Friday, 29 October 2010

DJ mag awards 2010. 27/10/2010 @ Ministry of Sound. London

The sun had barely set over south London when I arrived at the world famous Ministry of Sound for the annual DJ mag top 100 awards party. The annual industry knees up celebrating the worlds most important and influential DJs, decided by a worldwide online vote, has become an important date in every committed clubbers diary as it brings with it a promise of an incredible line up not normally witnessed outside a festival environment, never mind a nightclub on a Wednesday night.

A smattering of young excitable clubbers had already gathered on the corner of Gaunt Street upon my arrival, given that it was 3 whole hours before the doors opened, it was guaranteed to be a very busy night indeed. Those in the queue, mainly students taking advantage of not having to work the next day, chatted at length about who the possible victor would be, many internet rumours abounded that armin van buuren had again triumphed for the fourth year in succession.

By the time the doormen emerged from the club to establish some order in the queue, they had quite a job on their hands as it stretched far beyond sight, those near the front giving themselves a hearty pat on the back for having had the sense to arrive early.

This years line up consisted of a fine roster of DJs considered to be in the higher echelons of the DJ aristocracy, among them the legendary prog houser Sasha, turntable wizard Eddie halliwell, the sensation that is Deadmau5 and of course the winner of the poll, to be announced at midnight.

Once inside, it was strikingly apparent that this was to be no half hearted affair, DJ mag having put significant effort into making the event a full on club night with impressive visual screens and decoration, adding a touch of glamour to proceedings, plus a slight jumble around of the furniture around the club to make best use of available space for the capacity crowd now flooding through the doors.

A little delay opening the main room left clubbers chomping at the bit, and when the black curtains were finally removed from the 2 dark passageways leading into it, the crowd flooded in filling it to almost capacity in a matter of minutes. Trusted with the task of warming things up was Jerome Is-mae, the man from Munich no doubt very familiar with the surroundings of the DJ booth, having carved out a regular slot at The Gallery, Londons longest running weekly club night, held at Ministry on Friday nights. He respected the warm up slot perfectly, resisting the urge to bang it out instead got the crowd into a groove with some chunky progressive beats with the odd trancey breakdown thrown in for good measure, no doubt a hint at a sign of things to come.

Near enough bang on ten o clock the familiar face of Sasha popped up in the DJ booth, it seems he has lost none of his pull factor as the crowd size swelled for a glimpse of the man who has been at the top of his game for almost two decades. Now it is unlikely you will ever see Sasha play for a mere hour, as he likes to build his set up into a journey, with peaks and troughs and plenty of epic moments, so perhaps it was unreasonable to expect a masterpiece and so it was the case. Ever the professional, he played it safe with some solid house offerings, keeping the BPM at a respectable level and progressing the main room into a swing which reflected the timing in which he had been scheduled. Warming up for a DJ just voted the worlds number 1, whos style is entirely different to yours is no mean feat, but Sasha executed it with aplomb. By the time Boy George arrived to present the awards, Sasha had the capacity crowd in house heaven and eating out of the palm of his hand.

As is the procedure for awards ceremonies in nightclubs, they were kept short and sweet so as not to interrupt the flow of the night. The ever flamboyant Boy George announced highest placed DJ for each specific genre, including introducing a rather bemused Andy C to give a speech to "the drum and bass massive" in a room full of trance fans, before a count down of the top 20, and then the announcement of Armin Van Buuren as the winner, much to the delight of his fans in the pit of a dance floor below him. An acceptance speech was dispatched before the man himself got down to business on the wheels of steel.

Having been disappointed with an Armin set in the summer, I decided to give the first half of his set a miss and headed to the bar area to check out the stellar cast of house DJs on display. I quickly regretted having spent so much time in the main room, as the bar was absolutely heaving with a throng of sweaty clubbers giving it some serious welly to Fedde le Grand. It was so busy the toilets in the corner were having to be monitored by a rather large bouncer who was enforcing a one in one out policy, even for the gents. I have always admired the sound systems in ministry, even in the bar area your ears are assaulted by throbbing bass which really adds to the whole 'super club' experience. Fedde was dropping his trademark house sounds with some electro thrown in for good measure, and the crowd was lapping up every single beat.

Upon my return to the main room, Armins set was coming to an end and thankfully the crowd had thinned out ever so slightly, meaning finding a spot to dance comfortably was not a problem, something that in my experience is very rare at an Armin gig. To my relief, he was either avoiding or had finished playing the really cheesy vocal side of trance to which he has unfortunately been playing excessively in the last few years. Instead was a faster more credible type of trance, with of course some truly euphoric breakdowns and epic drops with techy undertones. When the first bars of his anthem communication trickled through the sound system, the crowd went into near hysterics, the breakdown inducing a serious hands in air moment. What a tune.

Armin was soon whisked away from the DJ booth however, apparently to be flown up to Sankeys in Manchester for a repeat performance at the sister northern party. Not an issue when a certain Canadian superstar is waiting in the wings to show London what a man named after a deceased rodent is capable of. Deadmau5's stock continues to rise exponentially, with prime slots at the best events on the planet, a worldwide tour and a discography most DJs can only dream of, so it was perhaps the most justifiable result of the poll that landed him in 4th place. Choosing a rather low key presence behind the decks, with the famous mouse head only appearing once and for a short while, he let rip into a quite incredible set that rocked the main room down to its debauched, hedonistic core. He showed his ability by playing right across the board, beginning gently with some trademark electro house, before stepping things up a gear with some floaty trance offerings, allowing the pair of multi coloured lasers and powerful smoke machines to create an intense euphoric rush to the sea of clubbers below. Never one to dwell on one particular genre, his set toughened up significantly, as he belted out some techno influenced bangers, before dropping some unexpected, quite brutal dubstep sounds; cue some serious fist pumping and skanking from the sweaty masses. As his set approached the end, his classic productions began to roll out, with an extended version of 'the reward is cheese', which he continually looped as the tune lingered precariously on the drop, before letting it go in a flurry of strobe lights consequently sending the crowd absolutely batshit. He finished on his eerie tech house belter 'complicated', a fitting ending to an incredible set met with rapturous applause and cheering as floodlights beamed onto the dance floor. It is fair to say this mau5 is anything but dead and will be rocking parties for a long time to come, and may even one day himself claim the coveted number one spot.

At this point Eddie Halliwell took up the reigns of the main room, unfortunately weary feet denied me the pleasure of hearing his trademark thumping tech trance, although im informed he rocked the main room in typical Eddie fashion. Joining the cloakroom queue, I could hear Laidback Luke in the bar area, who was churning out some absolute bangers, dropping in dubstep and constantly switching up the cuts on the CDJs. This almost resulted in me abandoning the queue and getting right back in the thick of it, but happy with my nights raving, I just about resisted the strong temptation.

All in all an excellent night at ministry for those lucky enough to get in to witness such a line up at a quite frankly comical price of £10, which happily is donated to charity in any case. The top 100 poll has come under increased scrutiny of late, with many high profile DJs dismissing it completely as nothing more of a popularity contest. It is fair to say they have a point when studying some of the results, but it has to be remembered that this is a poll that draws voters from every corner of the earth, and those with the biggest influence in electronic music are bound to be near the top. It may not reflect accurately the musical views of the U.K, which is undoubtedly musically ahead of most countries, but one thing we are guaranteed each year is a damn good party on our doorstep with the biggest DJs in the world, and I for one will be back next year.