FAC51: House Gets the Classic Treatment
With support from a 35-piece orchestra, two US house music legends, a host of special guests – including an appearance from the one and only maraca-shaking Bez – Haçienda residents Graeme Park and Mike Pickering recreated ‘the good old days’ with an acid-inspired Classical event at First Direct Arena and after party at Church.
When the groove-laden house beats were first mixed in Chicago clubs and Manchester warehouses, the prospect of it being played by a live musical orchestra would have raised many an eyebrow. However, fast-forward quarter-of-a-century and classical-themed raves are now all the rage, following BBC Radio 1’s tantalizing Proms performance at Royal Albert Hall in July 2015. Since, music institutions throughout the UK – namely Haçienda and Cream – have offered dance music fans an alternative raving experience, selling out shows at some of the nation’s best musical venues. Even DJ Spoony has even recently announced he will be hosting a classical themed garage concert… although this leaves much to be desired.
The success of the modern British rave scene has a lot to thank both Haçienda and Cream for, with the latter becoming one of the most coveted events on the White Isle and then later forming the world-renowned dance festival, Creamfields. Haçienda’s contribution to dance music is just as enriched, notably during the infamous ‘Madchester’ days of the late 80s where some of the most successful artists and DJs made their UK debut – even a young Madonna! More recently, these two Northern club nights have reformed the electronic tracks that best heightened their success, paying homage to them through a live musical orchestra compared to vinyl turntables.
The Bank Holiday Easter Weekend consisted largely of a collective appreciation of acid house and the The Haçienda. Along with the Classical event in Leeds on Good Friday, the FAC51 brand also co-hosted an acid house-themed pool party in Manchester’s prestigious Victoria Baths. Teaming up with The Warehouse Project and Boiler Room, the party was invitation only and organised by local legend, Tony Wilson. The event re-created Wilson’s 1988 rave and was streamed live like 29 years previous. The night previous also witnessed Boiler Room hosting an acid house special at Manchester club, Gorilla, taking clubbers back to when the genre dominated dancefloors across the clubbing circuit.
As opposed to the small and intensive parameters of Gorilla the following night, First Direct Arena permitted a much larger audience to enjoy the innovative musical display. Upon entering the brightly lit venue, passing the extended queues for last minute refreshments, excitement emanated from the audience throughout the whole venue. Unsurprisingly, the arena consisted mostly of middle-aged ravers, who were patiently awaiting a party that would soon dissipate memories of the last 30 years, and rekindle their younger clubbing days.
When residents Park and Pickering took centre stage, rousing applause filled the arena as hoards of people began to rush in from the bar, raising anticipation to fever-pitch. The two resident DJs picked a set from the top draw, which included dance and acid house classics that miraculously kept the older audience on their feet for the whole duration. Opting to change their slow-building set of last year’s tour, for two hours the arena was alive with middle-aged ravers re-living the ‘good old days’.
Unfortunately, the only disappointment was the orchestral rendition of New Order’s genre-changing, award-winning anthem of ‘Blue Monday’. It lacked the original’s innovative groove, and with this being one of the records that spearheaded Factory Record’s success thanks to its incredible selling figures, the track should have either been delivered with better expertise or not included at all.
Nevertheless, this was the only flaw and was soon forgotten once ‘You Got The Love’ was dropped. Produced by the late house music legend, Frankie Knuckles, this was a fitting tribute to the American’s incredible career, and was easily the best track of the night starting the party in full flow. Maurice’s ‘This Is Acid’ and Black Box’s ‘Ride On Time’ also caused an animated reaction from the forever-grooving audience.
But the appearance of everybody’s favourite maraca-shaking dancer, Bez from the Happy Mondays, sent the crowd into hysterics. The Mancunian’s infamous dancing technique sparked uproar within the arena, and despite lacking his maracas that once catalyzed his world-touring career, Bez waltzed across the stage with an arrogance accustomed to any artist to come out of Manchester’s rich music scene.
Bez’s arrival during the encore, mimicking the conductor’s motions in the process, provided a perfect ending to the nostalgic party. And despite being two of the youngest members of the audience, this Classical event was thoroughly enjoyable, thanks to the efforts of Park, Pickering, the Camerta Orchestra and of course, the comedian dancer that is Bez.
Following the short walk across town via Wetherspoons and other local pubs, the older crowd began to filter into everyone’s new favourite clubbing venue, Church. The night was wetalso organised by Soak Events, and Church’s impressive décor, fittings and sound system is good enough to rival the celebrated Haçienda club. Unlike the dance anthems played at the Classical event, music at the after party was much more contemporary consisting of the very best in house and techno. The sets of Chicago legend, Derrick Carter, and Haçienda regular, Françoir K were particularly special as these two DJs flaunted their obvious mixing experience, even chucking in a 90s house classic here and there.
While the after party supplied a brief reminder of what modern day raving is all about, the Classical event was the true highlight of the night and FAC51 delivered a perfect tribute to one of Britain’s most respected record labels and best music establishments.
There is also still chance to see Haçienda Classical; as Graeme Park and Mike Pickering will return to London’s Royal Albert Hall this upcoming May, and the party also pays visits to Manchester, Brighton, Lytham St Annes and even Glastonbury. See you there.