Kearnage at Trance Sanctuary
As always this reflects my personal experience of the event, along with the comments made to me by other people in casual conversations.
The Egg, Trance Sanctuary’s normal home, is in the throes of major renovations and it had become clear some time ago that these would not be completed in time for this event. In something of a coup, Mark Landragin and his team were able to arrange for it to take place at Fabric. This is a venue that has a huge place in the history of clubbing culture and one at which trance events are as rare as rocking horse dung. The last time that I was there was about 16 years ago, and my recollection is somewhat hazy.
Any venue change, no matter how well planned, will inevitably lead to comparisons with the normal home of an event and this is no exception.
The security staff were almost without exception friendly, polite and helpful. They did what was needed efficiently and without fuss. I had conversations with many of them and the common thread was that they were astonished at the difference between a trance crowd and the clientele at the other events hosted there. One of them went as far as to say that he really wanted to stop work and join the party. The bar staff were also top notch.
Free water from a dedicated bar, nice and cold and without the funny taste from the postmix dispenser. Other drinks prices typical of a major London venue, certainly not cheap but not extortionate.
The Sound Systems;
Fabric is famed for its sound systems and there’s no denying that in the main room the clarity of the sound is remarkable. To my ears, and that of many people I spoke to it was definitely bass light and varied a bit more that one would like dependent on where you were in the room. Room 2 had better bass but wasn’t as crisp as the main room. Don’t get me wrong, the sound wasn’t poor by any means, and certainly didn’t mar my enjoyment like it has at some events (Kinetic at Victoria Warehouse last year being the worst example recently). Nevertheless I was mildly disappointed as it didn’t quite meet my hyped expectations.
The venue was sold close to capacity. It was pretty crowded in the main room, particularly during Kearney’s set. Some people mentioned to me that this was a bit of an issue for them. Whilst I would have preferred to have a bit more room to dance it didn’t seem any worse than it can get at Egg, and the air conditioning seemed to keep us all just a degree or so cooler.
The Less Good:
Somehow I had forgotten just how much of a pain in the backside it is to get from place to place in Fabric. From the entrance at ground level the first seemingly endless flight takes you down to a mezzanine where there’s a pleasant bar with a view over the main room dance floor. Also on this level are the only toilets (as far as I could discover) in the whole venue. These are unisex acceptably clean with some of the security staff directing you to a vacant cubicle. Two further long flights lead you down to the main floor with the two large rooms with the water bar between them. A second endless staircase leads from Room 2 up to the smoking area back at ground level with the entrance to Room 3 halfway up. Yet another staircase leads from the guest list entrance to the mezzanine bar, and finally there’s the staircase up from the main entrance to the cloakroom. Lots of venues have a lot of stairs, Egg and Area spring to mind, but somehow it just feels like it’s a massive mission to go to the toilet or have a smoke at Fabric.
The Main Room DJ Booth:
I like to be able to actually see the DJ. Not an unreasonable expectation you might think. If you are right up at the front, where I like to be, the most you will get is the occasional glimpse of a raised hand. This is because the booth is a few feet up from dance floor level, and the decks are positioned above the mixer, leaving a fairly small gap between them and the top of the booth. Even about halfway back on the dance floor the view isn’t much better. I suspect that you might see more from the raised section at the back, but I was too busy dancing to find out.
Remember the staircase I mentioned that goes from the main entrance to the cloakroom? We arrived pretty early and the queue to drop things off was the full length of the staircase and then some. An hour later it was the same length. We decided that it wasn’t worth wasting dancing time and I tied both our fleeces around my waist. We later discovered that some people waited over 45 minutes at the end of the event to get their belongings. I really don’t understand how venues manage to get this so wrong so frequently.
Overall I have to say that whilst I don’t hate Fabric, it’s hard to like it very much. It certainly lacks something in atmosphere compared with Egg.
Enough about the venue, on to the important stuff:
We started with Mark Landragin in Room 2. Quite apart from being a really nice chap, Mark has given us some memorable sets when we have seen him. Opening a room is a really fine line to tread between being too restrained and not getting people dancing, and playing too many real bangers too early. This was pretty much a masterclass of how it should be done.
On to Room1 or Orkidea. I had never seen him before, suffice to say that I will make a point of seeing him again.
Back to Room 2 for Maria Healy. I first saw her at TS a couple of years ago, her style can best be described as Uplifting with a bit of a hard edge. Add to this the fact that she jumps around like a crazy woman behind the decks, sings along to the tunes, and has an enormous grin on her face and it’s clear that she is having as much fun as the people she is playing for. She certainly didn’t disappoint on this occasion.
A short break for a cigarette (did I mention all those blasted stairs?) and back to Room 1 for Kearney. With a three hour set he had plenty of time to explore his prodigious back catalogue, and as with previous TS Kearnage events he gave us a set entirely of trance. Iconic tunes came thick and fast, mixed with the level of skill you would expect of a master at work.
Finally, we caught a bit of Will Rees (also in Room 1). He had a really tough act to follow but rose to the challenge, shame that we couldn’t see him at all thanks to that DJ booth.
A final ascent of the bloody stairs and a quick dash to:
Anybody who knows me or has read my previous event reviews will know my preference for smaller rooms where you can get up close with the DJ. The Apothecary Room (now inexplicably renamed Cell 200) is exactly such a venue so it was with something approaching a sigh of relief that I entered. The first thing that I noticed (apart from the blessed absence of any stairs) was that the sound system had been significantly upgraded, a very welcome improvement from the last time I was there. The Afterparty crowd is a self-selected group of the most dedicated party animals which makes for an electric atmosphere.
The next few hours were amongst the best for uplifting trance that I have ever experienced bar none.
Maria Healy basically carried on from where she had left off at Fabric but ramped the energy level up a couple of notches. After about an hour she was Joined by Will Rees and they played back to back for the next hour and a half. I don’t know if they have ever played together before, but the energy between them was palpable as they sparked off each other and with us punters. This is how a B2B set should be; two DJ’s having an absolute blast and filling a room with happiness.
In any other lineup this would have been without question the set of the night for me, and I was ready to pop outside for a smoke and a bit of a rest (I am not as young as I used to be, after all), but I was stopped in my tracks by the start of the next set. This was the UK debut of a tiny, pretty Japanese woman called Rinaly. For the next hour and a half she held our hearts in her delicate hands as she gave us a truly beautiful hard uplifting set. She is another DJ who is physically exuberant behind the decks and interacts with the crowd with a happy smile. I am not a chap who is often at a loss for words but when I got to meet her after her set I was reduced to a state of incoherence like that of a star-struck teenager. Her set is on Soundcloud, so you can have a listen. No names, no pack drill, but a DJ/promoter said to me on the dance floor that he was in awe both of her as a DJ and of Mark Landragin as a promoter for booking her.
I had been looking forward to Alan Banks’s set, I sadly didn’t catch much of it as I really did need to chill for a while, what i heard of it I liked though.
Back into the fray for Hamza, another DJ that I had never even heard of let alone heard before, yet another brilliant set, look out for him I am definitely hoping to see him again.
Finally Ed Lynam, he has closed the TS afterparty more that once and knows exactly what is needed to carry tired legs though to the end, hard, quite dark with lots of techy overtones, a perfect way to take us to a coveted place in the survivors photo.