Standing outside The Egg in King's Cross, it’s hard not to notice the amount of bare skin that surrounds us, emerging fleshy from shimmering minidresses. At least, it would be if we weren’t focused on protecting as much of ourselves as possible from the subzero conditions, our eyes peeking dimly from beneath layer after layer of scarves and coats and hoods. It’s a long queue in the cold, but that, and the sartorial choices of the ladies ahead, isn’t a surprise considering the calibre of tonight’s guest.
The steady pulse as we edge, imperceptibly, toward the door, like an ice-breaker trying to cross the Northern Passage, heralds the presence of one of France’s finest dance exports, a man whose successes over two decades have placed him bright in the firmament of dance music’s bona fide stars.
Whether you like his brand of big-room, emotional techno or not, Laurent Garnier’s pedigree is undoubted. He kickstarted Paris’ dance culture in the early '90s, occasionally at the barrel of a gendarme’s gun, and since then has put out some of dance music’s most enduring anthems. Couple that with his ebullience in a scene that too often takes itself far too seriously, and it’s hard not to feel warmth for him. And warmth is what we’re after, when we finally get inside at just gone 1am. After shedding enough clothing to start a branch of Oxfam, we make a beeline for Egg’s main room. Garnier’s just stepping up to the decks, and we’re greeted by a wall of heat and sound that heralds a room that’s already well warmed-up
Tonight Garnier’s playing for four hours, a combination of DJ set and live show with compatriot and fellow techno pioneer Scan X. Combined, they form LBS, a hybrid of synths, drum machines and turntables that’s been touring the world for the last two years, but which Garnier is now retiring.
This is to be the project’s last London show, at one of Circus' regular jaunts to the capital, and judging by the array of flashing boxes and laptops that litter the booth, we’re in for a show that even Deadmau5 might appreciate. Speaking of the surly Canadian, as we enter the room we’re immediately entranced by an enormous screen behind the booth, flashing with Space Invader graphics, twirling streams of light and all manner of glinting headfuckery that becomes increasingly hard to follow as the night wears on.
It wouldn’t be out of place at one of Vegas’ extravaganzas, and shows how EDM showmanship has reached even into UK club culture. It would be easy, especially with that screen, to dismiss Garnier; as unfashionable, as outdated, as irrelevant in a world where scenes shift and shatter overnight. The enormous sweeps of noise thumping out of the Funktion Ones that loom over the crowd are certainly leagues from UK bass music’s po-faced streaming parties, or brooding techno’s sense of cerebral self-importance.
But that’s not what Garnier’s about. LBS might not be a groundbreaking concept, but it’s big, expansive fun if you let yourself loose, the kind of thing suited to a festival main stage surrounded by thousands of equally-minded decadents. In Egg’s comparatively cosy main room there’s a sense that we’re possibly missing something of the spectacle — it is a live show after all, and with everything hidden in a DJ booth it’s difficult to know exactly what they’re all up to — but the sounds that pour round the room in immense waves don’t suffer for a lack of context.
It’s bumping stuff from the off, but when the creeping saxophone of ‘Man With The Red Face’ prods its way through LBS’ dense layers of rhythm, arms go up and voices shriek. It culminates in a sweating orgy of bodies clashing, a moment of Balearic unity round the back of a railway station, on a frozen winter’s morning. After a brief explore of Egg’s enormous, tree-littered smoking area (where’s the gravel-strewn concrete? The shards of broken glass that get stuck in your shoes?) we rejoin the main room as LBS enter their last hour in a whirlwind of percussion, snapping snare cracks chattering through panoramic arpeggios. Subtle? Perhaps not. But as the packed-to-the-gills room going wild at 5am will attest, it’s certainly effective.
Garnier and Scan X close up to rapturous applause, and Circus head honcho Yousef takes to the decks, gently tightening things up and taking us on a darker, more beat-driven tip. The throng and the drums buffet us about, but the clouding effects of half-inched champagne begin to take their toll. Within the hour we’re back out in the cold, bundled in sweat and scarves, our ears ringing on the long bus home.