Unlike my comrade Prancehall, I’m lucky enough never to have been sprayed with CS gas or witnessed women bottling each other at the Notting Hill Carnival. I have, however, been pinned against a wall by a surging crowd and forced to endure an appalling funky house soundsystem while the man next to me pissed messily into an empty Red Stripe can. That memory, along with the fact that I have a healthy phobia of West London at the best of times, made it easy to forgo Carnival for another exciting edition of occasional outdoor urban rave-up, Secretsundaze. So while the rozzers in Portobello seemed genuinely baffled as to why their “proactive” stop-and-search tactics culminated in a mini-riot, (er…) the photo above shows the Secretsundaze task force getting more into the spirit of their surroundings. That guy is a real copper, right?
But first, rrrrrrrewind to Saturday night, when Luciano — arguably the best house DJ in the world at the moment — was in town. The magnificently moustachioed Swiss Chilean selector is one of the few DJs who would cause a roadblock at Fabric even if he was the only name on the bill. While his latest Fabric 41 mix CD gives you an idea of the breadth and quality of his minimal groove, ideally you need to hear him with a three-hour run-up.
Thing is, Luciano operates on Berlin time, where the parties go another night (alright!), and it’s perfectly acceptable to wander the streets at whatevertime wired and disheveled because everyone’s doing it. In London, even on a bank holiday weekend, there are so many people around scurrying about their regular business, you feel like a monster tipping out of a club in the middle of town in daylight. And of course, tradition demands that you’re in the pub by 4.45pm at the latest to catch the football results — so filling the next twelve hours until Luciano took the decks at 5am became a struggle. Still, the first hour alone was worth the wait as Luciano spun a spiraling matrix of bass and drum patterns, only beginning to stir in the sweetness once he was sure he had everyone in the main room utterly hypnotised.
Evidently there were people who had rolled straight through from the end of Luciano’s stint at Fabric to Secretsundaze the following afternoon, and the intermingling of the freshly-laundered and the furiously monged is what gives the event its frisson. It’s always impressive how, in these over-regulated times when even tippling on the tube’s been banned, Sundaze organisers James Priestly and Giles Smith still manage to source unusual al fresco locations in the middle of the city that’ll let them pump out weapons-grade techno on a Sunday afternoon.
Last weekend’s venue — the garden/car park of the relatively new Arches club in London Bridge — was the best they’ve found all summer. Flanked by the imposing brickwork of the Southwark railway arches and a couple of ailing office blocks, it provided a little urban oasis, ideal conditions for Carl Craig to flourish with his steely techno and sick disco segues.
The atmosphere was almost carnivalesque too: face paints, airhorns, utter hedonistic abandon — especially from the guy who came wearing Amy Winehouse’s beehive and accompanying glassy stare. I wasn’t sure about the participation games whereby everyone would sit down during a breakdown and then leap in the air when the beat thumped back in, but then Carl Craig foxed ‘em all by dropping into a breakdown that lasted ten minutes. Music doesn’t always sound technically better in the open air, but it certainly feels freer, and that’s true whether you were dodging devil dogs at Carnival, bottles of piss at the Reading Festival or gurning men in a plastic police helmets at Secretsundaze.