Judge Jules Diary Report April 29th 2003

29th April

I spent a few days in Ibiza relaxing with Amanda and Jake after the Easter Bank holiday, before returning to the UK on Thursday (April 24th.) This is the first season that there’s been a regular scheduled London-Ibiza flight as early as April, which has made visiting La Isla Blanca much more convenient. I’ve been there a couple of times this month to make arrangements for the June return of our weekly Judgement Sundays night (more details and dj line-ups elsewhere on the site.)

Thursday involved going through records before flying from London to Manchester, the most convenient airport for that evening’s gig in Llandudno, North Wales. The night was billed as a Judgement Sundays warm-up event, and my driver Pete had gone up early to put up the JS banners, hence why I flew to Manchester, where he collected me. Coming only three days after the Easter Bank holiday, the night was slightly quieter than my previous visit, but still fairly rammed. The peculiarities of UK regional accents never ceases to amaze. For example Bolton and Manchester are only ten miles apart, but have totally different dialects. The North Welsh speak with a similar accent to Liverpudlians, or is it the other way round? Either way, being a Celtic race, the Welsh know how to have a good time, and the week’s dj’ing started very satisfactorily.

On Friday night we set off for Wales yet again, this time Newport in the South. Newport’s substantially closer to London, and it was a relief being able to leave the Capital once the Friday rush-hour had subsided. My gig was at the delightfully named ‘Mutt’s nuts’ a word-play on ‘the dog’s bollocks’ with a cartoon dog showing his gonads on the flyer! (For the benefit of non-UK readers, ‘the dog’s bollocks’ means the absolute best- anyone who can tell me where this expression originates, please let me know.) The club’s curfew was relatively early by current standards, and I played the last record at 2am, to excellent crowd response.

We then headed to Turnmills in London for the Gallery’s 8th birthday bash. Turnmills is one of my favourite clubs to play, but there’s not really anywhere to socialise and the dj booth’s tiny, so we always aim to get there bang at the beginning of my set. This meant that Pete had to drive more slowly then his normally lead-weighted accelerator foot would have preferred. It was a blessing for me, as I sneaked in at least 90 minutes shut eye.

Tiesto was on the decks before me… he loves playing there ‘cos the crowd’s very open-minded. As I jostled through the crowd he was spinning the rather un Tiesto-like Felix the Housecat, to an excellent response. Because it was a special event, quite a few old friends came out of the woodwork requesting guest list. Just about every one of them joined me in the dj booth, which is the smallest in clubland at the best of times. I could barely move or reach my record box, but coming from a background of small tightly congested illegal parties, it was nothing I haven’t experienced before, and you can’t shove your mates out of the booth. I finished my set at 5.30am and the club was still absolutely rammed.

The following day I had a Scottish double-header, and Amanda drove me from my radio show to Heathrow airport. She cherry picks which trips she’ll accompany me on, but my flight itinerary the following day (Glasgow- Cyprus) was just too off-putting, so she left me to my own devices at Heathrow.

My first Scottish stop-off was the Ice Factory in Perth which is one of the best thought-out and designed venues I play. Their VIP bar would be more at home at Pacha in Ibiza, and since owner John Bryden spends most of his summers on the White Island, it’s easy to see where the influence comes from. If I’ve any criticism of the venue, there’s a huge pillar in front of the dj booth which somewhat obscures the dj’s view of the crowd, but by all accounts this is about to be changed in a forthcoming total re-fit of the main room. I played 11-1am, and although the club was a bit thinly attended at the beginning of my set, it was pretty much full by half way through.

I was then driven to Glasgow for Inside Out, which this month took place in the slightly smaller room of the Arches. I’d attribute this to the weekend in question being one of the most difficult of the year attendance-wise. The weekends immediately following public holidays are traditionally quieter as people recover both physically and financially, and the five day Easter break is always a blow-out. This was exacerbated by the fact that next weekend is also a Bank holiday. Despite these factors, the Arches still had 1500-2000 inside with its legendary atmosphere exploding. Northern Ireland and Glasgow in particular have their own unique club chants, and in Scotland’s largest city it’s a chorus of ‘here we f**kin’ go’, shouted so loudly you can barely hear the records.

With the sound of the crowd still ringing through my ears, I headed back to a Glasgow airport hotel at 4am knowing that come hell or high water I had to be up four hours later to commence a three flight itinerary to Larnaca Cyprus. To allow myself a precious extra few minutes in bed I’d checked in for the first of my flights (Glasgow-London) the previous night, and being the first passenger to do so, secured myself a front row seat. So naturally I was first off and headed for a terminal change as my next two flights were operated by Greek carrier Olympic airways, via Athens.

I eventually arrived in Larnaca nine hours after leaving Glasgow. This was my first trip to Cyprus. Despite having been offered the chance to visit Ayia Napa, I’d waited til an opportunity came to dj to a local rather than a tourist-based crowd, and the gig took place in the capital Nicosia.

I had a three hour nap before heading to the event, a Gatecrasher tour night where I was dj’ing alongside Serious stable-mate Matt Hardwick. There were at least 2000 in the club and the atmosphere was superb… people were dancing everywhere including on all the bars in the club, which must have made the bar staff’s job quite difficult. I made a couple of carefully prompted announcements in Greek on the mic, which seemed to go down well with the crowd. The promoter Thanos plans to stage some parties in nearby Beirut as well, which is another place I’ve always wanted to visit. If that event’s anything like as good as his Nicosia offering, I’m onto a very good thing indeed.

The following day we had a delicious long and lazy Mediterranean fish lunch, where Thanos gave me a potted history of Cyprus and its separation from the Turkish North almost 30 years ago. Then I headed back to Larnaca airport, where on this occasion I caught a direct BA flight to Heathrow. On arrival, Amanda met me and we headed to Boy George’s house in Hampstead. He’s sung on a couple of the tracks on the Hi-gate album, and we organised a competition via MTV, Radio 1 and other media outlets allowing prizewinners to attend a private party at George towers with a live vocal performance of some of the tracks from the album. The party was great fun, and George’s house is to die for. The only crimson-faced moment was when George invited Paul and I behind the mic to perform backing vocals. Even though I sing on one track on the album (Are you the shepherd) my vocal talents are sorely lacking, and Amanda told me I looked very uncomfortable.

I headed home and was asleep by 1am. However, two and a half hours later I was out the door and heading for Stansted airport in the first leg of a full-on day of multi-country travelling. I took a 6am flight to Ibiza (this early cos til next month it’s the only direct scheduled daily flight.) I was due to appear before a genuine judge (I’m the pseudo variety) in the Central Court of Ibiza on a property planning related issue. I won’t bore you with the detail, as I was only in Ibiza for four hours before jetting off again to Amsterdam via Barcelona. I had just enough time to have a chilled out lunch at gorgeous Cala Jondal beach, not far from the airport, and despite the fact it was only April, the weather was in the high twenties.

I arrived in Amsterdam around 8pm, the connection via Barcelona having eaten up a lot of time, and met with Amanda, Lippy, who runs the site, and his girlfriend. We stopped off for a couple of hours at our hotel before Amanda and I were driven just over an hour to Eindhoven, for the first of the two massive Qontact events taking place that evening (April 29th.) I did the same itinerary last year, Qontact Eindhoven followed by Qontact Amsterdam, and this year the dj line-up was the same on both bills… Paul Van Dyk, Tomcraft, Armin van Buuren, Ferry Corsten and myself. Both had massive crowds, in the 10,000 region, and similar to last year, the atmosphere was slightly better in Amsterdam, though both were very memorable occasions. I finished at 7am, which equated to having been up for 28 hours, so crashed out like a light as soon as we got back to our hotel room.

The following morning Amanda and I paced round the streets of Amsterdam, as Queen’s day turns all of Holland into a massive street party. It’s tradition that anyone’s allowed to set up street-side stalls to sell anything from their houses (legal things that is!) Sadly it was pouring with rain, so we eventually returned to our hotel and travelled back to London mid-afternoon.

More next week…

Judge Jules Diary Report April 22nd 2003

22nd April

The Easter Bank Holiday five day weekend is a gruelling experience for those who like to party hard, and it takes its toll on dj’s too. It remains to be seen how next weekend pans out, but from experience people are both physically and financially bashed, so attendances take a dip during the weekend following a public holiday.

My first port of call was Big in Newmarket, just North of Cambridge. I’ve had a fairly long association with the venue, and the club scene in the East of England seems very strong at the moment. Big’s co-promoted by Carl Pengelly, who’s my studio production partner Paul Masterson’s manager, and I’d done the voiceover for the local radio ad promoting the event, so I felt quite closely tied to the night. It was very busy and the atmosphere was great.

The following night, Good Friday, I had one of my gigs cancelled. I was due to play at Kool Waters in Taunton, but the venue was sold shortly before the event and the music policy changed. This left me with just one place to visit, Torquay. I’ve always found Torquay’s title ‘the English Riviera’ a bit of a misnomer. As picturesque as this South West town undoubtedly is, the weather doesn’t compare favourably to the South of France. It’s club scene on the other hand trounces the posey superficial clubs of Nice and Cannes. Claire’s (the night’s venue) was absolutely packed, and I played til the end, which allowed me to deliver one of my dubious end of night ‘Do you want one more’ speeches. The atmosphere in the South West is always top class.

On Easter Saturday I played for God’s Kitchen at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and Serious in London. The NEC date was originally planned as a Gatecrasher event, but they chose not to do it, and God’s Kitchen took over the venue booking five weeks in advance. This wasn’t really enough time to properly promote such a big night, but they still sold 9000 tickets and the enormous main room in which I played was 75% full. My one gripe about large arena events is the need to put the dj booth on a large scaffold tower which distances the dj from the crowd. It’s connection with clubbers that creates my most enjoyable sets, and whilst I appreciate the need for the dj to be seen throughout the arena, in an ideal world I would have preferred to be able to see the whites of the crowds eyes. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was good, and God’s Kitchen achieved excellent crowd numbers, considering the limited promotional time at their disposal.

We then headed South at perhaps the fastest average gig-to-gig motorway speed I’ve ever travelled at during the 110 miles to London (the journey took 1 hour 10 minutes.) We were forced to travel at that speed or arrive late at the Cross for Serious, which would have been a crime, as it’s an outstanding night. The contrast with the NEC couldn’t have been more extreme. The crowd’s so close that you can virtually smell their breath (I hope they couldn’t smell mine!) The Cross holds 1200, but it’s equally divided between three different rooms and music policies. Playing somewhere much smaller afforded me the flexibility to play a broader cross-section of musical genres than is possible in a stadium event. I play at the Cross bi-monthly, and it’s one of the nights I look forward to most.

There’s something special about Bank Holiday Sundays, and I’ve rarely played a poor event. I’m well past playing three gigs in a night, as I get too intoxicated by the third to dj properly, but on this occasion I vowed to pace myself, as that’s what the afternoon/evening had in store.

My first stop-off was a Greenpeace fundraiser at Isis in Nottingham, organised by Roman of Hot Dog. The event lasted all day and night, and my 6pm set-time was well before the club would arrive at capacity. I dj’d after Lisa Lashes, and therefore spun the hardest tunes in my box, as to follow her with anything else would have been far too mellow. I wasn’t at Isis late enough to see how the evening panned-out, but I hope a decent-enough sum was raised.

We then headed North to Tall Trees in Yarm, for a jointly-organised Good Greef and Judgement Sundays pre-Ibiza party, at which I played two sets (funky and main room.) It was packed, and there’s few better dancefloors to play to than the Trees in full-flow. During the summer Good Greef are co-promoting four parties with us in Ibiza- we wait eagerly, as they can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment.

Finally I hit Burton-on-Trent where Progress have been staging parties of late. The Sat-nav came in useful, as I’ve only played there once before. Burton’s most famous for its beer, being the site of one of Britain’s oldest and largest breweries, it’s location on the river Trent giving it access to plentiful amounts of water. The venue was gorgeous and small enough to have a reasonably intimate experience. My only gripe is that there were no CD players, and in keeping with a lot of other dj’s, I’ve found myself playing an increasing amount of CD’s. It’s a bit crippling to be without a player (or preferably two) but the atmosphere was good all the same.

The dj’ing continued into Monday, as God’s Kitchen were staging their second mega-event of the weekend, at the King’s Hall in Belfast. Unlike the NEC, the dj booth was close to the crowd, which made a huge difference. I dj’d after Marco V and before Tall Paul, and it’s impossible to fail to fire up a Northern Irish crowd. I can’t recall ever seeing a lacklustre atmosphere in Belfast, the event was mobbed and I was sorry I had to leave shortly after my set for my final dj’ing instalment of the weekend.

We headed over the border to Enigma in Carrickmcross. I’ve heard great reports about this huge venue, situated in a remote Irish town. The club was fantastic and the promoters incredibly hospitable. However, Tuesday (the following day) was a workday in Southern Ireland and a public holiday in the North. Hence why Belfast was packed and Enigma could have been busier. It’s important not to let a slightly smaller crowd dishearten you, after all I’d played full houses throughout the rest of the weekend. It was a fantastic weekend, but I don’t think my body could take five night’s consecutive gigs every week of the year.

More next week…

Judge Jules Diary Report April 14th 2003

14th April

This week’s report wasn’t a mammoth task of sieving through the memory banks and re-packaging the weekend’s events in easily readable form, cos it only covers three gigs over a two day period (Friday 11th/Sat 12th April..) Next week’s dj’ing encounters cover the Easter holiday period, encompassing a greater number of dj’ing outings over a more lengthy spell, so you can expect a more wordy diary report in 7 days time.

Friday night involved a visit to the market town of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, somewhere I’ve only visited once before. The satellite navigation came in useful. It’s a good thing I’ve only recently invested in a car with sat nav, I’d imagine you could grow to rely on it so heavily that you never pay any attention to where you’re going.

The town had one central strip of bars and clubs, and was teaming with tipsy Friday night revellers. There was a decent-sized queue outside my venue, and the owner was naturally happy that there were 1800 inside. Clubbers at the front of the packed main floor spilled perilously close to the decks…. it was a miracle no-one jogged a record, and I ended up signing literally hundreds of autographs. My driver Pete visited the clubs other main dancefloor, and unusually it was a full-on commercial chart disco. I finished at 2am, which represented a very early end to Friday night, all in all much appreciated as my son Jake’s flu had kept me awake over the two previous days, when I should have been recovering from the previous weekend’s North America trip.

The following day I played Passion in Leicestershire and Promise in Hull. This was my first Passion appearance of 2003, it’s one of the most clued-up crowds in the UK, and trance is what they adore. Sometimes I use my sets to build up towards trance and crescendo in that direction for the last hour or so. This isn’t suitable at Passion- it’s full-on from the moment the (so-called) warm up dj takes to the stage around 9pm til curfew at 3am. I love it’s lack of pretension, and the fact that it’s so hugely successful despite not being situated in a major city.

Our next port of call put Pete through his paces, literally. We had 90 minutes to cover the 120 miles to the city of Hull. Recently Promise of Newcastle have added a Saturday in Hull to their very successful North East Friday nighter. The Fez club is cleverly themed in a Moroccan style, although the most authentic North African decor is upstairs, and not visible from the dj booth. Pete must have been steaming along the motorway (I was fast asleep) ‘cos we arrived with ten minutes to spare, and the atmosphere was very good indeed.

We ended the night staying at my Dad’s in West Yorkshire, only an hour’s drive away, as we went to the FA cup Semi-final on Sunday in Manchester, but I won’t bore you with my football obsession.

More next week…

Judge Jules Diary Report April 7th 2003

7th April

Make no mistake, I don’t set off for Heathrow airport without some knowledge of the weather that awaits me at my destination. In fact I adopt a belt and braces approach, checking both the Yahoo and BBC weather websites in advance of every foreign trip. So I was expecting Toronto to be wintry, despite leaving London’s bright sunshine and the the warmest UK day of the year (Fri 4th April.) After the seven hour BA flight, wintry wasn’t the word. The captain informed us that many flights had been cancelled earlier in the day, and Canada’s largest city was blanketed in snow and blizzard-like conditions. I’ve always considered Canada to be the country that’s best-equipped to deal with snow. Whereas one snowy day brought London to a standstill earlier in the year, road and runway clearance is performed with military precision in snow-savvy Canada.

As we exited Pearson airport, it struck me that the snow clearance was much worse than usual. My host told me that the Toronto government had sub-contracted snow clearance til the end of March only, which seemed like wild over-confidence about the timely arrival of spring. We cautiously proceeded towards my city centre hotel, slowly navigating the precarious roads, and I had a disco nap in advance of travelling to the venue. Considering the awful weather conditions, I was pleased that my gig was almost full. Toronto’s a sprawling city of vast suburbs, so the journey into the club must have been impossible for some. I guess we relied on city centre dwellers for the attendees.

I had a constant problem with the decks jogging. I’ve got large cumbersome lumberjack-like hands, and tend to suffer badly if the decks are susceptible to skipping. This happened for my first five mixes, and it took a while to restore my karma. Usually I can settle in very quickly to the task at hand, but it was more difficult on this occasion. After an hour things seemed to calm down, and I was deliberately very gentle with the turntables and mixer. From that point onwards, I had a great night, and the atmosphere was excellent.

The same couldn’t be said for the next day. Because the UK’s five hours behind the East Coast of North America, I always wake infuriatingly early the morning after a gig in that region. Despite finishing my dj set at 4am and getting to bed by 5, by 9am I was awake and bright as a button. Outside the snow appeared to be thawing, and local news confirmed that the temperature had crept above freezing. Although music is released simultaneously, movies come out up to a year earlier in North America, so it’s possible to catch movies-on-demand in your hotel that have barely left the cinemas in the UK. I killed the time before my airport pick-up watching the excellent Jack Nicholson movie ‘About Schmidt’, which was every bit as good as the critics had suggested.

At midday I set off for Toronto airport. The roads were much clearer and the snow was melting. Despite this encouraging sign, the airport was in chaos. Queues of tetchy frustrated passengers stretched out of the door into the cold, and airport monitors revealed that every flight out of the city had been cancelled.

The reason… the airport had run out of the de-icing fluid that needs to be sprayed on planes in icy conditions. As someone who takes over 200 flights per year, I’ve experienced the full litany of excuses for flight delays, but this ranks as the most pathetic ever. Canada’s snow covered for 4-5 months per year, so to run out of de-icer is nothing short of sad and embarrassing.

It was clear that I wouldn’t be flying out of Canada that day, which put my Saturday evening gig in Columbus Ohio in severe jeopardy. My first task was to try and buy a map of North America to take stock of the situation. This proved difficult, as every airport shop seemed to be selling tacky Maple leaf and Mountie souvenirs. Eventually I got hold of a map, which revealed that Columbus was a long journey, but driveable in the eleven hours I had before I was due on the decks later that evening. Fuming at how much Canadian inefficiency had cost me, I negotiated with a cab driver. He told me the journey would take seven hours, and the agreed fare drained the colour from my cheeks… $600 US.

I tried to look on the bright side. Romantic images of a Thelma and Louise-style dash across America sprang to mind. Unfortunately the reality was much more drab- we brushed past the outskirts of two large cities, Buffalo NY and Cleveland Ohio, but the main visual highlights of the journey were occasional highway truckstops offering hungry travellers the choice of either Burger King, McDonalds or Wendy on one site… oh the power of consumer choice! I’ve never crossed into the US by land, and the border had a mercifully short queue, which would otherwise have added to my woes.

Eventually I arrived in Columbus, a city with one of the largest student populations in the US, a mere 45 minutes before my set. My habitual pre US gig ‘disco nap’ was an impossibility, so we headed straight to the venue, Factory.

Without getting too overly-religious, I think God was looking down on me and saying, you’ve paid your pennance in the form of a massively long journey and crappy day, now here’s the pot of gold. The gig was memorably excellent, and at the end I continued with encore after encore til the police eventually appeared. I’m no illegal immigrant- I’ve got a three year US work permit, but the sight of the Boys in blue had me scuttling off decks faster than you can say ‘Do you feel lucky punk… well do you?’

It was a great night to end a sometimes frustrating weekend.

More next week…

Judge Jules Diary Report March 31st 2003

31st March

Twelve hundred miles minimum got covered this weekend (1900 kms.) I felt like my backside was surgically attached to the car seat. And I was only the passenger, so before you project the slightest sympathy in my direction, you should feel for my driver Pete, who covered this huge distance in under 36 hours.

My itinerary was as follows-

London – Truro Cornwall 300 miles
Truro – Bristol 180 miles
Bristol – Leeds 200 miles
Leeds- Bolton 50 miles
Bolton – Wisbech 160 miles
Wisbech – Sheffield 100 miles
Sheffield – London 160 miles

In truth, I flew from London to Cornwall whilst Pete drove the car down there. It enabled him to leave after the Friday rush-hour and arrive just before the end of my set, at Transaction in Truro. Cornwall’s a beautiful undulating county, not unlike Ireland, but the scenery’s only limited compensation for its distance from London and inconsistent roads. I’ve got family there (my uncle’s the tv Seafood chef Rick Stein) but the flight itinerary didn’t allow me enough time to visit, and eat at his unparalleled and simply-named ‘Seafood restaurant’. The flight from Gatwick was 40 minutes late into Newquay Cornwall airport, which has a permanent staff of no more than 15 people and shares its runway with the adjacent RAF St Mawgan base. So we headed straight to the decks at Transaction, celebrating its fourth birthday.

It’s just not possible to do a poor gig in the UK’s South West. The laid back surfy crowd are perennial party animals, and the club was packed on my arrival, despite doing a relatively early set. It being their birthday, the promoters handed over a seemingly limitless supply of champagne, and it was no surprise that I was asleep within a few minutes of leaving Truro. Whilst Pete had a monstrous driving itinerary, the numerous long journey legs gave me the chance to indulge in some eyes-rolling REM sleep, which always causes a bit of disorientation upon arrival at the next gig.

Scream in Bristol has experienced a renaissance since moving from its unsuitably vacuous old home to a newer space that still fits plenty. I was greeted at the door and told the night was busy, and the atmosphere inside lived up to that expectation. However, the club did thin out a bit as my set approached its 4.30 finish. This is quite normal on Fridays… people tend to be more concerned about what they’re doing the following day on Friday nights, whereas on Sat nights they don’t seem to give a damn.

After finishing, we jumped in the car to stay with my Dad, who lives 20 miles South West of Leeds (a three hour journey away from Bristol.) This seemed like the most sensible option, as my radio show was being broadcast later that afternoon from the (relatively) nearby town of Bolton. Long journeys are best done in the dead of night when there’s little traffic on the roads, except the blind menace of caravans, who are unfortunately just coming into season.

We arrived at my Dad’s at 7am just as he was waking, and I spent the next hour debating the war with him… probably time best spent sleeping! He lives in Holmfirth Yorkshire, home of tv’s ‘Last of the summer wine’, and the local scenery’s so breathtaking it might as well be another country altogether. Not being a nocturnal creature, his curtains are almost translucent, which didn’t make bedding-down as the sun rose a deep-sleep experience.

We woke at lunchtime and headed through the historical mill towns of West Yorkshire towards Bolton Lancashire, the location for my live Saturday show (March 30th.) Radio 1 had organised a three day itinerary of ‘how to make it in the music biz/ listen to my demo’ sessions for listeners to discuss with my fellow dj’s/radio producers and myself. It’s impossible to be patronising in such situations, as the impressive level of music-making and general awareness reminded me how lucky I am to be in my position.

My live radio show followed, which coincided with England’s football team playing a key European qualifier. Despite such a blue chip distraction (or should I say white and blue), the atmosphere left me with a permanently indenting smile. After the show, we slowly made our way out of the venue, turning our attention to the evening’s clubbing timetable.

After eating a superb meal at what was probably Yorkshire’s only Indonesian restaurant (I’m not being a London snob, I’ve been told it’s the only one in a 100 mile radius) we set off for Wisbech near Peterborough. BIG in Wisbech is one of the many East of England events promoted by my studio partner Paul Masterson’s manager Carl. I’ve recently bought a car with memory seating, and at the touch of a button I can recline to a bespoke horizontal position, enabling me to nod off in minutes. True to form, I slept most of the 100 plus miles from our meal to Wisbech. There was an enticingly large queue outside as we walked in.

The venue’s one of the best thought-out I’ve performed at recently, and the atmosphere worked out a treat. I was followed on the decks by Paul (the other half of Hi-gate.) It was great to be playing together- we only get a handful of opportunities every year, although the imminent release of our Hi-gate album has provided us with a wealth of unusual media slots. This week we appeared with daytime doyens Richard and Judy.

After leaving BIG, we headed north towards Gatecrasher in Sheffield. Having been resident whilst it was a weekly club, it holds an incredibly special place in my heart. G’c is a trance club, that’s what the people want. Although I’m capable of delivering a set with more varied musical genres, there’s so much fantastic trance around during this renaissance of the sound, it was a pleasure to confine myself. The night was billed as ‘Judgement Sunday vs. Gatecrasher’ and as such it was all the more important to me that the night was a success. It’s only 8 weeks before the return of our JS night in Ibiza, and thankfully Gatecrasher was a sell-out with the best UK atmosphere I’ve experienced during the past couple of months.

I can never drag myself of the G’c decks and straight home, so I hung around chatting for about an hour. When I realised that my conversation was nudging in the direction of retarded, we jumped in the car, and predictably I slept all the way back to London.

More next week…

Judge Jules Diary Report March 24th 2003

24th March

I’ve now been to Miami’s Winter Music Conference for the past eight years. Every time I’ve gone, friends and colleagues who aren’t going give me a knowing smile, suggesting that I’ll have a whale of a time, implying it’s basically a glorified jolly. Despite my protests that it’s actually very work-orientated, nobody ever seems to believe me, so I’ll list what I did over three days.

– 2 club gigs
– 1 radio show
– An evening presenting for MTV Europe
– 6 tv interviews
– 10+ press interviews

Having got the work side of things off my chest, I’d be the first to admit that 30 degree heat (90f) at the tail-end of the winter is an appealing prospect. More than that, Miami’s South Beach is a hugely entertaining spectacle. A cruise-fest of supercars, silicon-enhanced wannabe models, and shaven bare-chested guys contrasts enormously with gritty down-to-earth London. It seemed that this year there was less UK music biz presence, but a dramatically swelled American attendance. This was due in part to the event being moved forward slightly to coincide with American colleges’ Spring break vacation. After 9pm you literally couldn’t move on SoBe’s principal two streets, Collins and Washington Aves.

My first experience after hurriedly throwing my bags into my hotel room, was finding a sports bar showing UK football (soccer), as my beloved Arsenal had kicked off their crunch Champion’s League decider in Spain as I was heading from Miami airport by cab. It’s astonishing that despite being the epicentre of globalism, the US plays entirely different major sports from the rest of the world. It’s only in Irish or Italian bars/pubs that live European football is screened, and Miami’s predominantly Cuban, not Irish/Italian.

Eventually we found a bar, which was charging an outrageous 10 Dollars admission just for the privilege of watching obscure sports channels. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t, as Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League for another season. This was hardly ideal preparation for my first Miami gig, only 90 minutes after the final whistle.

Putting my karma on a life support machine, I headed to the Shelbourne hotel, for an outdoor pool-side set for the World Party. Tall Paul was on the decks as I arrived, and the great atmosphere soon banished my sporting woes. I can confidently say I’ve never done a bad outdoor event, although being British means such opportunities are few and far between in our rainy climate. I played a funky set, as it seemed more suitable for the surroundings than my banging stuff. The only problem was that to save weight, I’d brought all my more groovy tunes on CD, and there was only one CD player at the event, which made my job complicated, to say the least. Despite this major difficulty, the atmosphere was totally crazy, and even weighed-up on the balance of clubbing smiles versus sporting frowns, day 1 in Miami was superb.

The following night was the Serious party at Level, one of Miami’s two largest clubs, at which I was headlining. Under normal circumstances I would have arrived a couple of hours early, since it was our own event. However, I spent the early portion of Thursday night presenting a guide to Miami’s bar culture for MTV Europe. At each bar the production crew bought me a cocktail, perhaps intended as a prop, but nevertheless rapidly poured down my throat. By the end, my links were heading towards re-take city!

I concluded the MTV presentation at Miami’s impressive bar/restaurant BED, walking four blocks to Level, where I was due to be playing half an hour later. The Winter Music Conference attracts over 50,000 dancemusic lovers to the city, so you’ve got to have done something very wrong if your party’s not rammed. The club was as full as expected, with very good atmosphere. If I had one complaint, Level seemed to thin out a bit earlier than one would expect, but with a choice of over 20 parties every night during Conference week, some people cruise from event to event until the final curfew at the latest venue.

Friday night was free from dj’ing, although I had back-to-back interview commitments during the day. A huge range of journalists and media converge on Miami for Conference- in the same week that war broke out in the Middle East, it didn’t appear to affect world media’s willingness to travel. My only cancellation was a meeting with representatives from my Japanese record label. We spent the night at the Missdemeanours/Southern Fried party around the huge pool at the recently refurbished Shore Club hotel. There was barely any room to move, but it was a typical industry bash… everyone schmoozing and no-one dancing. With the poor state of my dancefloor moves, I wasn’t about to set the ball rolling.

I hit the sack at around 2am, as my radio show was being broadcast live from a hotel on Miami’s Ocean drive the following day at midday. Some of the other Radio 1 shows were scheduled to happen in front of a crowd, but with the time difference, it was felt that mine was too early, and therefore took place in a studio the station had constructed in a large hotel suite. I had lots of guests, who lent me their services despite the early start, including Paul Van Dyk, Christopher Lawrence, Tiesto, Robbie Rivera and Dj Montana. Having concluded the show, I ate lunch with my manger Charlie before departing for that evening’s gig in Philadelphia.

I might well have been the co-passenger from hell. I slept all the way to Philly and couldn’t tell you whether I was one of those nightmare sleepers who inadvertently buries their head in the lap of a fellow passenger. On arrival, Philly was colder than Miami, but still in the weather ball-park of spring rather than winter. I siesta’d for two hours before heading to the gig at Transit, in a limo with some bubbly kindly donated by the promoter. Walking through the venue, I was surprised to see ten uniformed police walking around the place. Soon afterwards I hit the decks, and the club was busy. However, it never got any busier which I couldn’t understand as it was an all-nighter running til 10am. After my set it transpired that the cops had blocked the road, preventing people from coming into the club. This was a pity, ‘cos what started as a busy and promising night slightly fizzled out as time wore on. I’m still a bit confused by the moral anti-rave backlash in the US- perhaps this was part of it. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable night.

More next week…

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