So, the first night back. NATURALLY I lost my cool a bit, to the point of needing a sit down in the smoking area and some nice calm affirmations from my girlfriend and our friend (you ladies are da real mvps, love you). It was so beautiful watching you slide back into those same dance moves I remember from way back when, moves that feel so honest and happy. It was other familiar aspects of a club night that overwhelmed me, particularly in a club as crowded as Phonox was last night- massive shout out to the staff though, they smashed it, it was just me who fell off it for a bit, but everything was in place for me to climb back onto the dancefloor, for us to nestle ourselves in the same spot where we watched Midland a couple of weeks before the pandemic kicked off, at the right end of the raised platform at the back of the room, next to the speakers (buy earplugs guys!). This review is particularly focussed on the music that we heard in the last hour and a half of the night, from 2:30-4am.
We had spent a lot of the night in the smoking area, not just in my cool down phase but also in an earlier phase, getting into that thing which all of Instagram agrees we were all looking forward to; chewing strangers’ ears off. I asked one guy what music he wanted to dance to, and he answered Disco, before elaborating that he is a Jayda G superfan, to the extent of having flown to France pre-covid to watch her play. The funny thing is the one other guy I had a proper chat with - an Irish dude in the queue for the toilets - said he had done the same thing to see her here in Phonox twice, this time and also again pre-covid.
Watching Jayda behind the decks, it was clear why; she doesn’t just play Disco music, she plays all sorts of music, but her DJ style embodies a special side of Disco that so many other revivalists to totally miss. Jayda doesn’t attempt to reflect the hypnotic trance or rolling pummels that characterise the DJing lineage of House or Techno, to play into that intense percussive system that took Disco’s backbeat and bewitched it. Rather than thudding or rolling; her beats rose and convulsed and fell and rolled and stuttered and stoped and then gradually seeped back in.
She didn’t play any Jazz with a capitol J, but the set felt jazzy in the sense of feeling organic. House and Techno are genres take human emotions, liquify them and restructure them into gleaming technology. Jayda’s Disco expresses humanity with all of its messiness, its warmth, following the irregular flow of human breath as much as the regular thud of the heartbeat. It reminds me of Gil Scott Heron’s commentary on Jazz, a genre that he said was truly built upon dancing, on rhythm. He said that really, Prince is one of the greatest Jazz artists of all time. This came to mind as Jayda played three Prince tracks in the last half hour of her set; I Wanna Be Your Lover, 17 Days (piano and microphone version), and I Would Die For You (Extended Version). Prince tracks always sound amazing on a proper sound system, you can see why people say he was the best live act of all time (just as many fans say Jazz must be experienced live), it‘s music that transforms a space and really shows magnificent when the bass mids and tops are pumping (also particularly when the lighting dons turn off all the colours except purple, big up you).
I’ve heard people report that they saw Jayda G close a house/techno festival and that they didn’t have a good time, and I can imagine that; if you love dancing for hours on end and sliding yourself into four-to-the-floor beats, you might feel jilted by Jayda, just like that disappointed lad I chatted to at a Four Tet / Floating Pointrs b2b a few years back, who was really disappointed by the ‘bloody samba music, I’m a fan of TET, you know!’ Nah mate, you’re a fan of getting super high and getting into an ergonomic waterslide that rises and falls but remains solid. That ain’t Jayda, she will shake you up and hug you and sit you down and chat to you and then twirl you back onto your feet after the bouncers ask if you’re ok (another shout out to the security on the night).
I’m not even someone who listens to much Disco at all, but I love it when a sound is played out in full, when a DJ really gives you a full sense of its reach, its influence. Particularly after such a long hiatus from big bass mids tops soundsystems, it was so raddd to hear proper classics out like I Need You by Sylvester, tracks that deserve to return to our headphones. Talking of which, you know what genre I do listen to a lot? R'n'B. Fuck yes. Jayda finished her set with a track that I initially thought was D’angelo (Prince’s spiritual descendent), but turned out to be Everyday - Angie Stone. Oooooh baby yes, like a little pearl rolling onto the shores of a glistening island under an burnt orange sky. Beautiful.