Review: Shindig presents: Fatboy Slim/Gorgon City at MAINYARD

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Newcastle’s burgeoning electronic haven is well documented, with clubs including Digital, Cosmic Ballroom and Cobalt Studios being home to a wide roster of DJs and producers. MAINYARD appears as a testament to this status, housed in a temporary structure on the suburban grounds of Gateshead International Stadium. You could hear the focused, bass-driven soundsystem immediately upon entrance. Already, I was entranced.

The event itself was designed excellently. Enough bar staff to reduce queue size, local vendors, and easy access in and out of the tent for those ravers whose weary legs needed a little rest on the benches throughout the site. The sound carried so well, to such an extent that one could visibly see the portaloos shaking with vibrations from the deeper bass tones. Inside, the sound was 360 degrees, the higher instrumentals coming from the front, the bass from the back, and the beat from all around. This enhanced the experience so much more.

Gorgon City’s set was a sure-fire success, exemplified with the rapturous applause upon its conclusion

Gorgon City’s start at the early time of 19:00 had convinced many to arrive early to the Shindig event, and we were certainly not disappointed. The duo showcased their extensive catalogue of deep house hits, including top 10 single chart stalwarts “Here For You” and “Ready For Your Love”. Keeping the crowd firmly in their grasp as the tent quickly started to fill up, the lush vocals of their collaborators MNEK, Jennifer Hudson and JP Cooper were able to bask in the sonorous instrumentals and crackling drums of their live-produced extended mixes. Their set was a sure-fire success, exemplified with the rapturous applause upon its conclusion

The lights and soundsystem of MAINYARD were two of many impressive features.

Now, it was time for Fatboy Slim. The Brighton-based dance legend has been keeping ravers dancing for many years, and it appears that he has no plans to slow down. Indeed, his iconic status over the past 30 years drew a mixed crowd, from those settled into the nonstop 9 to 5 looking for a one-night return to their electro prime to the new generation of house lovers. The introduction seemed to set Fatboy Slim for an unforgettable show, with remixes of “You’ve Got the Love” and “Praise You” leading into the opener “Eat Sleep Rave Repeat”. The humorous vocals and the biting eponymous four-word chorus delighted fans, with extra snippets of “Heads Will Roll” and “Uptown Funk” bringing the party vibes.

The next hour or so of the set was strong, but I felt it lacked something special. Norman Cook’s crowd interaction, either through climbing and jumping around his decks and the stage or via simpler ‘games’ such as “How Low Can You Go” and “Green Light, Red Light”, did manage to keep his audience within his grasp. Nonetheless, I saw many attendees on their phones, not grabbed by the technique of playing a snippet of a song and then transforming it into a bass-heavy instrumental. For sure, this technique is central to the ethos of acid house. Yet, a DJ must read and be ready to adapt to the vibe of his crowd and, somehow, it felt as if the atmosphere was on a steady decline after an hour.

Fatboy Slim’s Greta Thunberg-spliced remix of “Right Here, Right Now” caused a rapturous reaction of both clapping and intense raving.

Fatboy Slim did manage to make the last half an hour of the set a success. Airing a blistering cover of FISHER’s “Losing It”, a recent house classic, immediately set the crowd singing along, and then the final ante was superb. Cook posted a new mix  “Right Here, Right Now” featuring snippets of Greta Thunberg’s inspiring speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York a few days ago, and giving it one of its first plays at the event sparked a special moment. It gave the largely instrumental track, with its crescendo string instrumentals and familiar repeated lyrics, a new meaning. Ravers cheered upon hearing Greta’s voice – who knew acid house could be so conscientious?

Ravers cheered upon hearing Greta Thunberg’s voice – who knew acid house could be so conscientious?

The finale of “Rockefeller Skank” mixed with the funky bassline of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and the crunching handclaps of “We Will Rock You”, entering into a fantastic edition of “Praise You”, was a perfect end. Everyone in the crowd was singing those famous lyrics, with smiles glowing with the satisfaction that they’d seen a musical legend this evening. Despite this successful end, I believe that the whole experience might have been greater if these club classics were mixed with the rather more obscured acid instrumentals which dominated the middle of the set. Fatboy Slim certainly likes to make his crowd work hard for what he is giving them, ensuring their bodies are moving throughout; but if he is not going to give the classics, or at least some new remixes, until the very end, why try harder?

Overall, I consider MAINYARD to be a great success. The indoor venue, the site plan and the staff were all excellent, and it felt like a mini festival atmosphere. Gorgon City set the bar exceedingly high with their roster of hits and remixes; I was also pleased to see Fatboy Slim, who I have adored for quite some time. Yet, his set dipped halfway through before being rescued at the end. I nonetheless had a great experience, but I still left desiring that special moment that seemed imminent at the beginning.

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