Variety is the spice of life and the makings of a very interesting DJ diary. One week in a small town in Wales and the following week in Los Angeles, playing to 25,000 people. That typified the period covered in this instalment.
On Saturday 5th March I was booked to play in Buckley, Wales. Tivoli Night Club is a hidden gem. From the outside it doesn’t fill you with anticipation but inside it’s like a tardis. The club was busy, and as crazy as one would expect of Wales on a Saturday night. When the tunes were over, Pete and I hung around for 10 minutes after my set, having drinks with a few friends before hitting the road for the 240 mile journey back to London. Surprise surprise, I slept like a baby the whole way…
When Judgement Sundays Ibiza is out of season I don’t do a vast amount of Sunday night gigs, especially when they are a long way from London. However, on Sunday 6th March I played a local outing just 10 miles from my house. Gigalum in Clapham is a weekly club night promoted by the same guys behind The Gallery at Ministry Of Sound. Pete and I set off slightly early for the gig so we could hang out with plenty of London-based mates before my set, which was at a relatively early 9.30pm. Annoyingly, the traffic en route was so bad that I barely had any social time before jumping straight behind the decks. On my last visit, promoter Hilton plied me with so many Jager shots that my hangover lasted for days, but on this occasion he was more sympathetic towards my liver. The venue is the size of a small club but its DJ booth isn’t of nightclub proportions, with barely enough room for your record bag. It’s a small price to pay (literally) for such an amazing up-for-it crowd. The place absolutely rocked, and Gigalum has rapidly established itself as a very cool Sunday night hang-out for people in South West London.
Saturday 12th March saw me take an eagerly awaited trip back up to Inverness in Scotland. Direct flights at convenient times on Saturday nights are few and far between from London, due to the lack of business travellers. This meant flying BA direct to Aberdeen and then driving the 100 miles west to Inverness. Normally it wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but on this occasion the weather was absolutely awful. As we came in to land I could see a thick layer of snow on the ground and the de-icing crew in force at Aberdeen International. I was collected and driven on the journey at an average speed of around 30mph due to the falling snow. Whilst it was certainly a scenic drive, passing plenty of distilleries and beautiful countryside, it was also a hairy one. I had planned to have a disco nap before hitting the decks in Inverness, but due to the drive taking over 3 hours, I had just 30 minutes to chill before my set.
The event was held in a small concert-style theatre, housing a Green Room to chill-out with the other DJs. In true rock’n’roll style, a whole generation of artists had signed the wall- I added my scrawl to the collection in thick black marker pen.
Post-set, I was joined on the decks by Activa, and after a quick catch up I headed back to the hotel, slightly perturbed by a horribly early (yet direct) flight back to London a few hours later. Back in London, I raced home to spend the rest of the weekend with my nearest and dearest.
The next day (Mon 14th) it was back to Heathrow, as I headed to Andorra for the Big Snow Festival. Travelling to Andorra involves flying to Barcelona and driving 3 hours north into the Pyrenees. I was joined in the car by fellow Radio 1 DJ Kissy Sell Out, who was also on the bill. The drive takes up to Andorra takes forever, starting with motorway and progressing via A roads onto undulating B roads. Thankfully, having Kissy in the car made the time fly by, as we listened to tracks from his new album and had a catch up about DJ life…
The Big Snow has grown consistently since its inception, and upon arrival the main room was rammed. I had planned to have a little sleep before my set, but instead I hung out backstage to catch Kissy’s set and check out his musical vibe. I was very impressed and immediately suggested that he plays the Funky room at Judgement Sundays Ibiza this summer. A few brief hours later we had a gruelling 8am collection for the journey back to Barcelona, and our separate flights back to London. On arrival at the airport, Kissy’s flight to London City had been cancelled, but thankfully my flight to Heathrow was departing on time, and BA transferred him over. It was great to catch up with Kissy – he’s someone who I respect big-time for carving such a distinctive musical identity and sticking with it.
Wednesday 16th March saw me back at London Heathrow, on this occasion off to Northern Ireland for the eve of St Patrick’s Day. Being the biggest party night in the Irish calendar I was offered 2 gigs at opposite ends of the country, one in Cork and one in Newry, NI. I decided to take the Newry gig as I’d never done a St Patrick’s day gig in Northern Ireland before… It’s a true sign of the times that people throughout NI are now celebrating St Patrick’s Day. In the past, which sectarian side of ‘the divide’ you came from determined whether you celebrated Paddy’s Day or not.
I flew into Belfast, and was driven the 45 minutes to Newry. On arrival at the club I had the option of a bottle of Vodka, but turned it down in favour of a couple of beers. The next morning I had to be up very early to catch a connecting flight to London and onwards to NYC – I couldn’t risk sleeping through my alarm.
A night of very light drinking didn’t temper my enthusiasm whatsoever… DJ Mog was playing beforehand – he’s just finished a track with my wife Amanda called Clouds which is forthcoming on Itunes soon. The event was every bit as boisterous as one would expect on Paddy’s Day.
Straight after my set, I headed back to the hotel for just 2 hours’ sleep before boarding leg 1 of my journey to the United States. I landed into London Heathrow, where I changed terminals and met up with my wife Amanda for our flight to the Big Apple. We arrived in New York we headed to straight to our hotel (The Thompson) in the Lower East Side. As it was still St Patrick’s Day, half of Manhattan’s streets were closed to traffic, making the journey in from Kennedy Airport painfully slow.
The Thompson Lower East Side offers some of the best panoramic views of NYC – one I’d strongly recommend, especially its Asian Fusion restaurant. The following morning I did an interview at Sirius XM Radio HQ in Manhattan. It’s located on the 37th floor of the Rockefeller Center, housing over 20 studios, all with panoramic views. After the live interview and some shopping, we headed back to Newark Airport, where I flew to Montreal and Amanda flew direct to Los Angeles (where I would follow the next day).
On arrival into Montreal, the immigration queue for work visas was about 3 hours long. I was also stuck behind loads of people who were moving to Canada for the first time, with a seemingly huge mound of immigration formalities to go through. Canada is the only Country I visit that requires you to collect your work permit upon arrival into the country. Everywhere else, they’re issued before you get there, in my case from the respective embassy in London. Canada is a very organised country in many other ways, so I really don’t understand why work permits can’t be better planned.
Eventually I got through, and was collected and driven to my hotel. Due to the immigration process taking so long I could only get a couple of hours sleep before my set at 3:30am. This would be pretty much the only sleep I would get that night. The event was well worth the sleep deprivation though – Circus after-hours in Montreal was one of the best gigs I’ve played in Canada, helped in part by the other DJ on the bill- the legend that is Marco V. With no sleep, fifteen minutes after finishing I headed straight back to Montreal airport, from where I flew to Los Angeles via Chicago O’Hare.
Landing into LAX, I collected my bag from the belt and called the driver. He informed me that he was running 15 minutes late, as Los Angeles Marathon was taking place, and loads of roads were closed. As I sat kerbside waiting for him to arrive, an irate-looking fellow passenger came up and told me that I’d mistakenly taken his bag from the belt. Although they looked identical, I travel enough to know better. If the driver hadn’t been late, and I’d been collected unknowingly with the wrong suitcase, it would have been disastrous.
At the W hotel in Hollywood, I met back up with Amanda. We had little time to rest before heading 70 miles east to San Bernardino. Beyond Wonderland is one of the biggest festivals in Southern California, and we were provided with our own (Hollywood Style) Winnebago as a dressing room. It was ideal, as we had plenty of friends who came along to the show. I played in between Simon Patterson and Christopher Lawrence and needless to say the atmosphere in the arena was out of the world. California is one of my favorite places to play on the planet, and this amazing event only solidified my love for the Golden State.
The next day there was no trace of the golden sun in Southern California- they were experiencing the worst weather I’d witnessed there- wind, rain, hail… you name it. With Los Angeles being such an outdoor orientated city, it meant being pretty much confined to our hotel room for the last day. That night we headed to LAX for our return flight to London. The events I played on this trip were mind blowing, and I’m already excited about my next North American visit in just a week’s time!
More about that in the next instalment…