Mayhem, The Warehouse, Middlesborough
18th April and 15th May 2009
As the summer approaches and we all start to think about which festivals we want to and can afford to go to this year and whether the current financial climate will allow us to have our annual 2 week blow out in Shagaluf or Ibiza it seems a good time to reflect on the more routine clubbing events we all experience over the other 50 weeks of the year.
The big name brands such as Cream, Gatecrasher, Goodgreef, Tidy, etc put on a succession of very popular and well attended events at clubs all over the country and can (and do) afford to pay top flight DJs to represent their stated musical policies as well as their corporate ambitions.
The success of these brands, however, and the followings they have built up are the result of many years of hard work and dedication to the pursuit of the perfect clubbing experience.
Perhaps the pinnacle of this would be an event such as Creamfields, or Global Gathering where just about every genre of dance music is presented in a weekend festival, with camping, and a capacity of around 100,000.
And all for around £100-150.
I don't know about you, but that, to me, seems like an absolute bargain. It costs about double that to go to Centre Parcs for the weekend and I think I can guarantee the music will be shite!!
So, as we can see, dance music all the marketing spin-offs that go with it, is major business and the turnover runs into many, many, millions of pounds every year.
Yet it's easy to become disillusioned in some respects with the way the public are manipulated into thinking they just 'have' to attend this event, or simply 'have' to see this or that DJ play, or 'have' to buy the same 27 tracks remixed and repackaged on yet another 'must have' annual compilation.
It's also easy to think that these corporate events are the only thing on offer, or worth bothering with, if you're a dance music enthusiast.
You'd be wrong of course.
As we all know, week in and week out in small clubs and venues, old warehouses and converted factories; spaces with dodgy sound systems and others with state of the art lighting rigs there are hundreds, possibly thousands of DJs playing every kind of music to every kind of punter imaginable.
And there is a market for all this music because for every new genre that pops up there is a crowd of people who want to listen to it and who are willing to pay for the privilege
Take for example the harder end of the dance music spectrum as represented by hardcore, hardhouse and hardstyle music.
These are fairly specialised genres of music and you could say that they have a limited appeal.
However anybody who has been, for example, to a Fantazia, Coloursfest, HTID, or even a Tidy Weekender event, will know that huge crowds of people can be attracted to these things simply because of the quality of music on offer.
Yet it's also true that most of these events could never have come into being if it weren't for the fact that an audience had been built up previously out in the wider clubbing environment
Every area of the country has its own budding DJs, promoters and producers and the north of England is no exception.
Emerging brands such as Xzilar8, Harder Timez, Mayhem and Raw2thebone are building up loyal followings by presenting quality music played to local people by, mainly, local DJs.
Though they occasionally get better known DJs in to help draw the crowds, essentially the backbone of their events, and the reason people keep going back time after time is the fact that they give a chance to lesser known, but often highly skilled and talented locals.
People such as Bam Marshall at Xzilar8 in Harrogate, wayne Leighton at Harder Timez in York, Lee Tracey at Raw2thebone in the Pontefract area and Tez Walker at Mayhem in Middlesborough are not only music fans themselves and (hopefully) shrewd businessmen, they are also a conduit for emerging talent which will, in time, filter through to the larger events I mentioned earlier.
To give just one example of how this system works (or should work) take DJ Tone who plays at Raw2thebone.
He's talented, committed and technically excellent on the decks.
He knows his music and he knows what his public likes to hear.
All you have to do is watch him for 5 minutes to see how passionate he is about what he's doing.
Yet it's highly unlikely that more than a couple of hundred people have ever had a chance to hear just how good he is.
All this is about to change because word of mouth (which is after all the best advert) brought him to the attention of Tez Walker, promoter of the excellent Mayhem in Middlesborough, who booked him to play at last month's event.
While the likes of Kutski, Dark by Design and Phil York were smashing the main room apart (as you'd expect) DJ Tone was blowing room 2 up.
This didn't go unnoticed, however, and as a result he's been invited back for this month's event to play alongside Alex Kidd on the main stage and if that goes well, and there's no reason why it shouldn't, who knows where he might be playing next week, next month, or next year.
And that's what I mean by saying that the bigger clubbing brands, and indeed the bigger clubs, simply could not exist if it weren't for the hundreds of smaller events that take place locally.
For every Kustki, Alex Kidd or Mark EG there are a thousand DJ Tones starting out exactly where their idols did and hoping, one day, to be ranked alongside them.
This particular DJ just might get his wish.