Weekend Manoeuvres of a Seasoned Bank Holiday Veteran

Bank Holidays in the UK are a big deal. I now tend to be pretty strategic with my partying as the extended holiday has, in the past, claimed many casualties! Its a lesson you learn as you mature… A lesson best learnt once you’ve tried to go out Friday night and come home Monday. Here is the story from my attempt to be the exception to the rule.

It was with a heavy heart that I had to leave the 30th Birthday party. Carly has become a great friend and next-door neighbour but I was off to see the Boy Wonder, James Zabiela. I’ve followed James’ career since those early Mixmag competition days with more than a mild fascination. His take on progressive music shook the very foundations of dance music and his unending love of and affiliation for technology has really driven our scene forward and shaped the way a generation of DJs play their music. It’s a lot to live up to week in week out, but James achieves it with grace and diplomacy and anyone who has ever seen him always remakes on just how much fun he looks like he’s having. Joining me on tonights adventures are Lisa and Andy, a delightful couple I met recently in the dark of some club somewhere. Lisa has never seen Zabiela before, but she’s more excited than I am! “ He’s so cute!” She remarks at the flyer with a beaming JZ on.

As we entered a half full Sankeys in Manchester, a low slung throb of bass took over us. Warm up duties were being eagerly and thoughtfully attended to thanks to Drew Hill and Pedram’s deep techy house beats. The real surprise for me was the excellent D’Julz who was on before James. We were sat enjoying a few cheeky Vodka Cokes as he came on. The music almost tangelably changed. Gone were the well crafted, yet ultimately forgettable tech beats of the beguiling warm up guys replaced with an almost undefinable acid tinged growly bass line house sound. The crowd responded too: the dance floor quickly filling up with all manner of vests, sunglasses and crazy Manchester night life. I even saw one kid, barely 19, dressed as a member of Oasis! Resplendent in Burberry bucket hat and round Harry Potter style sunglasses. We finished up our drinks and took our places amongst the throng, the next hour went far too quickly as D’Julz hypnotised us all with a tapestry of his trademark deep techno. I was almost upset when Zabiela came on stage, that quickly changed with his first track! Starting ambient he shifted through the gears and settled on a groovy 125bpm progressive vibe, I turned to see a delighted Lisa and Andy smiling from ear to ear, what a way to lose your Zabiela cherry! James played for 2 hours, I think I recognised about 3 tracks, one of which was Moderat’s excellent Bad Kingdom which James seems to be playing a lot more recently. Finishing the night off was Leeds DJ/producer Filthy Rich, who lived up to his name: it was Filthy! …it was 3am though.. We headed off just before the end, Andy mentioning something about a marathon not a sprint. I agreed.

Simon 1 – Bank Holiday 0.

The after party was great. Andy, keen to get back into DJing has bought what can only be described as a ‘Buttload’ of new tech, but due to his crazy busy work hours, has not had the time to set everything up. Enter a slightly tipsy me… Within 30 mins the CDJs, mixer and effects units are set up and I’m blasting out some brilliant tech house. We carry on for a few hours, the sun is up already and we are perilously close to running out of vodka. Time for the classic bank holiday sleep or party conundrum. Sleep wins.

Simon 1 – Bank Holiday 1.

As I get home mid afternoon on Saturday, I’m greeted to a scene from a zombie movie. The 30th birthday party is STILL going and I’m shown some pictures from earlier where two of my friends have posed bottomless on the bonnet of my car! Im both annoyed and laughing, its a weird feeling, maybe I’m still a bit drunk? Anyway, I join them. Sunday is my next club night and thats like, well, ages… We party on until 1am, by the end I’m broken.

Simon 1 – Bank Holiday 2.

Sunday. I’m a little groggy to say the least. I spend much of the day licking my wounds, chasing my head around and generally trying to organise myself for Slam in Liverpool that night. I finally book my hotel, the train tickets and pack an overnight bag. The barbecue I was going to go to has gone out the window. Its raining for one and I don’t think I can drink any alcohol ever again. My head is still banging.
The train journey is brutal, I’ve forgotten my headphones and have to listen to a screaming child directly behind me as its over tired and grumpy mother argues with her partner and pretty much anyone who phones her up. Sat next to my is the ‘Poshest Woman in the World’ reading a large book. I consider walking the 50 miles to Liverpool, but end up just staring out the window and hoping we get there soon.

My hotel for the evening, The Nadler on Seal Street is a beautiful place. Formally called Base2Stay, its a hotel I am familiar with only because before This is Progressive was launched, I had met and spent the day with Oliver Lieb and this was his hotel. On that occasion, he was playing for the launch night of 303, the night I was going to visit myself. The venue for the evenings adventure was just around the corner at a place called the Shipping Forcast. Situated on a street with many bars and nightclubs it feels a little bit like the west end of San Antonio in Ibiza, although to be fair, once inside the impressive Shipping Forcast main bar, the rest of the world appears a million miles away. The basement room which 303 are hosting is called ‘The Hold’ and in keeping with the maritime theme does resemble the hold of a large ship. In fact the main bar reminded me of the lower decks of a old ship as well. Very sparsely decorated, the room is all varnished pine and rustic red brick work. It turned out to be a perfect accompaniment to the music which was also sparse and powerful. The residents who warmed up until midnight did a stand up job and aside from some nerves played near perfect sets. Indeed, when an internationally renowned techno God like Orde Meikle is trainspotting your tracks from the other side of the DJ booth you know you’re on to a winner! Beavering away in the back ground for the night was an engineer I’ve been mates with for ages but not actually met; Paul Nolan. Another very well connected and talented fella. He nods and we exchange greetings. “Once I get these cables in and Slam are playing, I can relax” he says assuredly, “…then I can reinact large parts of my week in Ibiza!!” hahaha its going to be a good night, I can feel it in my waters, Slam take to the decks around midnight and start a little disjointed to be honest: the two computers not lining up properly. Once into their stride though these guys are unstoppable! Completely re-editing and remixing the entire set via traktor they set the roof on fire from the word go. Playing the kind of techno I used to hear at squat parties back in the day: gabber drum lines nestled amongst soaring soundscapes and nagging synth stabs, they create a tension and energy in the room like I’ve rarely seen. Tonight is all about hedonism and the true sound of techno.
Much like the post industrial city I live in, Liverpool has a long and varied musical history which is reflected in the crowds at events like 303. Up-for-it, musically knowledgable and friendly, 303 is definitely on my list of go to events from now on.

Simon 2. – Bank Holiday 2.

Monday morning. I’ve avoided another late party and opted to get some well needed sleep, I spend the morning doing a bit of sight seeing around Liverpool. The locals are an engaging bunch and go out of their way to direct me to the various tourist locations I visit. It doesn’t feel like a city, I know it is and maybe its because its by a large expanse of water that feel that way, but Liverpool is bloody marvellous! I’m a sucker for good architecture and Liverpool has it in spades. Old maritime buildings sit along side much newer glass giants; lime stone and red brick used to wonderful effect. I head down to Albert Dock, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Staring out on to the mighty Mersey, Birkenhead, across the water, looks like another country, its inhabitants completely unaware of my gaze. This feels like a place I could live and thats a strange feeling for an old nomad like me who travels around a fair bit. After wandering around the dock and looking at some of the old boats moored there I walk past the Hilton and back into the shopping centres. There’s loads to see but I’m ready for home and my nice comfortable bed. Satisfied I return home on the train and prepare for the working week.

Simon 3. – Bank Holiday 2. I win. This time…