On Thursday March 13th I played a private party for the Metro group, who produce free daily newspapers in a number of major UK cities. The event took place at Pacha, being my first visit to the London branch of the famous Ibiza nighterie. Pacha is now a franchise with numerous international branches, in the true Macdonalds sense of the term. I was interested to explore inside… not only does my brother Sam’s Serious promotions organise the hugely successful monthly Dusted night there, I was resident dj for three years in the mid-Nineties when the venue was known as the SW1 club, named after its Victoria postcode.
The club hadn’t changed dramatically since its SW1 era, which is hardly surprising since the entire venue was always wood panelled and very classy. On my rare forays into playing corporate parties, I generally focus on the funky house side of things, so that’s the music I delivered. Metro were very generous in their supply of Champagne, so I went home with a stupid grin after playing my set.
Bizarrely, the following night’s gig (Friday 14th) was also at Pacha, but this time a very different affair. For the benefit of those outside the UK, Comic relief is a hugely publicised round of charity fundraising events throughout the British entertainment industry, occurring every two years. Radio 1’s input was to organise a ‘battle of the dj’s’ amongst all its dance-orientated spinners, raising money through text voting on premium rate numbers. I got into the spirit of things by spending the week in the studio creating some unorthodox bootlegs, mixing commercial artists such as Justin Timberlake, Alanis Morrisette and Frank Sinatra over banging dance tunes. I’m very pleased with the outcome of my studio work, and a number of these mixes will prove useful outside the confines of Pacha. Nevertheless, some of the voters perhaps failed to see the ironic side, as I was voted out in the second round. However, most importantly the event raised nearly 20,000pounds for charity.
I hung around til near the end of Pacha, doing some live chat on the assorted different chat-rooms Radio 1 had on-stream that night. Then I headed home for two hours ‘disco napping’ around midnight, before hitting Turnmills for a 3.330- 5.30 Friday night set.
Turnmills was as good as ever, and as I’ve done for the last few months, I recorded my set to be listened to via the site. Because it’s only ten minutes drive away, I always arrive home from T’mills unable to sleep. It takes at least 30-60 minutes to wind down from the adrenaline of dj’ing, so I ended the night tossing and turning in my bed before finally drifting off.
The following day I prepared my show and packed a small travelling bag. If I’m away for one night only, returning the morning after my gig, I must confess I take nothing more than a toothbrush, showering and changing when I get home. However, on this occasion I had three gigs over the course of two nights (Sat 15th/Sun 16th March) in Ireland for St Patrick’s day.
I raced to Heathrow after my show to catch the last Saturday flight to Belfast. I’ve taken this flight four times in the past six or seven months, and never arrived at the airport more than 35 minutes in advance, which doesn’t leave much margin for error or traffic snarl-ups. As I checked in I was told to head straight to the gate, where I was amongst the last stragglers to board, passing Tall Paul en route to my flight.
The gig was the Coach in Banbridge Northern Ireland, close to Belfast. For the second time in succession, there was barely room to move in this enormous venue. You’ve got to do something really awful to fail to generate an atmosphere in Northern Ireland, and they love chanting so loud you can barely hear the records. For some strange reason, the new chant was the ‘Whoop there it is’ refrain from the Tag team. Where that originated I’ve no idea, but it sounded mighty amusing. My notoriously poor bladder played up again. I was forced to make a couple of toilet visits during the course of my two hour set, and could barely move en route to the bathroom. At the end of the night, I made a speech wishing people ‘Happy St Patrick’s day’ and in notoriously sectarian Northern Ireland, some of the crowd booed, to which I responded ‘for those that DON’T celebrate it, please DON’T have a happy St Patrick’s day’. That seemed to calm the dissenters down. They were still chanting ‘Whoop there it is’ incredibly loudly after my set, as I slipped out of a side entrance and headed back to spend the night in Belfast.
The following day (Sun 16th) I roamed around Belfast City Centre looking for a restaurant to have some lunch. All the shops, bars and restaurants were shut on Sundays , which I found surprising in a city that’s become as cool as Belfast has in recent years. I’m not sure whether this is a lingering by-product of the troubles, but I was reluctantly forced to order room service in my hotel before being driven South to Dublin.
The journey South was one of the warmest, sunniest March days I’ve ever experienced. Ireland, which is gorgeous at the best of times, becomes absolutely splendid on the infrequent occasions when the sun spends all day beaming down. A journey from Northern Ireland into the Republic has advantages on both sides of the border. Much cheaper fuel prices in the South, but better roads in the North… although that situation’s being attended to by the Dublin Government.
We arrived at Dublin airport just in time to meet my wife Amanda off her flight from London. She’s rarely missed a trip to Dublin… after all she’s called Amanda O’Riordan! We checked into our hotel before heading to the Point Depot, Ireland’s largest concert venue, for another huge and impressively-staged God’s Kitchen event. The line-up was Tall Paul, Marco V, Ferry and Armin back to back, Paul Van Dyk and myself, so the arena was understandably very packed. I played relatively early (8pm) ‘cos I had another Irish gig to get to that night, and was very well-received. Being Irish, it always feels special playing in the home of my forefathers, and only last week I won the ‘Best visiting British dj’ in the BBM mag awards, which made me very proud. At the Point, people kept chucking Irish flags in my direction, which I waved as enthusiastically as ‘Paddy’s day’ dictated.
We then headed for Cross Keys in Co. Cavan. It’s a tiny town in the middle of Ireland, containing a mere handful of houses and a large country hotel with a club attached. Having arrived very early, I fell asleep in the car, waking up an hour later feeling freezing cold. My travelling companions had gone into the club and left me. The night wasn’t quite as packed as Dublin, but still well-attended, and once I’d got my mental faculties back after my shut eye, I ended up playing beyond my prescribed time, spinning a handful of the bootlegs I’d created for Friday night’s Comic relief gala. This was Ireland, so it goes without saying the atmosphere was superb.
More next week…