Any quaint mentions of German nightlife and the first natural location that slips off the lips is Berlin, with its recognisable TV tower and roll call of recognisable clubs. This weekend I bucked the trend and hopped off to Frankfurt to check out Robert Johnson for one of two parties starting with the Smallville team and Underground Quality CEO Jus Ed for the Saturday and a very special party for the Sunday.
After hearing so much about the intimate waterside space with a very well respected booking policy, my initial expectations referenced somewhere between spots like Panorama Bar, Tape Club and Bar25. Back to Friday night and we arrived late into Frankfurt and did not make it to the infamous and futuristic Cocoon club which meant we had an early night slept well and prepared for the weekend ahead. After some lazy strolling around the supposed boho-arty part of Frankfurt we people watched drank beer and then we made our way back to the hotel to prepare for the Smallville showcase later that evening.
Smallville records is a record shop and record label based in Hamburg part run by Julius Steinhoff and Pete Lawrence of Dial and Ghostly fame. The label pushes that creepy deep House and Techno edge with standout detail and direction, which is up to around 14 releases about now from artists including Julius himself, Sten, STL, Move D and Benjamin Brunn. Just out of the cab and the boom boom of Hip Hop was more evident than House grooves as Robert Johnson is next to another waterside club playing more commercial R&B and Hip Hop. The small unassuming short white staircase away from the other venue leads to the clubs entrance and as we approached the stairs I then catch the noises of more Jazz influenced music. Into the main room, which has a capacity of around 300 people, one bar and a terrace, rustled with around 30 bodies. Behind the Dj box up high on the wall we had around 6 TV sets presenting looped animations of clenching muscles, acid colours, words and spinning car wheels which did at a dash of atmosphere to the white space. The terrace overlooks the calms waters and sparse industrial buildings and car parks.
As I checked out the venue while it was empty I first have to congratulate ATA who owns the space on the sound system in the club which is powered by Martin Audio which is just exquisite, really detailed painting colour out of each melody, form and structure to songs that I have heard before a million times. In the box I checked out three Cdj 800 MK II’s two 1210s and the Kremlin nerve centre of proceedings was a big Rane rotary mixer which had super big knobs and sliders. The club only has one room up some stairs and is sound proofed which really helps the lower frequencies. At the bar quite inventively I saw an old white Apple Emac desktop computer boxed in showing a rolling animation of the drinks and prices, which was cute, next to the bar in big red ink, was the words scribed onto the white wash wall ‘Music Saved Life’ which was interesting.
As all three Djs slowly built up the crowd and of course there was some usual suspects dropped in for good measure including ‘Pepe Bradock Deep Burnt’, Jus Ed the guest for the evening really added warmth with his crowd interaction on the Mic, it was slightly like being front room guest for his regular My House Your House Radio show but with better audio and a nice river view. Ed ticked all the boxes moving from tracks by ‘Baaz’ to older more housey tracks laced with pianos and as the heat was on Ed dropped my UQ fav. of all time ‘Yo This Shit Is Hot’ of the Small Oak UQ009 EP and the sound system left my jaw on the floor, if you have heard this mesmerizing dance floor destroyer you’ll know what I am talking about. As I effortlessly danced away with a friendly and smiley Frankfurt crowd I locked eyes with a few girls and guys from varying demographics all to pleased to return my gestures. Jacque graced the decks after Ed and underlined the Deep House mood and as the ‘Larry Heard – Burning For You on Black Market International’ came in the dance floor lit up again with this content atmosphere and warm smiles!!!
My night came to the fitting end and I really couldn’t stop my feet dancing and my smile expanding till my face could not grin no more. The crowd around me still lit up the club and as the small terrace doors overlooked the river I left the venue content. The Smallville tag team of Julius and Jacque really impressed me with there varied and tight House selection and as I see they are gracing my shore soon at the Sud Electronic party I guess ill brush off my sneakers and get ready to jack all over again.
As Sunday came to quick and as we all had to nurse stringent hang overs we slipped into Frankfurt Zoo to check out the lions and monkeys, giraffes and camels that was nice. The sun blazed making it quite hard to depart, however part two of the weekend included the Secretsundaze team of Giles Smith and James Priestly who also had a party at Robert Johnson, which was a welcomed surprise.
We arrived just after six and the club was bristling modestly with heads and some of which looked liked they had not been home yet which was humorous. As the sun slowly set and I mingled out on the terrace I spotted Dorian Paic who was billed to play whom also is a Frankfurt local. Back inside and Giles Smith put the Rane rotary mixer through its paces and as the tempo picked up a little Giles really dug deep into his box playing classic tracks including ‘Nathan Haines – Earth Is The Place feat. Verna Francis’ on Wave Music, which is just absolutely timeless, and those that have the really old Ministry of Sound Sessions 12 with Little Louie Vega, Tedd Patterson and Tony Humphries will remember this!!! Also as Giles turned up the heat playing ‘Pride’ by Osunlade again the dance floor lit up and I never heard so many Germans wilding out, this was off the chain!!!
James stepped up into the Dj box and kept the ebb and flow of the Deeper side of House going and as I ask a long haired older gent for a light I very quickly was swept away into conversation about Robert Johnson as the gentleman was at the club like myself last night and today and an interesting story emerged regarding the gig that Andrew Weatherall played at Robert Johnson which part way through the evening saw the speaker catch fire or start to smoke which is super mad crazy.
As I headed back inside James swanked to the Disco side of things and I caught some early 2020 Vision being rinsed and also an Arthur Russell track that I think came out on Electric Minds. Hands down the best set ive heard from the boys on one of the smoothest sound systems in Europe.
Around midnight saw the same number of heads slipping and sliding away and just before the doors closed I left the space, very grateful to the club and the people I met and as a cab headlight caught my eye my Frankfurt weekend came to a end defined by impeccable music selected and presented in a way that makes spaces like Robert Johnson worth visiting. From Smallville to Secretsundaze all the SS’s ticked the box for a 100% well kept deep weekend. I am already trying to plan the next one!