Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sven Vath & Cocoon @ Building Six 22/11/2014

A year isn’t a year unless I have danced to Papa Sven and it is my 10 year anniversary since I saw the Cocoon light, ditching the likes of David Guetta, Paul Van Dyk and Erick Morillo for a far more sonically satisfying, albeit at first a rather confusing form of dance music.  Where is the drop?!

I really wanted to go to Sven’s 50th birthday in Mannheim, I deeply felt I should given how much Sven means to me but the finances didn’t allow (plus I don’t like the music that the two main supporting DJs play – Richie Hawtin and Luciano – had the line-up been more appealing to my tastes then I am sure my bank manager would have seen this as an agreeable use of overdraft facilities).

And if a Ryanair-fuelled weekend in Mannheim is not financially permissible then then magical island of Ibiza is about as affordable as a trip to the moon. Via Jupiter.

So this night was unmissable, especially given that my best friend finished her exams two days before, and we gathered a fair crowd of us including two Cocoon virgins, one of whom I have been trying to persuade since 2006.

Learning the mistake of last time, we arrived early at around 10:30pm, despite a shitload of faffing around – a delayed train to London – further delayed on board by engineering works – going to the toilet/getting money out/buying wine/getting cash out (why are people so inefficient – especially when going to see German DJs?) – getting off the tube at Baker Street only to find out the Jubilee line is partially closed – getting back on the tube – walking around two miles to change onto the Jubilee line at Waterloo – meeting people at North Greenwich and losing them within 2 minutes.

It would have been easier to get to Ibiza.

At least we didn't join our other friends who took the boat from Waterloo and promptly got thrown off and had to walk the rest of the way.

The entrance to Building Six had been changed from last year to the opposite side – this made so much more sense as there was a lot more capacity to check tickets, search and allow entry.  I must add that the security team were the most professional yet friendly and helpful I have come across in London and other clubs could learn a lot from them – The Egg and Brixton Electric to name two – especially The Egg which I refuse to ever go to no matter how good the line-up given the security team’s attempted at extortion last time I was there and so many other horror stories I have heard.

There is something special about seeing a club night through from beginning to end and it was very quiet upon arrival.  The warm-up DJ, James Menero (I think?) did a very commendable job in…warming up.  Playing good music but without taking the attention away from the main acts.  We were straight on the dancefloor – no messing around except for taking one photo for my photograph-obsessed friend and I refused to take any more.  I’d paid good money to dance, not take photographs.  Plus I can dance adequately.  I am shit at photography.

Appropriately Steve Bug was the first DJ I saw at Cocoon back in 2004 (I really could not understand why I was enjoying the music that never did anything) and he played a cracking set on Saturday.  He had a big smile on his face – you could see how much he was enjoying these moments and that was reflected upon the crowd who were increasing in number and enjoyment.  Musically it was closest to deep house – the proper stuff, not the new-fangled chart deep house, though this generalised description is perhaps a tad unfair given a good range of music played.  The set had feeling and soul to it, as well as a punch.  I was really impressed.

Christian Burkhardt came on next and though I really enjoy his productions, I wasn’t captivated and went to talk to randoms in the garden and have a sit down for a bit.  I am getting old.  I came back towards the end of his set and he was pumping out some tough beats.

Then Sven arrived - the excitement levels went through the roof in the crowd and he set off in techno destruction mode - taking no prisoners and bashing out some rather tough beats from the off.

It seemed mostly techno to me - obviously (I hate that word) it was not techno of the likes of Surgeon or Perc, for example, but it was the toughest techno I have heard Sven play for a long time.

Lots of fist-pumping, a few drops, loads of energy and plenty of insanely danceable techno.  Just a few tunes I recognised from recorded sets online such as Gary Beck's 'Get Together' - I truly love that song.  One criticism I see online sometimes is that Sven plays "the same old tracks".  He didn't.

Sven was very much enjoying himself - as were the whole crowd.  Overall the crowd were good - a few steroid-heads that looked a bit coke-moody and I saw the security staff having to wrestle one guy to the ground but thankfully free of the sleazeoids that fabric sadly attracts.

Annoyingly it finished on the dot at 6am - not even one last tune.  I appreciate that the security have to clear the Millenium Dome before the normal people arrive and I assume that the license is strictly until 6am only, but it would make more sense if it were open until the first tube train just after 7am.  Thankfully it wasn't too cold so we went and listened to the sound of multiple balloons being blown up.

Have I got anything to moan about?  Of course I have.  Albeit relatively minor glitches.

Firstly the soundsystem, whilst powerful, did seem to have something amiss.  I am no sound engineer but it didn't seem quite as crisp as it could have been.  There could have been more bass.  Maybe I am just too used to fabric.

Secondly the visuals.  I normally really don't give a flying toss about the graphic stuff - a dark room and a couple of lights is sufficient when you have fantastic music.  But last year the stage design actually enhanced the night.  This year it seemed an afterthought - it seemed like it had been created in 10 minutes.  It isn't important and didn't detract from the night.  But it was noted.

Minor gripes aside, this was easily my best night out all year - I still have a massive smile on my face, I am comedown-free (maybe it is delayed), the music was brilliant and I cannot emphasise enough how much I enjoyed this night.

Sven is once again my favourite DJ.  I will still be dancing to him when I am 50.

ps.  Are we sure that we cannot have an ice cannon?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

30 Things That Are Pissing Me Off Right Now

Around one third of this blog was supposed to be me ranting.  All it seems to have become is what have I done.

This is what is pissing me off currently:

1. The inaccurate name of this blog.
2. Pavement cyclists.
3. Mini-earthquakes when trying to sleep caused by doors being slammed.
4. Account managers.  Why does it take a year to get the average query resolved?
5. Half-trains.
6. People who don’t let others get off the train first.  It isn’t going to go without you, don’t be so fucking rude.
7. Gravy droughts.  My mother advises she cannot find my gravy in Hull.  I might stay in Reading for Christmas.
8. Career questions.  Do I try to get a more senior credit control job in London, with significant payrise so I can enjoy London life for a couple of years, take a significant pay-cut to get an entry job somewhere in the UK doing web development, or just continue in my comfortable but increasingly frustrating and boring job, with people I like working with/for?
9. Nigel Farage and the anti-EU/anti-immigrant brigade.  So you really want another Labour cockshafting government?
10. Immigrants.  Who do you think you are, coming over here and asking me to close the window?
11. Hot offices.
12. Knife Party.  Is there a more irresponsibly-named “music” act in the world?  I complained to their manager but unsurprisingly no response.  Cocks.
13. Unstraightened hair.  Some of the opposite sex look quite sexy with that ‘just got out of bed hairstyle’ but I don’t think my curly-end mullet is quite providing the sex-god look.
14. Payment cyclists
15. Being fat.  Why did I go on a massive food binge 2-3 years ago?  So, so bloody hard to lose weight.
16. No playlist.  I didn’t get time to make a Youtube playlist of new tracks to listen to this morning so am stuck with 15 new DJ sets I have downloaded.
17. Lack of musical inspiration.  I keep finding nice tracks but nothing is really exciting me over the last month or so.  The only really great track I have discovered in the last few weeks is from 1989.
18. JQuery.  That and JavaScript I really am finding very difficult to get my head around.
19. People who interrupt.  Learn the art of having a conversation and listening to people – it isn’t all about what you say.
20. Men who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet at work.  WTF?
21. Wet feet.  I bought new shoes from Clarks two months ago and they are already letting in the rain.
22. Pavement cyclists.
23. Rain.  It doesn’t look like the cold spell that was possible for the end of November will happen.  No real hope of cold then until the end of February into March.
24. Crapas.  I am still horrifically mortified with the worst possible tapas that I had in Belgium.  My love of Spain is over.
25. The Office Deodorant Strike.  At least two people seem to be refusing to wear deodorant.
26. Movember.  Is that still a thing?  Move on.
27. Anyone that even considers voting for the party that destroyed our economy, racked up a huge deficit, grew and encouraged a welfare dependency, went to war in Iraq, brought about the NHS Mid Staffs disgrace, sold our gold at record lows, knighted Fred Goodwin for services to banking, and so many other irresponsible destructive actions/inactions to our economy, society and country as a whole.  Unless they sit on their arses all day devouring benefits in which case I understand their decision.
28. Bashar al-Assad.  Probably the biggest arsehole currently alive in the world.
29. Sepp Blatter.  Bringing the beautiful game into disrepute.
30. Pavement cyclists.

I just need to decide what I am eating with my gravy tonight.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

James Went To Brussels

There tend to be disturbances prior to my visits to foreign lands - riots in Paris many years ago, a bomb threat evacuated Ibiza airport the morning of one trip, the army were sent to protect London airports just before another trip abroad...this, my first trip to look at foreigners this year, was no different:

I can only assume my precence has a calming, reassuring effect when I arrive.

I hadn’t been on holiday yet in 2014, however I thought I should take one final opportunity to use the Euro before it collapses.  The arrival of an e-mail offering return train fares to Brussels for £69.00 was too good an opportunity to miss, it ticked the both the boxes of a country I had never been to and the nearest country I had never been to, so 746 e-mails later between myself and my sister we were booked.

As you may know, one is from the exceptionally upmarket city of ‘Ull, so myself and my sister thought it most appropriate to launch our adventure from the champagne bar in St Pancras, which by the way is quite a spectacular train station with the grandest clock.  Even better than the new Reading station.

£41.63 is hopefully the most I will ever have to pay in my life for a round of drinks for two people.  I will state this for clarity now – I much prefer beer.  Champagne is probably nicer than Carlsberg but give me a real beer any day.

The Eurostar security procedures seem so less unpleasant and less threatening than an airport.  I yet again succumbed to the conspiracy to give me table seats despite requesting airline seats on a train, however we were sat opposite a friendly lesbian.  Well…she had short hair.  Shorter than me anyway.  Then again my hair is now longer than a horse.  Jumping ahead a bit, we saw a horse with a nappy in Brussels.  And she told me she was a lesbian.  The lady opposite us, not the horse, obviously.

I had decided that I would find our hotel by looking at Google Maps on the journey and memorising it.  To be fair, we were at one point only one street away and perhaps we would have found it had we not been distracted by the European Union building but we gave up after trying to wheel our suitcases along cobbled streets and got a taxi.  The hotel itself was fine, respectable but the room had a slight but distinct whiff of sewage.  Very comfortable beds – crap pillows.

We headed out to a local bar which had happy hour – except it wasn’t open on a Saturday or Sunday.  Whoever said Brussels was boring?  Instead we had a Leffe in Fat Boy’s pub.  It was nearest, I needed beer, OK?

Our hotel was around 30 minutes walk from the centre of Brussels – the Grand Place was the central focal point and was indeed rather nice.  Just how beautiful?

I am not the only point of beauty.

Both myself and my sister have a love of Tapas so we went to a highly-recommended locals place.  This was where the beauty ended.  Once we had walked around quite a lot trying to find it.

We ordered 8 dishes and a jug of Sangria.  The Sangria was from a box with some added ice.  It looked cheap and tasted cheap.  No wonder we were not allowed drinks whilst waiting for a table.

We had some bread with alioli – the alioli was really nice, the sliced baguette average.  5 dishes arrived at once – the chorizo was badly overcooked, the one piece of lamb kofta was ok.  The 3 prawns were pointlessly submerged in a swimming pool of sauce.  I cannot remember what else we had.

Patatas bravas arrived after.  This was probably potato corners from a frozen bag and there was no bravas – just potato.

We then discovered that the goat’s cheese we had ordered didn’t exist, a good 20 minutes after our 5 dishes arrived.  The replacement was some horrid omelette-type thing.

Then 30 minutes later – the piece de la resistance – albondigas – or meatballs to you and me.  They were cold and slimy, one assumes out of a can.  Absolutely horrid.

I really cannot wait to write my first Trip Advisor restaurant review.

Enough drinks were consumed to make the remaining evening memory hazy, though not overly drunk.  I am really unsure as to why we did not go to the Drug Opera.

Sunday morning and we trusted my Trip Advisor research again for some reason.  Navigating by way of accessing wi-fi from standing outside bars that we had connected to the night before, we found our Shoreditch-style cafĂ©, full of young people, albeit nothing hinting at hipster – this is boring Brussels, don’t forget.  We were served a gorgeous eggs benedict (though I had the sausage variety), with Hollandaise sauce (new discovery).  It was so good that I ate the accompanying salad.

We then headed to the outskirts of Brussels to Mini-Europe which I have wanted to go to for years.  Honestly.  The attached bars kind of reminded me of Hornsea Pottery (yeah I know most of you won’t get that) – rather tacky.  But the park itself was excellent – in a tacky 90’s kind of way.  For €13 we got to walk around every country in the European Union – beat that Ryanair.  Not only that but we got to press a button to hear the individual national anthems.

We got to the UK and guess what happened?  It started raining.  When we walked to France, it stopped raining.  Those were the only 3 minutes of rain all weekend.


Not sure why Spain had an oil refinery catch fire, I am probably missing something from my history lessons that I didn't attend - the fire engine boat did a fine job of putting it out by spraying water near it but definitely not on the fire.

It was rather Euro-kitsch – especially the lift-off of the Euro-rocket.  A delightful hour or so.

We then went to the Atomium.  An impressive tower of balls.  We saw the queue which was about an hour long and spent a good 15 minutes deliberating as to whether to spend the necessary €12.  We did and found out the queue was just for the observation tower, so we went through the escalators and stairs through the exhibition pods.  The exhibitions were absolutely boring.  Thoroughly boring.

Not sure why my camera changed to blurry mode for a while.

The only good bit was this party escalator we went down, which I imagine is what it would be like in a nightclub having taken too much ket.  Possibly.

So then we queued for the observation tower.  And queued.  And queued.  The bright side was that there was a hottie in hotpants to stare at, though she did have a bit of a horsey face.  I cannot say I was impressed with the Belgian women.  50 minutes and we were going up in the fastest lift in Europe.  In 1958.

A few drinks later and we headed to our next researched restaurant – the Chilean lady who ran it didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak French or Spanish so it was an interesting experience, especially when I tried to tell her my favourite DJ, Ricardo Villalobos, is from Chile.

We didn’t understand the starters so settled for bread and a main of 400g of fillet steak.

Remembering that rare in Europe means blue in England, I ordered the medium-rare which was quite an exceptional piece of steak.  Absolutely making up for the horrific experience of the night before, and we even got a kiss from our hostess.

We discovered Delirium for our night-cap which had over 2,000 beers – quite an impressive range.  Delirium is a beer itself and probably my favourite new beer – a banana beer was also rather tasty.

I had a really good time but I wouldn’t add it to my must-visit list.  There was little unique or special about the city and one can see why people think it is boring.  However it was a nice place – lots of chocolate, tons of beer, decent weather, a fabulous sister for company.

I wouldn’t recommend against going, however Berlin, Barcelona and London are all light years ahead of Brussels.

Oh and Mario Dragi, if you are reading - QUANTITATIVE EASING!  Do it!