The road continues to twist and turn and shake. I had hoped that the end of lockdown would represent a tipping point, that my neighbours and I would slide into a shared pool of joy and music and self expression. The reality has turned out to be less simple, less smooth, life is getting better but the chaos is far from gone. This is not the review I had hoped I would write, but I’m writing it anyway, partly because of one song I heard out on big speakers, which made for a beautiful post-lockdown moment that deserves context. And partly because of the context itself, the story of one Saturday in late July in North London, I feel that there is something in it.
In the last hours of sleep before I was due to attend an 8 room event at the Cause in Tottenham, I dreamt about watching the Pixar film the Incredibles, in a small, intimate cinema with my mates. One of us rolled and smoked a cigarette during the adverts, inspiring a nearby family to moan about us so loudly that I apologised to them, they quietened down and the film began. In this dream, the film began not with action, but with contemplation, as the retired, grown up Mr Incredible washes his infant son in the bath, and talks to himself about his hopes for the future, unaware that he will soon be thrust back into adventure. I’d love to see the Incredibles in the cinema, something beautiful and dynamic, plus the feeling of all being in it experiencing it together, plus feeling a little bit naughty, (probably worth swapping the ciggies for maltesers if we're in a cinema).
I was hoping to get those experiences at the Cause, to roll through scenes and colours and spaces, but as the day began and we got ready to meet the conditions of our early entry (pre 11am!) tickets, it became apparent that something was wrong. At 10:18 we got an email asking us to delay our arrival to 3pm, because of unspecified problems at the venue. We got some beers and split a ‘taste the difference’ pizza from Sainsbury's, with some Vegetarian Butcher fake chicken added on top (top quality stuff), and eventually headed to Tottenham Hale. As we walked towards the Cause, we could hear music, but nowhere near as loud as expected, and gradually realising that it was coming from elsewhere. I recognised the bouncer outside, who explained to us that the event was off. They couldn’t say why right now, but bottom line: it’s not happening. Fuck.
We walked down the road (all 11 of us, most of whom had yet to attend a dance), and saw that the music was coming from a different party at another venue just down the road. Ooooft £25 tickets, ummmmmmmmmm wellllll we’re all here now, fuck it let’s give it a shot. As we enter a woman who had also meant to attend the Cause is leaving this new event, and tells us ‘don’t go in’. I wonder what her problem is, thinking back to to a similar warning in Edinburgh that heralded a totally empty dancefloor. Not today; this event is sold out (our tickets were resales), and the dancefloor space, a big dramatic warehouse decked out with fake trees and colourful lights, is almost full. It remains that way all day; full but not overcrowded.
Was the woman right, was all lost? If you were waiting for a full spectrum of the uk’s hardcore continuum, then yes, none of that was here. The party was run by a team named Warm Up, which prides itself on sharing ‘emotive electronic dance music’. Whilst much underground dance music pivots around a certain roughness, Warm Up’s sound was distinctly smooth in texture and tempo, house and tech-house with a very consistent energy level. It reminded me of lofi hip hop - beats to relax/study to, not because it felt low fidelity at all, if anything it felt cinematic in its production values, it’s more that it would make for a great, gently supportive soundtrack to work, and also to other things, such as flossing, or chanting ‘head and shoulders and knees and toes’, as my friends did in a kind of eerie playground tone.
Some of my group loved the music, others found it very dull. I had a great time, particularly in the middle of the day, when Warm Up residents Muther and Gus Emmett played sets of records that peaked with emotional chords rather than punchy drops. The first track I heard on that dancefloor, selected by Muther, was Fever by B.Traits, a track I've loved since I was too young to go out clubbing, a tune that spirals with drama and noise and euphoria, before pulling back into a gorgeous, twinkling synth riff, magnificent stuff.
There was a poetry to the event literally being called Warm Up, and the opportunity to watch my friends warm up and back into dancing, I was so grateful that we had somewhere to dance that felt safe and warm and positive. My first post-lockdown event was Jayda G, which I reviewed here, stating that: ‘Jayda doesn’t attempt to reflect the hypnotic trance or rolling pummels that characterise the DJing lineage of House or Techno… her beats rose and convulsed and fell and rolled and stuttered and stopped and then gradually seeped back in.’ Well you know what, Will likes a hypnotic trance with some rolling pummels, they make Will feel good, especially when euphoric waves of emotion rise from within the beats and encourage the people around him to get all lovey dovey, he sees it and it is good.
There was one moment when I was chatting with a mate in the smoking area, a mate who was having a bit of a moment and needed to cool down. I told her what she needed to hear, and very little else, because my ears started to ring with Hot Chip’s 2012 progressive house belter Flutes, a track that I absolutely adore, and I literally ran onto the dancefloor. It felt so great, a real ‘ah of COURSE’ moment of DJ serendipity, yes yes yes yes this is the kind of track I want to hear post lockdown, dramatic, serious but also playful, something that recognises the gravity of our situation and looks upon it unflinching eyes and a wry smile.
And yeah, this wasn’t an event I would usually go for, the DJs clearly had some slightly different ideas about how to go about things, like playing tech house remixes of Jaydee’s Plastic Dreams and Royksopp’s What Else Is There, remixes that siphoned drama and character of those tracks into buildups for big, reliable Sainsbury's basics drops. But then they played the original version of Ye Ye by Daphni, so ye ye!!! That’s some good shit! At its best, the event reminded me of the hero that is Annie Mac (listen to her last show on Radio 1 whilst you can, it's seriously special), a DJ whose genuine love for electronic music always shines through. We may tap into different scenes and aesthetics, but we share the same enthusiasm for colourful, expressive sound.
I chatted to a Northern guy in the queue for the toilets who has been living abroad for some time, to the extent that he hadn’t been to a uk event for 5 or 6 years. He had no idea that he wasn’t actually at the Cause until I told him, and reflecting on this situation, he said ‘sometimes the universe shines on you, and when it does, bask in its warmth’. I feel you there man, and I feel so grateful to Warm Up for putting on this event, and giving us a warm, welcoming home for the day.
At the very end of the day I noticed the various national flags in the big room where the cloakroom was, and realised that this was the Cannon Factory, a new space bought by the Cause and quickly fashioned into their Euros Warehouse in time for the footie. As we left the room, my girlfriend showed me a bbc news article; the story is out, someone died at the Cause this morning, and the police investigation was why the event was cancelled. Fuck. It almost feels wrong writing this review up in the wake of that horrible, tragic situation, I can still remember the look on the Cause bouncer’s face when he told us the event was cancelled, I knew something terrible had happened.
I don’t want to end the review on that note, I want to remind people that the uk has a terrible problem with binge consumption, one that stretches across drinking, drugs, gambling, the lot. In 2019, 7,565 people in the uk died from alcohol-specific causes. I don’t think that will change until we deal with the severe issues of classism and toxic masculinity and racism and shame that plague us. I hope that a nervous parent or two will read this and see that these electronic music events are not cesspits of darkness and willful abandon, they’re just places for people to connect with each other.
At one point in the event I was standing at the back of the room on a raised platform, and I saw that someone onstage was taking a photo of the crowd, so I pointed at them and grinned. A young South African guy in the crowd thought that I was pointing at him, and made his way towards me, sparking off a really funny conversation. He was here with 15 other South Africans, all dancing and smiling near the front of the dancefloor. He pointed out one of his mates and we waved at them, and lo and behold, the bloody DJ thought that we were waving at him, and waved back at us. It was beautiful.