Reunions can be a bit naff, but this one went off like the proverbial bomb. You didn’t have to have been a Brighton clubber back in the day to vibe off the electrifying energy of a sell-out crowd, and the regrouping of assorted big names that collectively made dance music history. This event saw loadsa lads bonding with tops-off cuddles, voracious drinking games at the bar, and more than its fair share of shtonkin’ to the funky beats and pieces.
Transformed back to 1998, the amyl-fuelled debauchery of big beat reached its zenith with the unstoppable rise of Fatboy Slim and Brighton’s Big Beat Boutique. When the backlash came, Fatboy and others were able to swerve it by shifting into other genres, though while it lasted big beat converted thousands of indie kids into the wonders of acid house, and its broad church meant that it was responsible for many notable dance music hits.
Bentley Rhythm Ace were like big beat’s in-house band, and it’s great to see them reformed and out on the razz again. The psychedelic funk of ‘Bentley’s Gonna Work It Out’ cooks up a sweaty melange in Concorde 2’s underbelly, and when the air-raid siren and fake cardboard car rev up it’s a sight to behold.
Cut La Roc, a DJ who’s now swerved into breaks, steps up to take over, and drops ‘Ooh La La’ by The Wiseguys to perform some natty digital scratching over the top. CDJs didn’t exist in 1998, and he’s someone who’s had to adapt his skills to move with the times. He slips into some acid breakbeat thing, possibly ‘Mainframe Wrekka’ by Elite Force on Fused & Bruised back in the day, before making way for the headliner of the night.
Norman Cook clearly doesn’t need this gig, but it’s for charity – the Rockinghorse hospice for sick kids in Sussex – and he’s obviously doing it for the crack. He kicks off with some old vinyl funk piece, and then fluffs the first mix. “Bollocks!” he shouts into his record box, but the crowd don’t care and Cook – with the ‘Renegade Master’ – soon slips into his flow.
‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ is his nod towards the Chemical Brothers, the act who so inspired him and Damian Harris when they visited the Heavenly Social back in the mid-‘90s, and he mashes Public Enemy’s magnificently militant ‘Bring The Noise’ into it. Norm’s clearly had fun pulling out old twelves he hasn’t touched for a decade or more, and he has to take his chart-topping mix of Cornershop’s ‘Brimful Of Asha’ off the turntable mid-track ‘cos it’s so engrained in dust.
Wink’s ‘Higher State Of Consciousness’ receives the a cappella treatment too, and Fatboy starts pulling his shapes – clearly enjoying himself even given his new-found post-rehab sobriety. He drops Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’, and the whole place sings along.
Cook has now converted to Serato, a system taught to the notorious technophobe by his friend Darren Emerson, yet he reverts back to old vinyl manipulation with the skills of an old master.
“I really enjoyed that, after I’d established that mixing wasn’t so important,” Fatboy tells DJmag.com after his set. “And I should probably have checked that the record decks were set up properly first of all.”
Jon Carter takes over, and begins dropping drum & bass. “There were about ten drum & bass records from the Boutique that we all used to play – and they were all by Aphrodite,” quips Midfield General, aka Damian Harris, in the smoking area out the back. “I was going to play them all, but now that’s exactly what Jon’s doing.”
In Room 2 meanwhile, Pete Jordan from Midlands mega-brand Spectrum drops a rejig of Zinc’s ‘138 Trek’ before south-west beat fiends Ben & Lex step up for some dutty dubstep such as their mix of the Dub Pistols ‘Ganja’.
As the crowd thins out to relieve babysitters working overtime, Midfield General mops up, although DJmag.com still spies a number of notable DJs still partying away.
The fun-packed, bung-it-all-in ethos of big beat certainly seems to chime with 2010’s mash-it-up genre traversing. An antidote to po-faced purism and boring minimal, it’s hardly cutting edge but tonight a great time was had by all – which is why most people got into this game in the first place.