Five years into its earthly existence, Digital Society is now firmly placed as one of the front-runners, and finest examples of the very best the UK trance scene has to offer. I’m slightly ashamed to say that this is my first outing to the former Mixmag ‘Trance Club Night of the Year’. I say ashamed, as it’s an event that’s been on my radar for some time, I have certainly been aware of its existence and have known wholeheartedly that it would be right up my street. Should have got my act together before now really. The last year for me has been all about my rediscovery of ‘the scene’, having loved trance music with a vicious passion ever since I first set foot through the glittery doors of S1 1DJ at the tender age of 16. 13 years on, and after some concerted efforts at growing up, the penny finally dropped that career, mortgage, romance, relationships and day to day life aside, true happiness can only be attained if one nurtures ones soul by indulging in our passions on a regular basis. When I saw the line-up for this Digital Society 5th Birthday event, I knew that the time had come for me to embrace all things DS and grab this soul-nurturing opportunity with both hands!
With my expectations high, I made the trip up to Leeds with a skip in my step, bursting at the seams in anticipation at the forthcoming festivities. We arrived at the venue at around 11.00pm, by which time it was almost full to capacity, a few minutes queuing in the crisp Yorkshire air and in we were! Now I’ve been in a few of the O2 Academy’s now, and I’ll be honest, as venues go they are not my favourite. There’s something not quite right about stomping to trance on a sticky carpet and paying £4.50 for a can of cheap beer – but hey, walking into this fine Leeds establishment and being slapped around the face with the atmosphere created by 3000 eager clubbers, an LED wall, several huge lazers and a certain Rank 1 at the helm – who gives a rats ass about the carpet or what you’re drinking?
After the customary double lap prowl around the club to scope the place out, I settled in a spot in the main room up near the front just as Tritonal were beginning their hour slot. Having never had the pleasure of hearing the Texan duo perform, this was one of the sets I was particularly looking forward to. Uplifting and energetic from the get-go, my anticipation was surely satisfied. I’ve seen some pretty awesome sets over the years, but it must be said it’s been a while since I’ve seen an act with such energy behind the decks. At one point, Chad’s dancing resembled a cross between an aerobics instructor on speed and some crazy martial arts move – in a good way! Transposing their vivacity from behind the decks right through the bones of every person on that dancefloor, Tritonal elevated the crowd with floaty vocals underpinned by dirty trancey breaks and heavy anthemic melodies. As they dropped a mash up of Mat Zo & Arty’s – Mozart and Ferry Corstens – We Belong, the place erupted. At this point I took a moment to re-shape into something relatively humanoid and took a look around. Almost without exception, the whole room had their hands in the air and were singing along, with big daft grins. Amazing. This is what we pay our hard earned money for – right?
The headliner of the night – Gareth Emery – put on a fantastic show. OK, so he has his critics, ‘he’s not proper trance’, ‘he can’t mix’, ‘he’s sold out’ yadda yadda ya, but for me, he totally rocked it. Delivering a set that was a perfect balance of new sounds, recent crowd-pleasers and re-worked classics, with fantastic visuals to boot, Emery is undeniably a home-grown contender when it comes to the global domination of electronic dance music.
It has to be said that the set I was most looking forward to, was that of the legend that is John ‘00’ Fleming. I knew the style and tone of this performance was going to be set apart from any others of the night. Simon Patterson preceded J00F, and of course followed Emery. In my opinion he had the toughest job of the night. How the hell do you follow Gareth Emery and warm up for J00F? I don’t think there’s a textbook answer for that one. Nonetheless, Pattterson delivered a high energy crowd-pleasing set, but I couldn’t help but clock- watch in anticipation of The J00F.
As expected, I was not disappointed. J00Fs mind-bending aural adventure of psy-trance, progressive beats and hard-edged unique sound stood out against the other sets as crisp, clean and sharp. Like a butchers knife slicing through meat and bones with ease. And not that there’s anything wrong with meat and bones! Whereas with the previous sets of the night, I’d been jumping around with my disco buddies, arms in the air, singing along. With J00F, I found myself mesmerised and captivated, enjoying long moments lost in the music, eyes closed, allowing the sublime sounds to wash over me.
Then up for the revered closing set of this 5th Birthday night was ‘man of the moment’ and Digital Society treasure – Bryan Kearney. Bryan had promised us all a treat in the form of ‘a sneaky little intro….’, and this came in the form of Mark Leanings vs Johnny Shaker – Pearl Drop (Bryan Kearney’s Godskitchen Edit), a massive mash-up of the old classic ‘Pearl River’ and iconic track of 2011 ‘Dropshot’. This balance of old and new was a decided theme throughout this final hour of Digital Society, and combined with Kearneys signature pumping energetic pace, it ensured that all feet left in the house were moving – fast! True to style, Kearney rattled through the tracks with the faithful Digital Society crowd firmly in tow. Right at the front at this point, dancing like my life depended on it, I turned round to see through the coloured lasers, a sea of happy faces attached to bodies throwing various shapes around the room. Mission accomplished there I guess Mr Kearney…….Returning to the sound of the old classic for the last time of the night, Kearneys ‘one more’ track was the Mat Darey remix of the timeless and ever euphoric Wizards of The Sonic. What a way to end what was a superb night. I can honestly say I left the establishment feeling truly happy, and in terms of soul cleansing, mine felt like it had been scrubbed with a wire brush then polished with a silk cloth. And somewhere, deep down inside my soul, still resides that wide-eyed, innocent 16 year old girl, discovering trance for the first time. And guess what? She’s still humming Wizards of The Sonic.
Digital Society. Thank-you. Here’s to another 5 years!
Big respect for Keith Galloway and his amazing photographs used in this article – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keith-Galloway-Photography/87545319599?sk=wall