K / D Keep It Deep will review the Fabric 15th Birthday weekend from the Sunday and ask the key question, is the club still relevant after all these years?
The build up to the Fabric birthday is always noticeable, from friends talking about it, social media updates and of course all online editorials covering from their specific angle. The line up always throws up some surprises and some regular faces. Historically the Saturday night can be an extremely busy affair so we swerve the crowds and dig deeper into Sunday night, of course we pre plan and take the Monday off work, you know, just in case.
Our background to the weekend goes like this, Saturday night local dj gig, anything goes from new jazz, hip hop, soul, funk and disco, 11pm finish so an early night. Sunday I wake up apprehensive and excitable at what is to come and also the knowing fact that the club is actually already open, alive and kicking.
I arrived for around 6pm with a gaggle of friends & the sky was clear, no rain just an easy breezy Sunday, but in Farringdon the sense of energy and small pockets and gaggle of people milling around was apparent. New faces, old faces resurfacing, people looking for friends and of course dj’s coming to check the vibe was evident. On our travels in the club we saw Matt Tolfrey who had been out for a sold 12 hours, Dave Congreve had just arrived & Jonny Rock was inside the place.
All queues Sunday night at 6pm looked relaxed, we didn’t wait to get in, we did get searched and then joined the queue for coats, as the bass from room 1 slowly crept into ear shot.
After my coat was checked I know we had the pleasure of seeing Ben UFO in room 1, I double checked my pockets to ensure I was coming correct, lots of mints, cash, rolling tobacco, lighter and Iphone for jotting tracks and notes.
As I walked to the bar in room 1, the club was very busy still with young trendy types from around 20-40 looking deceptively fresh as I knew some heads would have been in the space since last night, some fresh and some just looking amused and lost.
The very slim and clean-cut silhouette of Ben UFO took to the decks and I noticed he was using Traktor dj software. The booth was busy with dj’s and other Fabric staff awaiting Ben UFO to get into his groove.
His first few numbers raised the energy and Ben likes to bring in mixes rough and ready, always tight but not gentle and meticulous. There was an assertive nature to his set, he looked confident flicking through Traktor laying down a bed of Techno and vocal led Tech House the type from the 90s that crate diggers tirelessly seek out on Discogs. The crowd enjoyed the intensity and quick mixes and I actually started to recognise some cuts, including Something Here by Terrence Parker, Que Tal America by Two Man Sound and also Medusa by Stephen Brown which helped build the energy and the story. I could sense the crowd locking into Ben’s groove & it was nothing clever just straight up danceable music with tough undertones and fun vocal elements to engage with the crowd. Every single part of room one was bouncing and the sound system easily handled the onslaught as I noticed sound engineers in the booth keeping abreast of the situ tweaking and fixing.
Ben then played Thought in Action by Portable which really added character to Ben’s set and it really worked the floor, heads really enjoying the track and all the odd, metallic, outer space samples. The pace was popping and I really started to enjoy things. Seasons by Lil Silva with the trumpet lead and thunderous bass line kept the energy up. Skee Mask by Reduct Live really gave the sound system a solid work out with its acute sub bass and relentless pace. Ben a few moments later played Sweet Love 2k by Fierce a stone cold garage classic, which the entire floor reacted well to, gun fingers and all the London heads grinding was the order of play. Overall a stellar set that the majority of the crowd bumped and grinded to, it was not to serious and there snippets of light humour and fun, I wished he could have played longer to stretch out but next up was Mathew Johnson Live.
Mathew changed the tempo more with rolling synth leads and warm drum programming, wearing a fancy dress onesie Mathew engaged with the crowd and this lifted the vibe, people enjoyed looking at him play with his hardware as he was the only live set for Sunday. The visuals really aided and supported the live act, accompanying the heavy chords and garage type bass lines. Mathew swinged effortlessly creating solid grooves with no nonsense accessibility. The whole room was vibing and smiling towards the end of his hour and a half set he played the Good Life acapella over his instrumentals, which was a highlight. Overall Mathews live set stood apart but also kept the story of the evening going, nothing to tricky or intricate as the floor by this point wanted heady, main room time bizz. I went for a walk to room 3 and I was pleasantly surprised to see Levon Vincent doing his thing, nailing the groove as he usually does, the crowd was mixed and not to busy but this was a very pleasant surprise overall. Levon is usually more accustom to playing in room & it was evident Levon was acclimatising to the the more intimate room 3. Room 2 was not open and I did bump into a friendly couple who were very excited to see Ben Klock & Marcell Dettmann play however I disappointed them as I broke the news, these guys played 10 hours ago Saturday night.
I assume Ricardo was running late as Mathew played past his advertised set times, however Ricardo entered the main room dj booth looking decidedly fresh and ready to do a job. I heard on the grapevine his records went missing which I could not confirm. I noticed a palpable energy increase with Ricardo in the same room, the tension rising, the anticipation, his fans, his critics, the also the heads who know nothing on the dj. As he slowly took to the decks…. In true Ricardo he played an instrumental Latin number with no kick drum for a few minutes, this signature sound antagonised and played with the crowd until the kick drum came in and then eruption. Lots of cheers and hands in the air. The first hour or so was very solid usual Ricardo stuff, lots of long tracks, tight mixes, with percussion being the focal point. Life Is Water by Maurice Fulton was a real treat to hear on the big sound. Overall if Ricardo did indeed lose his records he still brought the magic, played some tracks not many would recognise, he always paints his own picture and always makes a journey very distinctive to the rest.
Next up should have been Craig Richards and Ricardo back to back but I couldn’t see him in the booth. As the hours rolled on, I arrived at 6pm and it was now 5:30am and Seth Troxler was doing his thing with Ricardo back to back. I heard news of an after party in room 3 but I had done 12 hours and that was all I needed for the Fabric birthday.
After all these years and reading the Vice piece (link here) on the club and how it came about with Keith & Cameron definitely gave me some context. The initial few days after the party lots of different social very different critical feedback on the club, and the dj’s. Overall Fabric is most certainly relevant as ever and the ethos of the music and the sound being paramount still stand. There are still the residents and long standing relationships which must mean something. Lots of people always speak negatively about the club and its booking policy, but I always wonder about London’s clubbing landscape and all the club closures we have witnessed, this club is still open, still doing its thing and booking new dj’s and nurturing local artists. Lots of dj’s & producers still name check Fabric as a space they have played at and it’s still held in high regard. Things change and times change and this club keeps on doing its thing never looking at trends or commercial opportunities. With high standard and that super clean sound system, The Fabric 15th birthday was thoroughly enjoyable considering I have been to the club two weeks earlier for Raresh and I have already eyed up some future dates I would like to attend. Quietly understated, Fabric does its thing and I would recommend visiting the space in person and making your own mind up. I am still hooked after all these years.