Reviewed: Garage Nation’s 22nd Birthday
Last month in the run-up to Christmas, superclub fabric played host to Garage Nation‘s official 22nd Birthday celebrations. First established in the midst of UKG’s heyday in 1997, Garage Nation has gone from strength to strength with events up and down the UK, an official festival, and even intentional events like ‘Garage Nation In The Sun’ and ‘Garage Nation In The Dam’ in Amsterdam, which I was lucky enough to warm up for last November.
Having DJ’d at a few Garage Nation events myself I was becoming quite at home with some of the UKG stalwarts and legends on the scene. With big names in the game like Cartier, Redhot, Norris ‘Da Boss’ Windross, Luck & Neat on the decks, and MC’s Creed, Viper, DT, and Preshus among others, I was absolutely honoured to be asked to play at this definitive garage event, at one of the most prestigious (and largest) nightclubs in London and the UK.
Understandably nervous I entered the venue, wrist band ready, and just a little bit in awe at the scale of the event. Glamorous ladies in bodycon dresses fanned themselves in time to 2-step and the men looked dapper in their smart sportswear whilst they sipped on brandy and coke. The atmosphere was bubbling away nicely. I was chaperoned to the green room for Room 1 by a member of the Garage Nation team via an inconspicuous door. Inside it was like a who’s who of UKG. Scott ‘its a London Thing’ Garcia sat chatting away to MC DT and DJ Redhot, whilst Rinse FM legend Marcus Nasty greeted me in a Santa hat. As a relative newbie to the scene, some of the regulars were unaware if not a little curious of who I was, especially as a rare female addition to the DJ repertoire on the night. But it made it all the more novel and exciting for me.
Walking up a dingy flight of stairs I hustled past Romeo Dunn of So Solid Crew and his posse to the back of stage 1. On one hand it surreal at how many of my musical idols I was stumbling across, but on the other hand, I was distinctly aware that I was about to do one of the biggest gigs of my life. I stood and watched in the shadows at DJ Luck and MC Neat in action as they played a classic set. I spectated the crowd as they lapped up the UKG hype.
During the night I split my time between the dance floor and backstage, as I got a sense of what the crowd were enjoying. I looked on at DJ Redhot who impressed with his expertly selected song choices, clean chopping and mixing. However, I couldn’t enjoy myself too much as I had to keep an eye on the time. It was nearing 5.30am which was time for me to hit the stage. I wasn’t sure how many people would still be raving at this point but I was surprised (if not terrified) by the sheer number of people still on the dance floor in Room 1. But I didn’t have time to think; I was escorted to the decks as Redhot played a couple of grime numbers; a refreshing change to some of the classic garage tunes that often appear throughout the night.
My time had come. Redhot moved aside as I implanted my USB stick into the NXS like a knight impaling his sword – it all felt rather profound. A surge of nerves rendered me momentarily nauseous, but after my first tune dropped (‘Key Bomb’ by Mind of Dragon, a retake on Kenny Dope’s house anthem), I knew I was off to a good start. I looked up at the crowd after a few tracks and to my delight, the crowd was loving it, I even saw one girl on someone’s shoulders as if they were at a festival on a summers day (rather than dawn on a December morning). Kofi B was the MC on stage and he did an excellent job at hyping me and the crowd up.
Eventually, I switched the vibe into a more mellow UK Funky vibe. It was a bit of a gamble but it felt right. It transpired it was a good call as the slight change in tempo, and the syncopated beats caught the crowds attention. It was at this point that BBK member and MC legend Jammer appeared from nowhere. He grabbed the mic, clearly enthused by the UK funky vibes on play. I stealthily mixed into ‘Tell Me’ by DJ NG feat Katy B, a moody UK Funky stormer, perfect for the late night vibe. Jammer hyped the crowd who were loving it, and figures appeared around me dancing and swinging trigger fingers my way. I was completely in the zone.
By 6.30am I looked up at the security guard on stage and mouthed ‘where’s the next DJ?’. It turned out there wasn’t one, so I played on, keeping the crowd happy with a mix of old and new garage, UK Funky, and house. When the lights came on at 7am the crowd rippled in applause and heckled for an encore. I beamed and apologised that I wasn’t allowed but held my hands to my chest and mouthed the words ‘thank you’ sincerely. It was one of the most exciting and life affirming moments of 2019, and quite possibly my life, and one I’ll never forget.
Garage Nation’s next event is at Scala on 8th February, get tickets now before they sell out here