With Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) coming up next week, I decided to stop in London for a few days. Since I knew that I would be mainly attending ADE parties that focused on trance, electro, progressive, underground, etc, I decided to focus on hiNRG and gay clubs for my weekend in London.
One Night in G-A-Y Heaven
After last year's debacle, I decided to plan head and contacted people in advance to ensure entry into G-A-Y. The club is members only and nonmembers are not allowed in on most nights - especially when there is a guest artist. With my name on the guest list, I was able to get in after a pat down and a walk through a metal detector. This is evidently standard practice at London nightclubs.
G-A-Y is a weekly lesbian and gay party hosted by promoter that occurs at a few different venues - Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Heaven, Sundays at a different venue, and an afterhours. It is primarily a boy/twink party pulling a younger diverse gay boy crowd with a sprinkling of women and 20/30 somethings and a light dash of ethnic diversity. The crowd is obviously up for a good time, queuing to get in before the venue opens at 10:30 pm. The dance start floor starts instantly when Mark Jason plays the first track. The main room, spun by Mark Jason, Craig Jones and Ian T consist of remixed chart pop, hiNRG club anthems and a touch of big room. There are LOTS of sing along vocals and hands in the air good times to be had. The main room also hosts live acts from X-Factor rejects (FTD? PYT? STD?) and chart topping pop acts (The Wanted put on quite a good show.) A second room plays r&b, from grime to commercial and filled up nicely as the night progressed. A third room is 80's/90s classics with a touch of camp thrown in by DJs Mark Jason and David Robson tagteaming. I heard everything from Bananarama to the Bucketheads to Lipps Inc as I popped my head in throughout the night. The front area of the classics room is a chillout area with couches that was showing Spice World. The chillout room was dark and many a twink were taking advantage of the darkness.
For a party that pulls such a young crowd, the emphasis on tradition is commendable. If it's 12:30 am, you will be hearing Kylie Minogue's "Better the Devil You Know" accompanied by a balloon drop. The classics room is brilliant that allowed kids to dance to classics that were released before they were born.
From arrival at 10:30pm to closing at 5am, I found myself on the dancefloor most of the evening and ended up a sweaty mess. As an avid follower of UK pop music, I (along with most of the crowd) knew and sang along with just about every song. New music was introduced in a very competent way - sandwiched between pop anthems - and getting a good reaction consistently. The DJs were flawless with both programming and execution. The place was packed yet I never felt crowded. Security and door staff throughout the venue were incredibly friendly, personable and helpful - nice touch.
There are only two critiques. First the bartenders are quite horrid. Waiting 20 minutes at a bar with 10 people for a drink borders on offensive. Granted in the US, bartenders are motivated to be speedy and personable, but the automaton guy had the personality of molasses and pretty much the same speed. Secondly, this is the ONLY UK party/venue that I have been in where the DJs names are not mentioned nor advertised in any way, shape of form. As a DJ myself, I was SHOCKED by this. People go to a club to dance to great music and its the DJ who brings that. There were no names on the flyers, posters, throughout the club or on the website. You would think an event as massive as GAY would realized the massive importance of promoting the resident talent - Ian, Craig, Mark and David. As a clubgoer, its easy to realize who Jeremy the promoter as he was on the microphone a couple of times throughout the night. I would suggest to Jeremy that he needs to share the spotlight with his stable of high calibre, international level talented DJs.
Going Beyond for Afterhours
If you read last year's wrapup, you will know that I am a MASSIVE Sharp Boys fan. So when I heard the Sharp Boys were doing an afterhours party call Beyond @ Area, I knew it would be a long night. I paced myself with Red Bulls to stay awake throughout my dancing at G-A-Y and after it closed at 5am, I worked my way over to Vauxhall for Area. The layout is a small entry room (terrace), a medium sized room (chapel) and a big main room. The sound in all three rooms was powerful but not overbearing. The crowd is a mix of shirtless muscle guys. club kids of all genders and random tourists who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
While the two entry rooms were playing good music, I found my way almost directly to the main room to dance my butt off to the Sharp Boys. They didn't disappoint. To me the Sharp Boys are all about happy, bouncy music. When they (or one of their productions) are playing, you can't help but bop back and forth. Whether they are playing tracks, a sick mashup ("Beachball" and "Empire State of Mind" or their own take of "Barbra Streisand"), or a chant record telling you to "Esai Loca," the energy is magnetic and all encompassing. I haven't felt a communal vibe on an afterhours dancefloor since I spun at eXceSs in the late 90s/early 00s. If this is the UK version of a circuit party (which it seemed to be), then I would proudly be a circuit queen. The music blew away the relentless tribal nonsense that seems to be doled out at most US parties - and the guys are happier and into it, rather than spaced and falling out of it.
The Sharp Boys finished their set and I realized that it was 9am. After dancing for nearly 10 hours, the effect of multiple Red Bulls was starting to wear off. No offense to the next dj, I liked his first two tracks, but I knew I had to get back to the hotel to take a nap to be ready for Sunday.