After what seems like an eternity, 31-days of self-imposed torture has finished. Dry January is over. The fad diets and the gym membership cards have been cast aside. DT, too, emerge from hibernation. A little disorientated, perhaps. But well rested. And in dire need of shaking off the rust and limbering-up for a dance! Fatboy Slim playing to a sold-out street party is quite a way to open our 2018 clubbing account. Originally scheduled as a pre-Christmas shindig, that we had to wait an extra two months for the event to roll around only added fuel to the fire. IT AIN’T OVER ‘TIL THE FATBOY SINGS!
The Source Bar in Maidstone would be our destination – our “local” which we’ve been guilty of neglecting in the past, in favour of the bright lights of the city. In recent weeks the venue has been decked-out as both a neon jungle and a derelict warehouse. But today it’s covered in smileys – Fatboy’s trademark motif. Even the marquee which covers the alleyway is brand new. And on a night as cold and wet as tonight, it’s presence is welcomed.
Apart from production, investment has been made elsewhere. Their 2018 programming is bursting with such talent, we can see us spending a lot of our weekends holed-up locally. Over the coming months, they’ll be inviting a conveyor belt of guest DJs and superbrands to host the venue. ANTS, Garage Nation and Abode are all confirmed, with the likes of Detlef, Lawler and Skream leading the charge to summer. Scintillating stuff! It is in contrast to two years prior, when external promoters were ousted and all events taken in-house. For a town who had grown accustomed to seeing electronic music’s elite week-in, week-out it was a hard pill to swallow. Thankfully the tide has turned. Prevalent currents now flow strong enough to entice us away from the allures of the Big Smoke.
It’s 6PM. Nic Fanciulli is pulling opening duties early doors. It’s refreshing to see an international star muck-in with the toughest set of the night. That he is able to deliver a slower tempo set in comparison to his usual peak-time slot is the sign of true professionalism. As the art of the warm-up comes increasingly under the microscope, there seems to be a growing trend for A-listers to return to their roots. Long may it continue. After a topsy-turvy five years as boss of The Social festival, we’re delighted that Nic has decided to bring Saved club shows back to Maidstone after a hiatus which stretches back to 2014. The pace is gradually picked-up with Nic ending on one from his label, Subb-An’s ‘This Place’. The reins are handed to another Kent favourite, Tristan Ingram. By now the crowd has started to gather. Tristan unloads Darius Syrossian’s We Are The Brave stomper ‘Made For Manchester’ as down below we scope out a good position for later on.
Before the main attraction jumps on, we take the opportunity to explore the inside of the venue. As with outside, improvements have been made to the club space. Lighting and sound have all been upgraded since our last visit. Caruana – returning to the scene of one of our stand-out sets of last year – has the main room rockin’. She plays the Star ’69-sampled ‘What Is What’ by Picca & Mars – no doubt in homage to the headliner. But our high-point is the So’ton based DJ road-testing her own new productions, ‘Talkin’’. Pure fire!
Back outside it’s the turn of the younger Fanciulli sibling to work his hometown. Mark plays the spectrum between the two points of house & techno. By now every inch of floor space is occupied. Toilet breaks and bar runs will need to be synchronised and forward-planned, else vantage risks being ceded. Looking around us, it’s clear that this is an inter-generational affair. Every age is represented from greying veterans to fresh-faced teens, underlining Norman’s populism.
“Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls” Norman’s Hawaiian-shirted silhouette appears in front of the backlit. The instantly recognisable opening keys of ‘Praise You’ ring out and the floor goes nuts. Florence Welch’s ‘You Got the Love’ vocal sears through the alley. Dual cylinders fire streams of CO2 in upward projectile either side of our headliner, engulfing those brave enough at the front. The music builds into Mella Dee’s massive ‘Techno Disco Tool’ as we stare up at our idol, halfway between the gutter and the stars.
He is fully-charged behind the decks, whipping the dancefloor into a frenzy with theatrical gestures. When Norman Cook steps on stage and assumes the Fatboy Slim persona it is a transformation with which we can all relate to on some level. A fun-loving, mischievous rebel that even our nan has a soft spot for. A manifestation of the life and soul of the party. It’s about shedding your inhibitions and subscribing to some good, old-fashioned nonsense! He’s been doing this for twenty plus years. It is a routine he continues to perfect with age. Away from the spotlight and out-of-character, he is more modest. Even going as far to admit, that at the age of 54 and having been active since the 80s, it’s fair game to consider him a “heritage act”.
The dancefloor whoops as he drops Wu Tang Clan’s mammoth ‘Gravel Pit’ out of nowhere. It asks the question: what does a track need to have to be a Fatboy Slim track? It could be house, electro, techno, EDM or just straight-up pop music. Regardless of genre, the answer is simply…attitude! Fistfuls of it. Again, we come back to that carefree live fast, die young persona.
Fatboy Slim brings in the tribal drums and we get a taste of Brazilian samba. You see a lot of weird things at raves. Somebody dressed in shark fancy dress breaches the wave of people. It might be mid-winter on a bitter February night, but there’s carnival scenes! Our headliner drops one of his more recent hits ‘Where U Iz’, veers off into acid territory with Waze & Odyssey’s remix of Lee Foss & Lee Curtiss, then comes back with edit of last summer’s smash from CamelPhat, ‘Cola’.
There’s a sentiment amongst a quarter of the dance music community that Fatboy Slim has lost some of his desire. That he’s trading-off former glories. And whilst we appreciate that his current output certainly isn’t to everybody’s taste, tonight’s performance is enough to confirm that the passion still burns bright. A welcomed departure for his big festival sets, which can sometimes be accused of being a little too predictable.
As the night continues, we would also catch sets from Pacha’s Alex Kennon and local talent K&K, Lewis Clark and Simon Davis. But nothing beats the exhilaration of the alley! If we can have any niggling complaints from the night, it’s that the supporting cast are only given a slender hour each with which to play. It seems such a waste of the talent. That aside, we’re looking forward to more alfresco escapades in Rose Yard. And if Fatboy Slim is indeed a heritage act, then whether rose-tinted or not, his legacy is one that we look back on with fond memories. The Fatboy didn’t just sing. HE CROWED!!! One of a kind. They don’t make ‘em like they used to!
Photo Credit: Luke Curtis