A November night in Hackney, east London; the first freezing chill of winter blows down Mare Street as the hardy rave faithful negotiate the cold, end-of-week fatigue, and tricky travel arrangements to beat a path to the Warp mega all-nighter. Like last year’s Lighthouse, a line up comprising a large chunk of the roster plus selected friends has sold out the venue well in advance, evidenced by the slowly extending queue outside. However, unlike the Lighthouse party, this queue is moving smoothly, and everyone seems to be getting in no problem.
The Ocean is an enormous venue, not just the main hall where the action takes place tonight, but the whole building itself – a bewildering maze of interconnecting music spaces, bars, elevators, corridors, backstage dressing rooms and service areas. More than one hapless lost punter (and artist) will be found stumbling around deep in the bowels of the building by the time the night is out.. The entrance atrium is both futurist and amusingly retro - climbing the purple carpeted main stairs is like entering The Caesars’ Palace in Las Vegas – as we walk into the main hall I half expect to see Tom Jones up on stage and a full Gala Dinner in progress.
Thankfully this is a Warp party however, and Mira Calix has control of the vibe for the first couple of hours. As she pieces together an intricate set of punchy beats and high frequency atmospherics the intricate and mind bending bluespoon visuals shift between images in response to the music. The first hundred or so people through the doors seem fazed by the scale of the place, and after a stop off at the bar make their way to the upper tier to gawp over the balcony, smoke, and soak up the atmosphere as Chantal’s beats reverberate around the cathedral-like venue.
Leila takes over – comfortably ensconced behind her mixing desk, decks and various bits of hardware, she booms chunky hip hop and sequenced funk out into the room. The crowd, now swelling in numbers, start to jump around and grin as Leila eases Jay-Z into Luke Viberts’ "Funky Acid Stuff", along with tweaked versions of her own tracks. It’s a perfect selection for the time of night, and builds things up nicely.
Then Anti Pop Consortium take to the stage. With M. Sayyid left in New York, Beans and Priest and extra member Leon have the unenviable job of rocking a crowd of ravers awaiting some mentalist hardcore action later in the evening. Fortunately the crowd are also excited to see these new members of the Warp family, and are up for whatever APC can throw at them : Looking like a mutant Chuck D in a baseball cap and Aviator shades, Beans barks out rhymes with pitbull ferocity while the crowd bounce to the satisfyingly tough electro bass beats emanating from Priest and Leon’s collection of synths and beatboxes arranged centre stage. During their set, “nostril cams” attached to the Microphones (that were put to interesting uses during soundcheck) project 20 foot high images of the MC’s various facial features onto the gigantic screen in stark black and white – its like watching a catheter-eye view of a bizarre medical (hip-h)operation. With such a killer set-up and deep electronic sound, Anti Pop rock the room and any thoughts that they may have seemed out of place on tonight’s lineup are swiftly dispelled.
Anti Pop are finished, movement at the other side of the stage means its back to the turntables, and Mr Mark Bell is there – It’s his first appearance at a Warp night since the legendary Warp10 parties in ‘99, and with new LFO material finally on the horizon the crowd have been looking forward to the next 90 minutes impatiently. Danny Browns’ amazing new animation sparks into life on the screen and we’re off :
“Mark Bell started off appropriately with Derrick May's "The Beginning". Now this is where the warp "rave" started, I didn't expect it to be anything like this and he just kept on droppin classic tunes, mixing "The Bells" into "Energy Flash" was a highlight :)” (Codebreaker)
Obviously enjoying himself, Mark gets the whole place really going mental for the next hour, as people feed off the massive surge of energy in the room.
When Plaid come on afterwards no-one wants to slow down and they are welcomed onstage with cheers and yelling. They kick off their live set that has been honed and perfected over countless dates in Europe and the USA throughout the year – they now have it tweaked for maximum rave effect, and tonight is no exception. They play songs off Double Figure plus a couple of almost jump-up style hardcore tracks. Buzzin’. The wicked visuals just add even more to the equation. Even when their G4’s crash momentarily (again!) its only Ed and Andy who are worried, the crowd seem to carry on as if nothing happened.
By now, several hours into the rave, people are feeling the effects. Good news for The Ocean is that people seem to be drinking vast amounts – a nice thick carpet of plastic beer glasses covers the floor, making wicked crunching sounds as people dance. Apart from alcohol, some of the hardcore rave fringe have bizarrely turned to another drug of choice – cheese. In an almost Morris-esque turn of events, there are even overdosing cheese casualties recovering on the balcony upstairs and in dark corners of the dancefloor. They know who they are.
Plaid have finished, and so finally its time for the R.D.Jim’s cash n’ carry roadshow: Ably assisted by old friend and ally Luke Vibert, one of the few people up to the task in hand, the two of them head off into well over two hours of nutty breakbeat madness, mashing up hip hop and old jungle tracks relentlessly, with K-Rock getting up on stage at times to contribute his usual vibes to the proceedings. The remaining hordes are left grinning helplessly and jumping around like loons until final closedown which feels like about 10 hours later.
Some more memories:
“Well well well Messrs. Vibert et James, thank you for taking me back and making me dance like I hadn't danced for years. The old school hardcore was so much fun, and got built up so well, that when the first Amen was dropped, and they just kept on comin’ with serious chopped-to-fuck early Jungle classics like Dred Bass "world of music" and Splash "Babylon", I almost cried when they played Trace's "Mutant". Mad props to the peeps at the front. “ CB
“The balcony area at Ocean was quite weird when you were looking up at it - all you could see were the sinister faces of people watching you, leaning over the balconies like vampires poised to strike - in fact it was so reminiscent of “Blade” that I half expected the ceiling to open up, blood pour through and everyone start necking” CL
“Wow. What a top night. Took a bloody age to get to, but well worth it. Plaid rocked the house down. Richard and Luke were frickin fabulous. The last 3 or 4 hours were a blur. Proudly wore my Squarepusher T-shirt. Nice. 1 armed monkey confused Chris Morris with his Billy-Bob teeth. I had a cheese incident too - too many mini-babybels before going out. I saw them again later on...” JM
“I thought some people were collapsing 'cos of drugs, but it was the kilo of 'Y Fenni' cheese that was coming back to haunt them.” GoG