An extraordinary amount of hype has accumulated quite the patriotic stir across social media platforms in the last few weeks and it’s present on punters' faces tonight. In a nutshell, anticipation and excitement don’t quite cut it — the air of emotion seething from this gargantuan queue is incredulous.
Those who have ignored the pleas to “buy a ticket beforehand” by the big boss man (Steve Lawler) himself will walk away empty-handed tonight. That is, unless you’re in the know. Viva Music! Hailing victorious, Lawler's trojans have retreated for some much-needed air to gain some perspective on what has been a breathtaking first season’s residency at Sankeys, Ibiza. The UK army picks its outings carefully during the winter season, with only two full line-ups in the UK. Sankeys' older sibling up in Manchester holds one Viva Warriors golden ticket and the other has been hastily snatched up by Vauxhall's Fire in London.
DJ Mag readers won't need reminding Lawler’s hugely prosperous imprint is accountable for some of the strongest house/techno breakthrough artists of recent years: Darius Syrossian, Anek, Julian Perez, Leon, and so on. Nor do we doubt his generous dedication to the cause, re-planting seeds back into a scene that has been the object of his affections for so many years. Witching hour's long past and there's itchy feet to get off the street. Finally we're in and it's rammo in the main room, wall-to-wall bodies observing a duo in combat: The Martinez Brothers, currently spinning a warm and hypnotic remix of Santos Resiak's 'A Better Light', the perfect accompaniment to the excess haze and humidity lingering overhead.
Tying on our makeshift Viva Warriors headband, we decide it's time to get stuck in and fight the cause as the duo dish out the goods, dropping their remix of Fosky's romper 'Shiva'. Clearly accustomed to one another's turntable stance, they move with momentum and in unison, two silhouettes of enigmatic bass. A welcome splash of red and black marks Fire's battleground.
Steve Lawler's presence at the booth is unmistakeable and almost every mobile device is hoisted high as he slips in Cut'N'Paste's 'Synthfly'. An almost tangible sense of expectation reverberates across the room, before CO2 cannons erupt in a cataclysmic outburst. Front row ravers are intoxicated, momentarily blinded but by no means put off by the chaos. Saturn V's 'Come Into My life' is entirely appropriate, rolling through to 'Happy People' (Movi-starr feat Tyree) as Lawler disseminates his subliminal undertones to devastating effect.
Until now the switch to room two had seemed almost impossible amid a sea of boisterous physicality; it's beyond busy. In search of air and a little respite, we connect with the current of the crowd, riding it next door. The aura's a little less rowdy, but still floor space is scarce, and we find a slightly less loyal crowd in these parts. Detlef's playing his live show, so naturally, we mosey on over to spy a set-up of trigger pads, MIDI controllers and Traktor Scratch A10.
After catching his own 'Next One', we're coaxed back to the main room. There it is — (“Let your mind be free, relax your body”), Steve Lawler's secret weapon as promised prior to the event on his Facebook page, a re-edit (of undisclosed provenance but possibly his own) of Felix Da Housecat & Diddy's 'Jack U'. Inducing a rapture of fist-pumping and chanting, it's all too familiar. Hanging on his every hook, knowing glances are exchanged amongst ravers as they smile at the sense of eeriness conjured by Lawler's own 'Silk Roads'.
Each room this evening fights for your attention, each with a headliner in their own right. Darius Syrossian is a name that's circulated the scene substantially in his time. He blasts his and Hector Couto's 'Here We Come', before the deeper, more mind-menacing 'Metal' as the night begins to wind down. The night leaves an imprint of too many new dubs and samples to shake a stick at. Satisfied, sweaty and many retreating with souvenirs of their evening, Lawler's soldiers let out their final breath and surrender. One down, one to go.