Reviewed: Magic Door 5th Birthday
Friday afternoon, the weekend arrives for most: many head to the nearest watering hole to socialise, while others prepare for plans already made. But for a lucky crowd of forward-thinking partygoers, the 6th of October (2017) is a special night. For me, more-so as I excitedly grab some things and head over to Birmingham’s Lab 11 to catch Magic Door’s 5th Birthday!
Still the best night of House (and Disco) I’ve ever attended, the last time I was in attendance (read here) was something of an eye-opener and game-changer. But tonight was weighted heavily with expectation. Would it live up to my previous experience? Could it?! I put on one of my most flamboyant Hawaiian shirts, and headed over to find out.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity to be one with the crowd, I filed in alongside fellow ravers, immersing myself in the queue. Curiously, there was some sort of maintenance/service van loitering adjacent to the excitable throng, but it wasn’t ‘til a particularly ‘brimming’ fellow was in need of projectile ejection that we saw the fates had aligned and after the service jet-washed the incident from the ground, the pavement was free from vom’.
Entering the space, we were greeted with complimentary prosecco, in celebration of their 5th birthday, and the obligatory ‘magic bean’ – a token to be exchanged with the glitter fairies for them to adorn us with sparkly fun.
It being a gala event, I was keen to get some time with one of the co-founders, and possibly a guest DJ, to talk about how my favourite House & Disco night came about.
Having concluded the conversational side of the night, it was time to roll in and party out. With a lot of time spent elsewhere already, my first stop was Caroline Banx in the Back Terrace, laying down some heady Tech-House. It was chilled but energetic, with partygoers pacing themselves well. Moving out through the smoking area, it became immediately evident that the venue had been altered since my last visit, and the layout was quite different – as the interview earlier had already offered up.
Stepping into the Main Terrace – where memories of genuine awe came flooding back – I managed to catch the last few numbers from the bossin’ Danny Kane, before the super-glitzy cape-wearing Deano Ferrino began dropping deliciously disco-orientated House that melted in and out of Tech-House vibes for the already-heaving crowd. Finding myself a nice spot to gaze around at the vibe, it was truly joyous to see that my last experience of Magic Door was not a one-off, but as much the repeating success I had imagined. The extensive queue for glitter was a prime example that the people who come here do so to have a great time and feel good – still a refreshing antithesis from a culture of fakers and narcissists that fills many a nightspot outside of this touring haven of soulfulness.
Now, my memory of Magic Door was that of an outdoor festival weekend concentrated into eight hours indoors – without the nasty portaloos, parking problems, rain, tents, mud, and jaw-breaking gurners etc – and, as with every festival I attend, I was happy to prioritise headliners under the smaller acts. However, when the headliner is Norman Jay MBE, one knows where one needs to be!
Sliding out Soul, Funk, Disco, classic House, and reinventions of some quintessential Motown, the man of the night was slaying his crowd with the grooves of all grooves. Arguably an education in great music, his two-hour session was filled with beauty and joy, the likes of which sums up Magic Door entirely. But it wasn’t until “Thriller” was followed soon after by a mash-up of Soft Cell and Bob Marley – yes, I know it’s seems weird, but believe me, it was incredible! – that a decidedly 80s vibe was hit, and the ever-expanding crowd rumped & bumped onward into the night.
Trembling with adrenaline still, it was off to catch two of the Magic Door co-founders (with whom I was in conversation with earlier) in their Jukes Of Hazard guise, once again perpetuating wonderment in excess! Very much enjoying the colourful excursions through World Music vibes as much as the deeper and darker side of current Techno, in and amongst a very party-orientated Tech-House front, the Main Terrace was once again the place to be. That said, 3AM saw my attention divert back to the Main Room for some old skool classics with Mr. Doris, with whom I had got the chance to exchange words with some hours before.
Laying down classics such as Disco’s Revenge, Flawless, Ultimate Funk (as well as others from Bob Sinclar’s heyday), and Let’s Start The Dance, I was sure enough getting very vocal [and profane] for a lot of his set. But the night was still in its prime and, while I was happy staying put, there was still more to investigate…
PBR Streetgang, were still in session by the time I bounced back to the Main Terrace after checkin’ in with Ernest and his 80s descent over in the Back Terrace – which was ideal for anyone seeking something lighter.
The respective crowds had each thinned a tad by 5AM, but Maxxi Soundsystem was still keepin’ it solid for the boppin’ masses in the Terrace, joined in the booth by some of the Magic Door residents. Looking out across the crowd and DJ(s), a recurring theme ebbed back into mind… something I felt the first time I arrived here, something reinforced by the interview I had taken earlier, and the same thing that I was seeing and feeling now: family.
The crowd were comfortable in themselves and one another to be candid and jovial, without intruding – I personally was the subject of a few ‘banterful’ gestures during my travels between rooms – and there had not been a single note of aggression during the eight hours the night had been on for. But what struck me the most was that among those performing, there was definitely a vibe of familial love between them. From the residents to the guests, everyone was happy that everyone else was there. It was like a public holiday where all of your favourite cousins come over for dinner!
There is always a strong feeling of love at Magic Door, and for their 5th birthday, it was somehow even stronger. As they go from strength to strength in the coming months/years, whether it’s opening out or focusing in, there are big things in store for this community of soulful groovers. So whatever you do or wherever you go next: take some time out to make sure you step through the Magic Door… !
Keep up to date with Magic Door events here
Photo credit: Khris Cowley & Krishan Chauhan & Patrick Fleming