Reviewed: ABODE at The Source Bar
Nothing represents an opportunity to let your hair down and shake a leg more than a bumper 4-day bank holiday weekend at Easter. Naturally, it’s one of the biggest weekends on the clubbing calendar. And, depending on when Easter itself falls, is often the segway to the summer. On Easter Sunday we joined Abode’s loyal following for their street party at the Source Bar in Maidstone. With Ibiza now visible on the horizon, Kai, Peter, Joseph and their team are putting the final touches on another jam-packed summer.
We arrive early doors just shy of 4PM, waltzing straight to the front. Logic tells us the luxury of space won’t last long. Abode’s legion of fans now stretches way beyond the confines of London. Clubbers flock to these street parties in droves. Today will be no exception. Local lad Jonny Bryant is warming the early-comers up nicely. The sun may have neglected to show-up (well, it is a British bank holiday afterall!) But the shades and smiles are out in full force, regardless. Old favourites Volkoder ‘As De Spada’ & Flashmob ‘Need In Me’ help set the pace. Sunshine vibes, just minus the sun!
We visit the balcony which overlooks the alley giving birdseye views. Solardo are due on any minute. This was our reason for heading down nice and early. It takes them scant time to whip the crowd into a frenzy. An edit of Armand Van Helden takes the roof off! It brings back memories – a go-to track of Nic Fanciulli’s when playing here, his home venue. But Solardo make it all their own. They have the dancefloor eating out the palm of their hand.
If any one act epitomises the sound of Abode, arguably Solardo are it. Mark Barlow & James Elliot exited 2016 and entered 2017 as house music’s hottest property. It was here in this very alley that they headlined Abode’s NYE Street Party. It was a booking which underpinned a phenomenal 12-month period for the duo. More recently Abode invited them back to play their Printworks date. It’s a partnership which fits. Long may it continue.
When Abode arrived on the scene in 2014 they were upstarts who threatened to readdress the balance of the playing field. In doing so, they put several detractors’ noses out of place. Now, some 2.5 years down the line, they are the market leaders. Trendsetters. The first promoters to truly harness the power social media to its full potential. The measuring stick. Two-and-a-half years of trials, tribulations and hard graft. It hasn’t always been plain sailing.
In that same time they plucked a roster of residents from relative obscurity and handed them a platform. There, they have flourished and gone-on to become bonafide stars in their own right. Guys and girls who were working on the fringes of the London scene. Who couldn’t catch a break. Guys and girls who have grown into family. It’s a close-knit affair. Today their names can be found topping the bill at other people’s parties in-and-around the capital. To call it ‘a break’ would be an understatement.
We sneak past security and smuggle ourselves on stage. Here we join WAGs, VVVIPs, hostesses, runners, waiters, groupies and hanger’s-on. Just about every variation of booth-lurker going. It’s almost as busy here downstairs! It’s just the extended family. We peer down at the sea of ravers in the alley below. Adrenaline kicks in. A spectacular sight! GW Harrison has been part of the family since day one. This marks somewhat of a homecoming for George. It’s the venue where he cut his teeth. From warm-up DJ, to prime-time slot. Another Abode success story.
Mercifully the music is turned on inside. Alleviating the strain of the crowd outside, it’s a welcomed blessing. We take the option of shelter, joining dozens of other revellers. Benny Ataari is the first man in the booth. He plays a considered set, littered with disco edits. Music in contrast to the relentless bass outside in the alley.
All signs point to Ben being a regular fixture for HotBed at Ocean Beach in Ibiza this summer. On this evidence it bares the stamp of a shrewd piece of programming. It’s music made for poolside antics! Chris Nottingham is up next. He switches things up a notch. This is house music with swagger and serious attitude! It’s now that space inside is getting as squeezed as out. With that in mind and clocking the time, we fight our way back outdoors.
We muscle into a decent spot just in time. Abode’s First Lady Ellie Cocks is handing over to Art Department. As our headliner readies himself behind the decks it feels like every punter in the gaff surges outside. Jonny White wastes no time in making an impact. Yet again space is a severely lacking commodity. Despite being crammed in, the make-shift dancefloor is rocking! We are caught in the cross-fire of stereo CO2 blasts! Hands go up. Weapon of choice is Tiga vs Dense & Pika – ‘Louder Than A Bomb’. It does as the title suggests, the floor erupting.
Our headliner reads the crowd just so, playing a set which is both true to his signature sound yet accessible to the audience. The hallmark of a pro. Whilst perhaps not quite out of leftfield, the Canadian does represents a more varied booking for the London party. If this is an indication of things to come, it makes their imminent Ibiza line-ups all the more scintillating.
We get back to the club room just as Lindsey Matthews is handing over to Beth Caruana. We’ve hit peak time. With one-eye on the closure of the alleyway, the hordes seek refuge inside. Caruana rises to the occasion. It’s our stand-out set of the night. High-tempo, pumping tech house. Even a technical blip mid-set fails to break the momentum. Lesser DJs might’ve lost their cool. But the south coast based DJ doesn’t break sweat.
Scenes aren’t too different in the adjacent courtyard. On a standard night the area is more commonly used as a commune for smokers and vapers. But owing to the capacity crowd in attendance, tonight it is a dancefloor in its own right. It’s another upcoming local, James Galloway, who is delivering a debut set which is nothing short of firebrand.
So what is it that makes Abode a cut above the rest? It isn’t hard to decipher. Collaboration. How often in this industry do we see the best of people when they come together, instead of locking horns? It’s collaboration which is at the very heart of Abode’s ethos. A family affair. Together they are greater than the sum of their parts.
Since the early days of losing 5-figure sums on extravagant line-ups and boat-party ventures gone awry, this is a party on a seemingly unstoppable upward curve. We beg the question: is there a London-based club brand that wields as much clout as Abode? Probably not. Older. Wiser. No longer the new kids on the block. And with 2017 set to be their biggest year to date.
They’ve been handed the coveted Sunday night slot at Sankeys Ibiza, replacing the outgoing (VIVa) Warriors. Big boots to fill. But if ever there was a readymade replacement waiting in the wings… Sankeys, too it seems, opting to keep it ‘in the family’. They’re also priming for their first foray into festival territory. On Sunday 24th September they takeover North London’s Finsbury Park. Having successfully hosted stages and VIP tents at other promoter’s festivals, this was the next logical step. And to top it all off, they’re still selling-out their spiritual home – Studio 338 – in minutes; the Greenwich venue making its much anticipated return this summer.
To paraphrase, we’re all better together. #FAMILYABODE