Reviewed: Magic Door
In today’s world of glammed-up twenty-somethings arriving at a venue, looking to be seen; then to go on recklessly ingesting unnamed powders and crystals, all in the pursuit of escaping modern living and to convince themselves that they can have [and are having] a better time than anyone else in the room, it is always saddening to find oneself in the midst of a horrifying circus of rosy-cheeked gurners, most of whom weren’t even an idea when the music they think they’re enjoying was first conceived. But here is where everything changes…
Step into Magic Door, a night that pops up about ten times a year – and has been going for some five years now – where the crowd are there for two things: a good time, and a great vibe. On this occasion, Birmingham’s Lab11 is host to the experience, and with a large handful of DJs across three rooms and eight hours, there is time and space for everyone. Casually, the main room opens on a broad sense of Disco – think something groovy from 70s Funk to 80s Pop – while the main terrace warms on a more modern take on those sensibilities. Immediately, where most millennials wouldn’t leave ‘the pre-sesh’ before midnight, already there is a long queue of excitable partygoers… and it’s only 10pm! Subsequently, it is less than an hour before the rooms are all nicely filled with modest outfits and a general sense of contentment among the notably young crowd – “anything below 30 is the modern youth nowadays!” a happy cynic assures me as I pass through the smoking area, curious to see what kind of state everyone is in.
Already, the night is off to a great start, so as I make my way toward one of tonight’s hosts and DJs, I can’t help but take in the feeling of being at a remote festival despite knowing civilization is but a few hundred metres away. While I leave the queue for the bar behind me – a congregation that only ever really expands to two-people-deep – to my left is a wholly different queue. Having been through it an hour ago, while it was still a bit quiet, I turn to Deano Ferrino – a DJ whose set I would go on to broadcast over Data Transmission’s FacebookLive stream – and ask, “do they know what they’re in for?”
“Yeah, of course.” he says dryly. “They’re regulars.”
The look of disbelief and intrigue across my face is met with a wry smile. “Where I come from…” I retort, oblivious to how intolerant I am about to seem “…guys who look like that don’t tend to agree to getting face-paint and glittered during their night out, let alone queue up for it!” He smiles, confused, chuckling as we are both suddenly aware that it is in fact I who has no idea what he’s in for!
Heading into the Main room some time later, I plonk myself at the bar, again surprised by how small the queue is. Eyeing up the spirits on offer, I see much of the usual, and a little extra. Throwing teetotalism to the wind, I decide to order something that is ‘very me’, but not customarily self-abusive. Once the barmaid returns with my double Jaegermeister and coke, I happily pay the £6 price tag, and move to the dance-floor, still incredulous. By this point, the funk has evolved into House, and small groups of three-to-four are bopping away. I smile to myself, noting that wherever I go, ‘there will always be young-uns ashufflin’.
Despite concerns of missing out on more of the same soulful sounds that I have spent the last hour lapping up, I figure it would be prudent to check out the other rooms. Before I know it, I am surrounded by happy faces amongst pleasant people, all enjoying themselves and their present company. The music is great, the FunktionOne setup clearly optimized by an actual professional, and the groove is decidedly solid. My drink has long since disappeared, but there is no need for another: I am entirely content by the beautiful vibe around me.
Before long, I am at the front of this heaving crowd, having easily manoeuvred myself through an audience respectful of each others’ personal space. As I joyfully shift some ass with like-minded individuals, the music really starts to come into its own, now with Danny Kane providing his own brand of service… which turns out to be everything I could possibly want right now! Funky, urban, and even a little sexy, there is something of the Paradise Garage in the air, and it feels as good as it sounds. A classic Steve Hurley number sets me off vocally, and all I can do is sing & dance as hard as I can – denying a free drink from one of my new pals, assuming that it will take me away from where I’m at. The music continues into the next track, and I catch up with said pal…
“D’ya want a drink, mate?” he offers.
“Some water would be fuckin’ great!” I say emphatically.
Shortly after, I move for a time-out to take it all in, speaking to some of the regulars. We talk about how wonderful the vibe is, and how everyone is here for all the right reasons – acknowledging how rare such a thing is ‘these days’.
Looking around [see relevant social media for the Snapchat vids] I am truly humbled by how incredible the night has been so far, and that it is still only just beginning!
1AM, sees Deano grace the decks in a multi-coloured, furry, all-in-one number: an outfit that not only accurately represents how inclusive this party is, but how all-encompassing the vibe throughout the whole venue is, and most importantly how much no-one takes themselves too seriously – a factor devoid from an alarmingly high number of club nights and partygoers around the country. Firsthand fun is at the forefront here, and if you can’t feel it in your bones, you can see it on everyone’s face. I make my way to the front again, in case he plays something I need to express immense appreciation for… which he does… often!
Later, I check back and forth between the different rooms, where a lot of love is being expressed for the DJs as I consider getting another drink, the queues still looking manageable. But opting for more shape-cutting amongst the crowd, I notice some of the guys and girls I saw earlier still going strong. I smile to myself and continue boppin’. Grabbing a few more Snapchats whilst freaking out to Maxxi Soundsystem and Sam Redmore respectively, I head back to the Terrace for Jukes Of Hazard and what is commonly referred to as ‘the graveyard set’.
As I stand, physically warmed by the exceedingly heavy bass massaging my entire being from ear to internal organs, I am overwhelmed by how truly awe-inspiring the night has been. In my trademark shut-eye boogie, I think back over how rapturous the last 7 seven hours have felt, losing myself in both memories and incredible beats still pumping out by the top of my head. As the music resumes its takeover of my body, I scream blasphemous cheers of thunderous triumph in time with the ever-evolving drop.
However, my body on its last legs – having arrived in the venue at 9pm – I hear its beckon in the depths of a breakdown, and realize how exhausted I am. Taking a more sensible outlook, being a supposedly responsible thirty-something, I grudgingly pick up my coat and stagger through the still-rammed crowd, my mere presence parting them to either side as every bit the biblical epic my night seems to have become now.
Magic Door is one of the few nights out that not only lives up to the name but actually defines it on a number of levels. From its ‘brave new world’ vibe that any newcomer would attest to, through to its success as a party-going experience that revives the open-air rave culture within four walls and a ceiling. Truly, the only way to understand how great it feels here is to experience it for yourself!
London at The Brewhouse – Fri 31st March
Birmingham at Lab 11 – Friday 26th May
Love International Croatia boat party – Friday 30th June