With Halloween falling on a Tuesday, the London party scene geared up for its ghoulish celebrations the weekend before. Mike Barnard and Ann McManus spooked themselves into a techno double header of DJ Nobu and Surgeon at Oval Space in Bethnal Green on Friday, October 27th and then the annual Drumcode Halloween takeover at Tobacco Dock on Saturday, October 28th.
Drumcode Halloween remains a freaky Halloween bash in all the right ways.
He Said: “The techno fright night at Oval Space started with the disappointing, but understandable, news that Robert Hood would not be playing owing to a family emergency, however the treat was that the ever-reliable Surgeon would be filling in. Currently performing live regularly with Regis as the British Murder Boys, the precise nature of Surgeon’s delivery solo would mean a more linear approach than offered by Hood’s diversions into gospel vocals and disco vibes.
“For a Halloween party, we were surprised by a lack of dress up, perhaps guests preferring to dedicate a Saturday night to donning the fake blood and masks when they can spend all day on make up. Still, we’d made the effort with a zombie lab technician, ninja and Kung Fury niche jacket making for a motley crew while a couple of ghostly figures would also make an appearance. Surgeon duly delivered the dark, throbbing set expected, although he allowed for 2 Bad Mice old school anthem ‘Bomb Scare’ to sneak in for a dash of light.
“DJ Nobu then stepped up to the decks following up his appearance at Berghain the weekend. There was a hint of the sounds of the Berlin clubbing Mecca about his precise style as the bustling venue were drawn into his hypnotic set. It completed a first night that kept us monsters satisfied with our Halloween techno starter, yet keen to devour more the following day.
“Drumcode’s annual pilgrimage to Wapping’s Tobacco Dock has become a flagship event for Adam Beyer’s label, with the vast venue transformed into a horror labrynth soundtracked by house and techno. The combination of ghostly decor and a crowd that has the look of a Halloween fancy dress convention makes for an excitable atmosphere, so adding acts from the Drumcode label as well as its close affiliates sends them wild.
“We’d arrive following a stop at an East-end boozer to get in the mood. Two G&T’s to the good resulted in lively introduction to Tobacco Dock, getting the admin of lockers and drinks vouchers out the way as soon as possible. On the way we’d find Marquis Hawkes with some deep grooves in the new look Little Gallery which had a lower ceiling for a more intimate dancefloor, yet extended to become a more serious music space. Previously it had often felt like it was just a walkway from the venue’s atrium to the food and chill space, now there was some character to it. Unfortunately we’d get far too distracted elsewhere to see the performances of Ryan Elliot, Levon Vincent and Nick Höppner.
“An initial scout around in the Car Park revealed the entrance and exit had been switched, ensuring there wasn’t a constant flow of people stepping onto the back of the dancefloor on arrival. Drumcode newcomer Amelie Lens was just finding her stride as revellers packed into tunnel of a dancefloor, but we decided to save the Car Park for later and check out Maya Jane Coles in the Great Gallery.
“Maya Jane Coles had made more of an effort with her outfit than us, opting for facepaint and an deathly, all-black outfit, while she opted for a deep house affair for the mid-afternoon. The Gallary was filling up quickly with what seemed like an endless supply of impressive face paints too, no doubt keeping the make up artists on-site busy.
“Wanting something darker and more direct, we headed to the Car park for the triple header of Pig & Dan, Dense & Pika and Matador, weaving through the packed dancefloor to surprisingly find space in front of the decks. The twists and turns of their music was perfect for the Car Park’s tight, enclosed space - a factor that makes it more enticing than the Great Gallery. We’d duck out for air ahead of Alan Fitzpatrick’s closing set when Dave Clarke’s remix of ‘Zombie Nation’ sent the crowd into a frenzy for the final time.
“We were lucky enough to reflect on the day at the afterparty in the vaults where we were among the 200 guests who enjoyed extra sets from Adam Beyer and Ilario Allicante. There’s rarely a dull moment at Drumcode Halloween, and while they continue to book an array of acts beyond the Drumcode regulars, it remains a freaky Halloween bash in all the right ways.”
Alan Fitzpatrick blasted his badass, fingers-up-to-label-syncing closing set in the Car Park.
She Said: “Halloween fell straight after a big weekend in Berlin where I had the fortune of seeing DJ Nobu slay the prime Sunday evening slot at Berghain’s Klubnacht. Judging by his social media posts, DJ Nobu seemed equally ecstatic about how his rare trip to Europe was going, so I expected great things from him at Robert Hood and his night at Oval Space. Because of this, I wasn’t too phased that Robert Hood pulled out. For many attendees, he had been the main draw. Me? I was delighted that this would allow DJ Nobu more air time.
“Surgeon warmed up with his signature undulating industrial sound, building hype and apprehension in the crowd. DJ Nobu’s takeover was clearly defined. Maintaining the industrial vibes, he made things a full shade darker and installed a different variety of samples across his ever evolving sequences. He definitely kept it interesting, but in contrast with his set at Berghain, I felt he wasn’t as experimental as I’d enjoyed the previous weekend. I’d seen him test how heavy and iniquitous he could make Berghain’s dance floor, a dancefloor that is well-acquainted with boundaries being pushed, and rouse shock and awe. In contrast, while this was a technically excellent industrial techno set - no doubt, I didn’t feel DJ Nobu experimented with boundaries as much as he had the capability to. He may have been let down by the acoustics at Oval Space, which I have heard speaker enthusiasts complain about.
“The next day was Drumcode Halloween, one of my favourite days of the year. It’s an event that ups its game every year, re-arranging layout, diversifying the acts yet maintaining some key mainstays and creating a different theme throughout the building, complemented by actors in roles all day. I was disappointed with myself for not dressing up as soon as I arrived. People had gone to extreme efforts and looked fantastic!
“Doing a quick whip round the layout, I was really enthused by the new Car Park layout - it’s where the darkest of the day’s techno echoes until close. A cavernous space that stretches a long like a corridor, the Car Park was previously set out so that people entered at a junction with the dancefloor, bar and toilets - cue congestion constantly. A smarter set out saw the entrance to the car park moved to the far end of the car park, allowing more space.
“Maya Jane Coles was our first port of call, lapping up the adoration of a heaving Great Gallary as she played a rhythmic fusion of dark, deep house and techno. Hits that went down particularly well were Macromism’s ‘Cafeternos’, RanchaTek & TKNO’s ‘Aboriginal Sun’ and she went out with her brand new track ‘Weak’ (Tiger Stripes Remix), the perfect summary given the host label.
“In Tobacco Dock I find it so easy to spend the entire event in the Car Park. The sound is normally darker, and it is hard work moving your way to the front. You seriously earn that dancefloor space if you can free-ride on someone’s chain to move your way forward through the tightly-packed crowd, which makes you very reluctant to ever leave! Because of this, I try and spent the first half of the day upstairs to enjoy being able to enjoy some light and socialising on the upper deck between sets in the Great Gallary. Putting the Car Park off until a bit later makes it an even better treat when you make your way down into the dungeon.
“Trying to ease my way through the crowd to the front for Matador, I was rewarded with a varied set, playing less of the typical Drumcode sounds which had been heavily prevalent in most of what I had heard that afternoon. I love Drumcode and listen to the podcasts constantly, so it’s my own fault if I do wear myself out of the tunes - but you need variety on a night out. Knowing when the beat will drop is fun for a while, but it’s good to live on the edge and be caught out with a mistimed fist pump every now and then.
“The highlight set for me, as it is every year, was Alan Fitzpatrick blasting his badass, fingers-up-to-label-syncing closing set in the Car Park. Having branched off from Drumcode and spinning under his own label, We Are The Brave, Fitzpatrick definitely made clear his affiliation with the standard Drumcode sound was no more. I loved his deep tubular bell sounds while playing under Drumcode. He didn’t feature any of this, having sharpened up his sound which, while still firmly in the techno realms, harks back to 90s hardcore at many points. It was a set that kept building up more and more energy - so much so, that after a long day raving, I was checking my watch to ensure efficient energy expenditure for the time until finish.
“Fortunate enough to make it to the After Party, I was astonished at the beautiful and spooky setting within the Dock. Subtly smokey, the candlelit room was ornately adorned with ivy. Adam Beyer played a fun set, featuring a few of his classics, but clearly enjoying experimenting with as many techno verging on deep house sounds as he could. Ilario Alicante took over to allow Adam time to celebrate the day’s success. Ilario sampled a deep house-meets-Drumcode sound, with Bushwacka!’s ‘West Side’ (Christian Smith & Wehbba Remix) providing the perfect example. This created a very pleasant mood for winding down from a techno infused day. The room was infected with smiles and Drumcode family and friends hugged as Laurent Garner’s ‘1-4 Doctor C’est Chouette’ was the soundtrack to the end of a fabulous finish.”
She Said by Ann McManus. Images from Drumcode Halloween by Gemma Bell.