DJs are a funny breed. For people whose main pursuit in life involves the creation, mixing, performing and promotion of music, an awful lot of them don't seem to find music particularly exciting – just take a glance at the DJ booth at the next night you go to, and count how many guys in caps you can see standing at the back with their arms folded, watching whoever's currently selecting with comical solemnity, occasionally nodding when something they particularly approve of gets played, possibly displaying the ghost of a smile at a deft bit of EQ-ing, but mostly looking terribly, terribly serious and often, dare I say it, bored. It's bizarre.
Surely they must be enjoying it, otherwise why would they be there? Of course there'll be an element of study going on – who wouldn't want to learn new and better-honed techniques from more experienced purveyors of one's craft? – but at some point, doesn't watching crossfaders and beatmatching get dull? Wouldn't you want to get out there and dance like everybody else? Or even if you're not keen to mix with the plebs, wouldn't you dance in the booth? Maybe it's not allowed?
All these questions and more went through my head at Hessle Audio's October takeover of Motion, Bristol, for about thirty seconds. And then I went back to dancing. ‘Cos that's what we was there for, like.
An impressive feat of taxi-related faffing meant that we arrived around quarter past midnight and sprinted (maybe we didn't sprint) straight to the main room, where Legowelt were playing. For a peak-time Room One set, however, it was a wee bit too deep – in the sense of you probably needed to have been there from the beginning, or maybe to actually be the DJs themselves, in order to appreciate it – and we went to the tunnel instead, to enjoy forty-five minutes of agile, soulful house from Shanti Celeste, and to stake out our territory at the front of the dancefloor for Mr Sam Shepherd, aka Floating Points, who was up next.
I'd seen Floating Points at About:Blank in Berlin earlier in the year, and his five-hour set was one of the best – possibly the best – DJ sets I'd ever seen. Apart from being hugely technically accomplished, with complete mastery over the decks, his impeccable taste in rare funk, soul and disco, along with up-to-the-minute selections from contemporary electronic music, make him one of the most exciting and unique DJs out there – and that's before you get to the sublime music he makes himself.
Tonight, unfortunately, he was only playing for an hour, and we had worried that this dramatically shortened set might not pack the same punch as an extended workout, but luckily our worries were unfounded. Obviously we wanted it to be longer, but the hour he gave us was pitch-perfect, full of infectious grooves, clever juxtapositions and a real, tangible joy in the endless possibilities of music.
It was also funny seeing the booth crew – including, at one point, a certain Kieran Hebden – pointing and grinning in admiration at Floating Points' effortless skills. Shepherd, by the way, does not suffer from DJ booth syndrome; he's one of the most fun DJs I've had the pleasure to watch, bouncing around, clearly loving every second of what he's doing, and although he comes across as almost pathologically shy in interviews – to the point of awkwardness – put him behind the decks and you're in no doubt as to who's in charge.
Once he'd finished we trooped straight back to the main room to watch Four Tet, and I have to admit to being a bit disappointed. Obviously following – to quote myself – one of the most exciting DJs on the scene would be tough for anyone, but Hebden simply didn't seem entirely comfortable in such a massive room and playing to such a big crowd, and I couldn't help but feel – having loved every recorded mix of his that I've heard, and knowing what an interesting and eclectic cratedigger he is – that one of the smaller rooms would have served him better.
There's an intimacy to Four Tet, a real personality to his selections, and you need to be able to hear the detail and subtlety, to make a connection, and the sound and atmosphere of the main room simply didn't suit it, which was a shame. He's just not the right kind of DJ for thousands of people on a massive stage at two in the morning (although his live show is a different matter) and although his set was by no means bad – some of it was great – it just wasn't terribly memorable, and didn't take off the way it should have. And for me and some of my companions, whose love for the man occasionally borders on being inappropriate, that just won't do at all.
Oh and while we're complaining, at one point in the night a female member of our group reported being charged for toilet paper by the woman working in the ladies' toilet. All I can say to that is what the fuck, Motion? Fair enough, if the people who work in the toilets – which must be a ghastly way to spend an evening – want to charge for their lollipops and scents and deodorant and whatever, fair enough. But charging for toilet paper, a fairly – to say the least – essential item, because there isn't enough in the cubicles? That's just not cool, yo.
But enough complaining. We enjoyed another hour, taking in the end of Alexander Nutt's set, some bang from Pearson Sound and a typically enjoyable selection from the Kelly Twins – possibly the hardest-working DJs in Bristol – before unforeseen circumstances too tedious to go into here necessitated a swift exit, and although I wish I could have stayed to catch Ben UFO, I was left with the satisfying taste of an evening well-spent.
So, in conclusion: dancing is good. If you haven't seen Floating Points, you'd better get to know. Paying for toilet paper when you've already paid twenty quid to get into a club is bullshit. Four Tet needs a smaller room. Hessle Audio put on some seriously bangin' nights. And in future, I'll try my best to go to the whole thing, ‘cos who knows what tastiness I might have missed.
Next stop – Tokyo Dub!
Words: Stefan Mohamed
Photography: Ben Price
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