Reviewed: John Digweed at Phonox
There aren’t many prolific artists that have pioneered a specific genre of the dance music more than John Digweed. He’s the kind of dude that causes a stir whenever he’s announced on a line-up, especially when his renowned event series Bedrock ends their 2019 at the intimate and widely adored Phonox. On a slightly drizzly Thursday evening, the undisputed king of progressive house gave himself a solid 6 hours of prime DJ slot to an extremely receptive crowd in one of London’s best clubs.
It’s always great to see a crowd as diverse as when a middle aged DJ from the golden age of dance music takes the helm. You get the old school heads from the 90s keeping their youth alive mixed in with the younger fans that reminisce of a lost opportunity not being born 20 years earlier, making it easy to sometimes feel like you’ve gone clubbing with your parents mates if you happen to be someone in your 20s. This is in no way a negative; the clubbing experience is so much more enjoyable when you know that you’re part of an event that is almost a pilgrimage for some.
If you’ve been to Phonox you’ll know that it’s easily one of the most enjoyable clubbing experiences out there in the capital. A nicely intimate venue that rarely feels overcrowded, an undeniably banging sound system and a DJ booth that almost feels a part of the dance floor. A very head-y audience that you could clearly tell weren’t there to mess about provided a very enjoyable atmosphere on top of that – the generally stone-faced Digweed even managed a slight smile from time to time.
As you can imagine technically it was a masterpiece display. When it’s an artist that has reached the DJing pinnacle that is Digweed you really should be expecting nothing less; you could almost feel like you’ve been listening to a single 6 hour long track for the entire evening. His song selection was obviously excellent and a clear extension of his own Bedrock aesthetic, his transitions were beyond seamless and the energy flow was carefully thought out. How many atmospheric synth-laden breaks can you throw in in a single evening? More than you can shake a stick at is the answer.
If you happened to be the earliest bird and keen bean of them all, you would’ve been greeted to some top notch progressive chug for the first couple of hours with tracks including Tone Depth’s ‘Pelago’. Imagine all your best dance floor warmers paving the way nicely for an easy mooch into your Thursday evening. Perhaps a slight gripe might be the fact it didn’t hit the level you might want early enough – there were some brilliant Digweed-esque stompers that would have you Shazaming all night long (cue Frankey’s & Sandrino’s new remix of ‘Naked’) but only the last 90 minutes provided the most memorable parts of the night. Maybe Digweed was being considerate for all those that were at work on Friday? I doubt it.
Within that last 90 minutes, you really did get those brilliant moments. Tracks like Ross Alexander’s ‘Repeat Chance’ really set the tempo and didn’t let up. Picture a dance floor basking in a baffling warped vocal sample that had many a bemused face glancing around before a huge reverb-drenched build up drops to a groovy subby bassline. Those tracks that get you looking to your mate and saying, ‘where’s he got this tune from!?’ are what it’s all about really. Digweed delivered the goods…signed and sealed on that one.
Although it might’ve been no drink November for me, I had no problem making my way to 3am on Diet Coke’s with the prog house legend providing my Thursday night soundtrack. Oh, and auto-Shazam got 23 ID’s, Merry Xmas to me!