Danny Avila and Third Party lead new dawn celebrations for Ministry of Sound [Event Review]
For London’s infamous Ministry of Sound nightclub, 2013 was spent as a year of undetermined fate. Having secured the club’s future after a lengthy battle that saw them sharing the headlines with property developers and Mayor Boris Johnson alike, the New Year commanded business as usual from a club that has made an old South London bus stop the home of the capital cities most elegant sound system to date. Whilst Anjunabeats brought forth their finest trance accolades for Friday night’s opening procedures, Saturday Sessions welcomed another season of high profile talent with a sizeable line-up of big room heavyweights. Queues scaled three quarters of the premises, punters waited patiently to see the much speculated renovation work and finally, the big brand that could looked primed to keep the memories coming for 2014.
The last weekend of January annually beckons a change of milieu from the Elephant and Castle joint. Emerging somewhere between a wood-decked 1950’s diner and a chic New York bottle service club, the star of Ministry’s new look was the rejuvenated VIP area. Bringing back balconies on both sides to allow for dual access to the club’s two main rooms, an overpopulated bar area and limited maneuverability is a small price to pay for an otherwise positive step at giving VIPs no excuse to let the sparklers and prospects of a comfy seat distract from the club’s consistent musical getup. This is a brave move for the South London nightspot. Whilst the chic appeal has often not worked for outer-city nightspots, the club’s ability to make first class bookings and balance the infamous brandage may be the components that make for a winning combination in this new chapter.
Aesthetics aside, the aural inauguration for 2014 was far more crucial than a touch of fashionable housekeeping. First up to bat was Patrick Hagenar – a Ministry of Sound resident who has more than asserted his intentions to dominate the circuit over the past few years. He comes off the heels of recently unveiled remix duties for Route 94’s “My Love,” bringing a host of IDs and high profile label prospects to the table for 2014. Despite his peak time tendencies, the Dutch breakout knows how to warm a crowd up the right way. He starts groovy and gradually brings the heavier percussive floor play into the equation. In Hagenar’s hands, the task looks seamless, so we wonder: how do so many artists get the art of a warm-up set so wrong? By the time his set comes to a climax, we have seen the sound go full circle, leading with infectious and vocally charged club cuts to assert that Patrick Hagenar is the sort of all-rounder that reminds us that you don’t need to be an A-list protégé to be a serious industry prospect.
They may not be a household London name, but when Third Party takes The Box, a hero’s welcome ensues. For their first stint back for 2014, Harry and Johnny make with the high energy Size etiquette that has made their presence higher up the UK bills a more than deserving feat. Packed to the rafters with elevated fans, patrons bounced left, right and center as the duo whisked through a sharp run of bootlegs, immediate crowd pleasers and of course, those infamous Size IDs keeping the industry on tenterhooks. New Third Party material pulls for one of the biggest responses of the night, showing that for all this time globetrotting across the continents, the development of their melodic big room getup has not been ignored. Add a few welcome Swedish House Mafia sing-alongs and their middle ground between the commercial and the conventional big room is not to be shrugged at.
Simultaneously holding the second room was Ministry’s other above-water resident Nathan C. Championed for his remix duties for Chase & Staus’s “Count On Me” back in 2013, the Surrey-based DJ/producer enters 2014 with some big boots to fill. He starts unapologetically housey, dropping something of a warm-up set on steroids whilst constantly building towards the big room picture that his own studio output has favored of late. Cuts from Don Diablo, Tchami and Pilsken join his own choice material to show just how on-point the British breakout’s programming capacity is right now.
Before his formal residency series ensued, Danny Avila was a welcome face at Ministry of Sound. Now more than familiar with the infamous nightspot and its main room etiquette, his a more conventional approach – fast edits and relentless peak time energy breaks up a slightly more obvious choice of musical collateral for the young and accomplished Spanish talent. The fact of the matter is that whilst there are very few surprises from Avila, this is perhaps his redeeming feature. The crowd knows exactly what to expect and given the capacity that holds until gone 6am, this is exactly the ride they were after. Considering the vast array of continents and high-profile clubs he now frequents, Avila’s enthusiasm acts as a solid gesture that for all the big payouts and glamorous imagery scaling the North American circuit, the next generation still appreciates how important the UK crowd and Ministry of Sound is to the bigger picture.
There may have been undertones of doubt as to whether the UK could keep up with the fast cash, frivolous culture and larger-than-life experiences dominating modern dance music. If its opening marks of 2014 are anything to go by, Ministry of Sound need not worry about holding its corner anytime soon.
Photography: Ryan Dinham