Shindig vs. Wax:On at Digital - Newcastle, UK (31 Dec 2005)

Newcastle is one of the most attractive and charming small cities in the UK - typified by its strong cultural identity and an ambitious vision for its future development. This identity and vision, components that are so important to its population, are also inseparable from and crucial to the small but well supported club scene.

For the past 14 years Shindig has been at the very heart of this unique club culture. Starting out in 1991 as a small club night set up by scene stalwarts Scott Bradford and Scooby, Shindig has grown steadily through its residencies at World Headquarters, Foundation and now Digital. The night is a rare commodity. As a constant source of quality house music (passionately supported by its loyal local following) it has stayed true to its musical integrity whilst other, lesser nights came and went as quickly as the transitions in musical styles they tried to adopt. Without Shindig the house music environment in the North of England would be severely lacking in colour. And rumour has it that the move from Foundation to Digital has revitalised Shindig. Since the club night opened its doors all those years ago many other promoters have tried to emulate its success.

Of all of these nights none have been as fast paced and clinical in its rise to fame as the relatively new night Wax:On. And it was this tempting combination of old and new that has generated great excitement within the Beat Factor camp as it travelled north to sample this brand new atmosphere.

As Beat Factor entered the festivities the fascinating surroundings of Digital were jammed full of dressed up, hyped up house music fans. DJ Mag recently described Digital as the Fabric of the North - but I can only assume that the publication's reviewer had never actually been to Fabric. The two clubs shells (let alone their music policies) couldn't been more different if they tried. Digital, previously the camp Powerhouse, is a decorative canvas characterised by flashy ornaments, outrageous DJ booth lights, and gold-framed mirrors. Fabric, on the other hand, is more like the underground lab of an evil scientist with exposed brickwork, metal piping and clinical space styling. Furthermore, Digital's musical direction through both Shindig and Wax:On is in no way comparable to the forward thinking musical policy in place at EC1.

In a similar fashion to the oldest kid on the block claiming the back seat of the school bus, Shindig took control of the proceedings in the main room. Reassuringly Scott Bradford took care of the music pre midnight and as ever he did an exceptional job. Scott Bradford is one of the best resident DJ's in the UK, consistently delivering flawless sets that without fail work up his Shindig crowd ready for the headline action. Understandable he knows what his consumers require and in turn provides an excellent selection of progressive and upbeat electronic cuts that work a treat on the expansive dancefloor. As midnight approached the impressive Pioneer driven DJ booth became the workstation of the very talented James Zabiela. The technically innovative DJ wasted no time in getting to grips with the Digital crowd, dropping the seminal 'Plastic Dreams' to commence 2006 in style. He then proceeded to sequence a flawless DJ display that encompassed quality electro influenced house, some well placed bouncy breaks and even some tempting techno. Notably Deetron's remarkable remake of Smith and Selway's 'Work It' shook the very foundations of Digital and pushed its well publicised Funktion One stacks to the limit. And despite Shindig's overriding house music objectives this modern techno gem received one of the biggest receptions of the night. Zabiela didn't slow down from here. Other highlights included Dave Taylor's unstoppable 'This Is Sick' on Front Room Recordings. This track completely destroyed a wide selection of dancefloors throughout 2005 and judging by the reaction at Digital it should continue to do similar damage in 2006 as well. In fact Front Room boss Jesse Rose first played 'This Is Sick' at Fabric's NYE party last year so perhaps there are some similarities after all!

As is the case with impressive DJ performances things were over in a flash. Luckily Shindig's promoters had lined up another rising house star to ensure the party carried on in capable hands. Nic Fanciulli, resident of Club Class and fast becoming an international DJ in his own right, has had a great year hosting a popular show on Radio 1 and releasing a critically acclaimed mix CD. And on the evidence of the earlier part of his set it wasn't hard to see why. Taking things a touch harder, Fanciulli programmed in a storming percussive mix of Underworld's renowned '2 Months Off' to great effective. However as his set progressed Nic Fanciulli made the common error of not reading the crowd. If there is one place capable of resisting the seemingly unstoppable waves of minimalist electronics that are washing over dance music then that place is the centre of Shindig's dancefloor. The bass heavy minimal hum of Claude Vonstroke's mix of 'Cicada' by ex freak Justin Martin flew miles over most heads in the main room and significantly killed the energy levels. Coincidently at the same time the crowd began to thin as it seemed that a large percentage of Digital's population had been there to see in the New Year - not 2 of the most promising DJ's in current circulation. Despite this setback things improved musically as Fanciulli's Skylark project mix of Chiapet's 'Westworld' entered the sound waves to a healthy reception.

Up on the first floor Wax:On's guests were also making themselves heard. By all accounts the solid DJ Touché threw together a cracking party mix selection to a full capacity back room. From its beginning as the breaks night Central to its current operation as Wax:On this growing night has established a dedicated following and many of these loyal clubbers were out in force to celebrate the New Year. Annie Mac also graced the decks and the crowd reaction suggested that the Radio 1 DJ hit the right notes. However the jury is still out on Annie Mac. Promising reviews contrast with arguments that she is simply a more fashionable version of Dave Pearce. That said, in the end this is ultimately a matter of personal preference. The first floor energy waned as the night progressed with the Wax:On residents pushing out some repetitive and rather forgettable breaks. As Beat Factor decided to look elsewhere the sight of one of the night's promoters fast asleep on the seats was perhaps the most apt assessment of Wax:On's party.

Back in the main room those who decided to see the night out were treated to James Zabiela and Nic Fanciulli indulging in some back-to-back action on the decks, which proved to be a rewarding end to an interesting night. As ever James Zabiela received plenty of praise and although Nic Fanciulli may have made a few unwise selections he still displayed enough to suggest that his star will no doubt shine brightly in 2006. Judging by tonight's performances it is also pretty safe to suggest that Shindig will continue to be a popular house music destination. It's trusted musical policy is perfectly matched to the plush, spacious clubscape of Digital and this partnership will no doubt flourish for a very long time. Moreover, if Wax:On can recapture the unique qualities that it transmitted as Central, rather than trying to simply replicate other eclectic UK nights it too could become a valuable addition to both the North East's and the UK's expanding club scene. However, if you are on a mission to locate the Fabric of the North you will need to stay on the A1 and set you satellite navigation system for Glasgow, and The Arches.

Shindig vs. Wax:On at Digital - Newcastle, UK (31 Dec 2005)

January 24, 2006 at 12:20 PM CET

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