The year is 2021. Four Tet has taken his annual All Nighter Event at Brixton Academy, but it now lasts for an entire week. Each night he plays a predictable selection of the same tracks, – garage, electronic, some of his own. The unassuming punters chomp and sidestep away, recording the goings on as wobbly, out of focus videos on their identical iPhone 17s, whilst in the background, exclamations are uncomfortably amplified over the beats – “this is so sick mate!” – as they snake their arms around their mate’s waist and lose the outside world. #SaveOurCulture
Perhaps a bleak vision of the future of nightlife, but not totally out of the ball park if Four Tet’s All-Nighter is anything to go on.
I have been a long-term fan of Kieran Hebden , alias Four Tet, and his various escapades. He is a DJ often heralded as a pioneer for clubbing culture, hosting events for the youth of today to provide a safe and respectful place to party. His sets are uplifting, often dancing through disco, electronic, garage and techno. His releases are brilliant, melodic and mesmeric, but in recent times his live performances and DJ sets have been rather disappointing and barely memorable. With his deep-set eyes and his recent, rather unimaginative and predictable outings, the man who was once ‘reviving any lost hope in the current club scene’, now appears exhausted and has given up. This combined with the recent closure of Fabric and many other integral underground venues now under threat, is the UK club scene at rock-bottom? Are the problems brought to the limelight in the Fabric case now going to be exacerbated but even further underground?
His Brixton All-Nighter events have always been a sell-out success, probably because it is one of the few cheap events in London; combined with Hebden’s emotional affiliation with Brixton, an area integral to preserving any sort of party, culture and liberalism left in our capital city, it promises a great night to say the least.
I too bought into the reputation of the night, as well as the admirable line-up also on offer to “celebrate and embrace unity, love and solidarity”: Joy Orbison, Jamie XX, Four Tet, Ben UFO and Josey Rebelle. Yes, the venue was great and the sound system booming (if you were a good 20m from the decks); yes, there was boundless enthusiasm, “unity and love” oozing from every youth there; yes the line-up was spoiling, but I didn’t feel part of anything special or historic. If anything, the sets dragged – maybe the occasional track would spark my interest and get me grooving – but the majority of the night was just spent swaying and trying to have slurred conversations with new friends. Perhaps nightlife is no longer about the music – perhaps this is the unity Hebden was intending? But why then proudly announce the lack of light-show and pyrotechnics if the music is uninspiring?
Joy Orbison was monotonous; Jamie XX was slick (even more so for using vinyl) but not one single tune was memorable. Four Tet finally picked up the pace a bit, but by the time he was on at 2am, most people had been there a good couple of hours. He had obviously had his opening track planned for some time, and his set was well-rehearsed and well-performed but again, unexciting, predictable. Ben UFO finally produced some juicy goods, with lashings of techno, but Josey Rebelle as the close, for me, was just weird noise that I could not connect with.
Perhaps it was all a matter of taste, and perhaps I have become a complete snob when it comes to going out, but I can’t help but feel that my opinion is not unique in this situation. Scouring the Identification of Music group on Facebook confirms all my qualms from the night, with many people posting shaky videos with a speck of light (the decks) visible in the distance, many of them requesting an ID on the same track. Perhaps the venue swallowed the solidarity and community from the night, the DJs high up on their altar, guarded by fluorescent soldiers.
It may seem strange but it really saddens me to be so honest about this night. I had high hopes – not just for the event but for a bit of motivation and excitement to be reinstalled into club culture, particularly in London. Instead, I feel frustrated and uninspired, with UK nightlife becoming insipid and bland. What can we do to #SaveOurCulture?
If you want a sense of the night, play these tracks extremely loudly on repeat from 10am-6am in a dark room with only an Anglepoise lamp lit on a desk on t
he other side of the room.