It's 6am. Two U-turns beside an industrial estate, we are no closer to knowing where we are — or if our cabbie's even on the right route. E6 (only a stone's throw from Essex) is where we are meant to be headed. Apparently.
“Are we even still in London?” says one of our slightly jaded accomplices, as we swing round a massive roundabout leading to god knows where...
All of a sudden, there it is. Our destination. Moored majestically at the dock of the Thames, more HMS Belfast than Bagley's, or the grotty after-hours dens we're used to. In a flash, our reluctance turns to something beyond relief; a rare form of intrigue as we enter uncharted territory: a full blown rave on a giant shipping vessel built by The German Democratic Republic in 1964.
Some will be aware of HMS Stubnitz from the Bloc debacle earlier this year. Those lucky enough to get on board then at least know the immense character stored within its vaults, even if the resulting chaos detracted somewhat from the boat's unique (club) credentials. Today, however, less stands in its way, besides the bureaucratic hoops held out by the local authorities in Bloc's aftermath; hurdles addressed accordingly — it's been a venue for live/club nights since 1992.
“The authorities needed to be convinced we have experience and can do our best to run a smooth operation. We have acquired Temporary Event Notices and complied with health & safety and police guidelines,” says Stubnitz's Urs Blaser, known to most as Blo.
“The authorities are treating us fairly. The complications we are facing are due to a complex situation with the local big players, the airport, ExCeL, GVA, GLA, RoDMA, all of them having their specific requirements, interests, agendas... this is making it very difficult to find a way along.”
Still, none of this — including increasingly inhospitable conditions for maritime monuments in city harbours across Europe — has prevented Hydra, Broken and Uneven's multi-headed beast of a series, from obtaining permission to bring its Innervisions after-party into the cast iron bowels of this ex-Communist cargo ship, hidden away at the elbow of London's Docklands, this morning. Mulletover too, due to walk the plank also treaded by Plex, Art of Dark and Redux same time next week.
With plans afoot to bring the boat down the Thames to a more central location for more parties within the three available rooms under the deck, London's club cats can be prepared to see more of Europe's most bass-friendly battleship.
“When we heard that the Stubnitz was available for use we all felt compelled to find something to do on it — we just loved the idea of doing a party on there,” explains Hydra's Ajay Jayaram when we catch up after the event. “Blo, who owns the vessel, is a sound designer, I think. I've no idea what sort of rig it is, but the acoustics seem to naturally lend themselves to dance music. It sounded incredible in there. At least, that's how it felt at midday Sunday lunchtime on a warship moored on the River Thames...”
A bespoke soundsystem — made up of “a compilation of many different makes,” according to Blo — primed for a flock of serious ravers greased suitably for the early hours is exactly what we find, as we stumble along the metal walkways lining the upper perimeter of the ship's hold (the Orlop, perhaps?), the party's main room, to catch Electric Minds/Broken & Uneven resident Dolan Bergin drop anything from tough house to original UK garage to a revelrous response.
Though, it's not until we make our way down to the dancefloor — into the dark, sweltering depths of this 300-capacity snug arena (full capacity 800 over all floors) fit for Robot Wars, that we really feel the verve of the set-up; its pumping force deployed to devastating effect by Âme, followed by Dixon. More than anything though, it's the vibe that steals it. The congregation, still going at it hammer and tongs until 12.30pm, clearly as enamoured as we are by the abandonment of a truly special venue that, quite literally, could take us anywhere...