Once again this year it was hard to look past Fabric as the Best Large Club in Britain. By the time most clubs get to the proud old age of 15, as did this former meat market back in October, it’s likely they will have lost some of their original spark — the owners behind them grow old, disconnected and more concerned with paying off mortgages than engaging the youth of the day. But not Fabric. It’s also fair to say that any club that survives this long often tries to expand, with branches in hotspots around the world that tend to end in failure, if not dilute the brand. But not Fabric. Instead, the club owned by Keith Reilly and Cameron Leslie, and run with such an expert but friendly approach by Judy Griffith and musical director Craig Richards, focuses on the same few key ingredients it always has: the EC1 club, its line-ups and soundsystem.
It means that again in 2014, the underground, labyrinthine meat and storage space turned nocturnal haven continued to pull in the punters from all over the planet.
“It’s all about providing a space to invite individuals around the world who had something interesting to say with their music,” Reilly has said of his simple mission in the past. And it’s a premise that still rings true one-and-a-half decades after starting out, with many an artist venturing to Farringdon as their first London outing simply because, at the core of what they do, they have something special in their sound.
In 2014 those acts were a who’s who of both established greats and exciting breakthrough acts. Whether that’s an extended set from Four Tet in Room One, a debut live show for bass innovator Pinch or a special Metalheadz back-to-back with Doc Scott and Goldie, when you go to Fabric you can be sure that you will be seeing something you won’t see anywhere else. Of course, returning favourites like Ricardo Villalobos, Seth Troxler, Ben Klock, the Hessle Audio crew and regular parties like WetYourSelf and FabricLive also rolled on and on this year, whilst special 20th birthday celebrations for Rinse FM and Fabric resident Terry Francis’s Wiggle night also played out in EC1.
Upon announcing their 15th Birthday party, Fabric took stock of their history to date and worked out that, “on average we operate 160 shows a year. That works out to 2400 shows over the last 15 years. Let’s say each of those had an average length of nine hours. That works out to 21,600 hours of consecutive music, or if you ran every show back to back, we’d have been open for over 2.5 years straight”.
No mean feat by anyone’s standards, and it must be said that not only are the musical offerings what make Fabric so special, but so too the bouncers, the bar staff and the in-house sound engineers who manage the Martin Audio system. This year the club continued to prove their commitment to sound quality by releasing limited-edition turntable weights — a far cry from a certain other club’s branding exploits that have included everything from vodka to fitness DVDs. Fabric, though, prefers to keep it classy. As such, the club’s punters are some of the most cared for in the world, and this year the club proved that once more with a phone safety initiative. It led them to offering up extensive tips on how to keep your phone safe and even how to track it if it was stolen.
But that’s not all: when just about every other CD series has fallen by the wayside, Fabric remain resolutely committed to their famous tin cases, and this year tied down the diverse and accomplished likes of Prosumer and Raresh, Marcel Dettmann and Maya Jane Coles, Pangaea and Move D. Aside from that, though, the Fabric affiliated Houndstooth label run in part by Electronic Explorations radio show host Rob Booth also excelled, releasing experimental EPs and LPs from the vanguard by the likes of Call Super, Throwing Snow and Marquis Hawkes. For all these reasons and more besides, you would once again find it hard to disagree with the fact that Fabric truly is the Best Large Club in Britain.
EGG LDN (LONDON)
THE RAINBOW VENUES (BIRMINGHAM)
MINISTRY OF SOUND (LONDON)