse behaved impeccably, even giving a few extra miles to the gallon thanks to the new fuel filter and the absence of biofuel in the tank.
We then proceeded with the normal pre Crasher activities, the ladies making themselves look as lovely as always and me having a quick wash and brush up before the stroll to the Benjamin Huntsman for a light supper and meet up with the lovely, crazy people we are privileged to call our Crasher family.
By this time, I was beginning to feel something close to my customary levels of anticipation. Catching up with friends is for me one of the most important parts of any night out. Once actually inside the club I struggle to have a proper conversation with anyone as I get too carried away by the music and caught up in the moment for rational thought so that brief time in the pub before is really precious to me.
It was at this point, however that the next blow fell. Paul Pearson, who had been billed to open the night with a two hour set posted a long message on social media to the effect that he would not be playing. He has regularly played opening sets at Crasher, and he is a master at filling the dancefloor and raising the level of energy and excitement. His post was clearly written more in sorrow than anger and the result of much thought and soul searching. It’s not my place to go into detail, but amongst the reasons given was the first that he had heard about being on the lineup had been when it was announced. Whilst I realise that there are always two sides to any story, this (along with the other reasons he gave) rings true as being entirely consistent with the chequered history of the brand and I have no reason to doubt it.
So it was in a slightly subdued frame of mind that we walked to Plug, the cold and damp conditions strangely in step with our mood.
The doorstaff also seemed in less than cheerful mood. Immune to my witty banter, they gave me no problem, but at least one of our friends was refused entry on grounds that were somewhat arbitrary as reported to me. Once inside, it was clear that a lot more preparatory work had been done. Right from the off it was clear that the production was going to be much closer to what we have come to expect at a Gatecrasher event, and the sound quality was significantly improved over our previous visit. The room was never packed, but there were enough people to generate a buzz. Bar prices were as had been announced.
On our arrival, there was an uncredited DJ playing. All my enquiries have failed to discover who he was. This is a shame, he deserves credit as he was playing a decent warm up set, and playing at Gatecrasher, even under these circumstances, is a pretty big deal. It’s the showbiz cliche when the understudy gets their big break, it’s the moment when the stewardess says “There’s no reason to become alarmed and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anybody on board who knows how to fly a plane? (And who didn’t have fish for dinner?)” With the dance floor filling up nicely, we then had a short set from Scott Bond, the first of two on the night.
Next up was another uncredited DJ. Subsequent enquiries revealed that this was James Hippey, aka DJ Shambles. He played a cracking uplifting set, great flow, and well judged track selection. He was clearly loving every minute, as were we. The fact that he played the Giuseppe Ottaviani remix of ‘I don’t Deserve You’ endeared him to me even more as it is a track that is very special to my wife and I.
Scott then came back on for a second, longer set. In a very brief conversation with him, near the bar he laconically told me that “I’m not having a brilliant week!” It’s a truism that good art can come out of adversity, and for me this was one of the best sets I have heard from him for along time. We had a few classic Crasher anthems interspersed in a set that was a bit darker than his usual with a lighter hand on some of the effects. By this time the lasers were giving us a dazzling display, transforming the room into a very different place than it had been in October.
Next up was Factor B. On a couple of occasions I have been disappointed by him when he has played a set that was too progressive for the time of night. No disappointment here though as we were treated to an excellent uplifting set, drawn largely from his vast catalogue of his own productions and remixes. The room might not have been packed, but it was certainly buzzing with all of us taking advantage of having a bit more room to dance.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave a glowing review of Ashley Bradbury’s set at Cuckoo. At the risk of appearing to be a one man fan club, his was the set that I had been looking forward to the most. Gatecrasher is in his blood, some of his earliest clubbing experiences were at The Republic, and one of his many tattoos is a Gatecrasher lion. Once again he gave us the set of the night. I expected hard, brutal even. What I didn’t expect was that the set would be full of remixes and mashups of classics (many of them sadly not played very often) that made each one of them feel fresh and new. Highlight of the set was his own mashup, Simon Patterson vs ROC Project with Tina Arena Never Miss You during which he became overwhelmed by emotion and broke down in tears several times. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and I can’t watch the video without welling up again. Such is the raw and genuine emotion when a talented young man achieves one of his dreams.
Ashley was billed to play until four thirty. Instead he played until five o’clock, finishing with Phantom Manor, the lights came up and the door staff started ushering us to the door. This despite the fact that the advertised finish time was six o’clock, and John Kelly had been billed to close the night.
So, what’s the verdict? I have very mixed feelings, as I am sure that many of you do. Gatecrasher is a very important part of my own clubbing CV. Back in the Republic days it helped me through the trauma of a messy divorce, as a very damaged bloke in his early 40’s with more hair and a trimmer waistline than I have now, I found acceptance and a degree of healing from the people there which have left me with precious (if slightly fuzzy) memories. My return to the scene, this time in the company of the woman I love, was at the 23rd birthday at Area and was a life changing and enhancing experience for both of us where we started to form lasting and genuine friendships with our Crasher family.
At both the White Party and the (non)Homecoming, there was great music. Code is a cracking venue, and the worst of the issues at Plug from the 25th Birthday had been addressed. As always, the people are central to the night, and although some of the faithful had stayed away, there were still enough friends old and new to make it a night to remember.
The elephant in the room is communication. How a global brand with 25 years of experience can be so tragically, spectacularly, almost comically bad at it is a source of perplexed wonderment to me. Three events with last minute venue changes. Lineup announced the evening before an event. Absolutely no information at all about an event between announcing it and the day before it happens. Apparent lack of communication with artists scheduled to play. Change of finish time twice, the first time only by changing the time on the Facebook event page (not everybody follows this or noticed the change), the second time with as far as I am aware no announcement at all. Even with the late announcement of the lineup, two of the five DJs didn’t play, and two more played with no credit or announcement.
By any standard this is woeful. Not only that, but it is also incredibly damaging. Lack of information leads inevitably to speculation, none of it good. I am not particularly cynical by nature, but given that we were told that Area was so nearly ready for the 25th Birthday back in October that the change of venue was only announced on the afternoon of the event itself, and that it was still not ready nearly three months later, I think that I can be forgiven for wondering if we have been lied to.
People only have so much patience and goodwill, and even a free party is not free for the very large number of punters who have to make travel and accommodation arrangements, not to mention taking time off work. It’s really no surprise that even with free tickets, the single room at Plug was far from full. Free tickets have again been promised as compensation for this venue change, this is all well and good, but unless lessons are learned and acted upon it will be a futile and empty gesture.
I hate being negative, and I am truly saddened to have had to write the above. To redress that balance I have to say that each of the three events have given me positive memories that I will cherish, the insane scenes of David Rust’s set at Plug, all the sets that I saw at Code (particularly Ciaran and Cold Blue), and Ashley’s tears a few days ago to name just the highlights. Through it all ran the golden thread of spending time with people I really care about.
It’s still, when it comes down to it, all about the music and the people. Gatecrasher have never had a problem in providing the music, they are in very great danger of losing the people.
We would like to point out that all views and opinions within this review are a personal account of events and should be taken as such