“Here's Johnny!” growls a demented Jack Nicholson in what's considered, in this correspondent’s mind anyway, the most psychologically disturbing film ever made. Nope, we haven't opted for a rare Saturday night on the couch by the fire (it's bloody freezing outside after all), with a bowl of popcorn and our favourite horror flick for company. Certainly not. These are the words resonating through this writer's mind as we peer through a set of French windows at Tall Trees Hotel complex, across acres of snow-covered countryside in pitch-black darkness, the flood-lit blizzard the only light as we finger the words “no way out” onto the steamed-up windowpane.
Flashbacks of axe-wielding chases, icy mazes and spooky corridor confrontations with twin sisters to one side; it's not just the snow that has our mind in overdrive. Or that this three-floor ex-country club clearly hasn't had a proper redux since Jack realised, quite emphatically actually, circa 1980, that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. It's a good job, then, that Tall Trees, our living (and dancing) quarters for the next 15 hours, has taken heed of such advice, by allowing the North of England's trance juggernaut Goodgreef to take over its big function room at the back once again.
Indeed, this is the main reason our imaginations are running wild. We may feel slightly isolated, stranded a few miles from civilisation, surrounded in all directions by a foot of snow (and counting) — three coaches have not made it tonight, the chances of getting out are slimming by the minute — but our overriding sense isn't one of trepidation. Instead, eager anticipation of the carnage about to ensue. Paul Oakenfold's return to the UK after setting up residence in Las Vegas, Aly & Fila and Orjan Nilsen just a few to bring the colossal chord clashes, fighter-jet builds and tectonic beats to a body-addled cauldron bubbling away at the back of this seemingly unsuspecting hotel, originally more intended for families and functions than melodic dance mash-ups.
But while it's a special occasion, it's certainly not a rare one. Tall Trees has borne witness to a Goodgreef invasion on more than a few occasions since 2003 (plus similar insurgences from the likes of Pacha, Renaissance and Swedish House Mafia over the years). Selling out every one of 250 rooms in this three-star hotel with mad-for-it ravers with a flavour for a bigger breed of sonics this weekend, Goodgreef, now in its 11th year after setting up shop in Manchester’s Philips Park Hall in 2000, has clearly established itself as the North’s most heavyweight trance night, occupying Warehouse Project, Sankeys, Digital (Newcastle), The Arches, Glasgow and Gatecrasher during its lifetime. But, it’s Tall Trees that holds a special place in the Goodgreef faithful’s heart. Its remoteness — the fact the collective can escape the ears and eyes of urban society to lose itself completely — has allowed them to adopt this venue as the party’s spiritual home.
And as we walk into the jet-black giant cube of an arena, headphone cartoon heads — the official Goodgreef motif — hang high as giant inflatables above our heads. Clearly the treacherous conditions haven’t done much to deter this dedicated bunch. Already, Norwegian trance sensation Orjan Nilsen’s powerful melodies are going great lengths to pump the heaving crowd into a whirlwind of visceral energy ready for Oakey to deliver a present, past and future set.
A selection of Perfecto classics — PPK (‘Resurrection’), his own ‘Bullet In A Gun’ – remixed and re-edited, slowed slightly for today’s tech-savvy crowd — it’s yet another reminder of just why Oakey is so popular. There’s none of the heads-down, moody stomping of chin-stroking deep house dens. The heads-up, fist-pumping sea of bodies below are testament to the effectiveness, even after 25 years in the game, of Oakenfold’s racing rhythms and melodic hops, surging builds and slamming beats. His irrefutable skills as a DJ. Good grief! It really is going off...
Words: Adam Saville
Pic: Beth Crockatt