If everyone who ever asked me for a business card because they wanted to book me for a private party, actually did, my bank balance would look dramatically different from how it does. During January, I was approached by a stranger asking about booking me to play her 40th birthday party in London on Saturday 3rd March. Thankfully, this one did transpire, and it ended up being as musically satisfying as I’d hoped it would, given that I’d been specifically requested to play 80s and 90s revivals to a mature crowd.
The party was in a cavernous French restaurant situated just below London Bridge. As it wasn’t equipped with a DJ booth, I needed to bring all my own gear, giving me a taste of what life is like for mobile jocks week-in week-out. It took a while to get folk moving, but the right selection of fondly remembered favourites did the trick. I realised at the end that I’d played no tune any newer than 1997, which is a result in my book!
Earlier that evening, the first of my new radio shows had gone out on the new Oxford-based station OX105FM which streams live here. The Sound Of Now is different to any io shows I’ve done in the past, which have all been hip hop/ urban-based. Although there’s obviously some cracking underground hip hop being made, I have no desire to associate myself with the mainstream garbage being peddled by the likes of Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, T-Pain, etc. So for this one, I’m happy to be selecting the best new offerings from across the genres – some soulful house, some garage, some D&B, etc – the only criteria being that it has to be creative, impactive and with a bit of soul. The hip-hop and R&B is still in there under the ‘Just Buggin’ section, and there’s a strong line in classic revivals, and a different guest DJ in the mix each week. I’m on 6-8pm each Saturday, and the latest show is uploaded each week to my Soundcloud page. http://soundcloud.com/djmarkdevlin
The first in a couple of welcome trips away to break up the drudge came the following weekend. This was a return to Northern Ireland to spin at The Playhouse in the North coast town of Portrush. Again, this was to be a 90s throwback night, which was all good with me. Birmingham airport’s as convenient for me as any of the London ones, and I flew from there to Belfast City, where I was met by my dude Needle Knievel and driven up to Portrush. Paul Oakenfold was spinning at the well-known Kelly’s spot that night, but being trance, it was hoped this wouldn’t harm The Playhouse’s fortunes too much. Roots Manuva was performing down in Belfast. It took a while to get into my set, not least because of a CD machine with a mind of its own that started looping tracks spotaneously. But once past this, I was into a zone. Getting away with dropping the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Naughty By Nature, Dead Prez, Roots Manuva, Bob Marley, General Degree and TOK at peaktime on a Saturday night is a very rare thing! A couple of rare post-gig beers ensued.
I met with Gary and his wife Dione for brunch the following day, before flying back via Ryanair from Derry airport. This is a gig I look forward to getting back to sooner rather than later. I’m happy I had the foresight to record my set, which is available for download on this link.
My visit to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana on Wednesday 21st was a useful experience, (not least for the amount of Masonic/ Illuminati symbolism I saw encoded in the old town’s architecture, now that I know what I’m looking for … but that’s for another blog!) My experience at the classy Klub Top made me realise I’m still hungry to jump into a DJ set and tear the roof off after all these years.
Midweek gigs are a rarity these days. The R&B/ hip hop Wednesdays at Top have been running for three years, and are now a staple of the city’s nightlife. I was met at the airport, (surely Europe’s smallest for a capital city?) by promoter Aljosa, and we headed through stunningly beautiful scenery into the city, where I checked into the Slon hotel, (‘slon’ is Slovenian for elephant.) The club itself, as its name suggests, is on the top floor of a city centre block, accessible by a scenic elevator from the street. It crops up in the World’s 100 Best Clubs website on-line, and it’s clear to see why. I jumped into my set at 1am, and quickly realised that the crowd were very much up for the 75-85bpm slow bounce sound of the likes of D4L, Dem Franchise Boys, Rick Ross, T.I, Paul Wall, etc. It at least made a change from the 130bpm electro pop business.
Regular gigs for the rest of the month, although a new location was the Bristol branch of the Living Room chain on Saturday 31st March. I used to spend a lot of time in Bristol and very nearly moved there in the late 90s, but barely recognise it now. The City centre’s been transformed almost beyond recognition in a big regeneration programme, giving it a very cosmopolitan and modern feel. Earlier on, I had South Coast key player J Fresh and his crew passing through my radio show in Oxford for a mix and a chat. They also filmed a video interview with me in which we jumped off the fencer and got down to some real talk! Links to that as soon as it’s ready.