My journey to The States began, as usual, with me springing like a startled gazelle through the human undergrowth of Paris CDG Airport. Air France have a charmingly optimistic outlook of their connection times and, indeed, the functionality of the airport but after too many sweaty boardings and absent bags I can now wearily exclaim that I’m an ex customer of both.
It’s lucky I’m as athletic as I am because I made the final final final call for AF636 to Houston by the skin of my inner thighs and, once aboard, sat next to a nice old lady with whom it was immediately apparent I had a couple of things in common. A hairy face and no lap. I turned my gaze to the tarmac and began pondering the 2 weeks ahead.
We arrived in Houston to warnings of bad weather, and as I was due to play at the outdoor festival ‘Praia Urbana’ (Urban Beach in Portuguese) I started to regret not packing my PVC chaps – well, we were in Texas after all.
As it happened, the rain subsided for most of the evening and I was able to play to a sea of extremely excitable Houston House Heads who bounced around on a makeshift beach in downtowns shadow until a very civilised 11pm. As I closed the evening with standard ATFC send-offs such as ‘Hip Hop Hooray’, Fred Wesley’s ‘House Party’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ it was clear the night was but young and a little exploring was on the cards.
My lovely escort Lauren (strictly in a professional sense I stress….I mean…she was working…oh anyway) decided the perfect digestif for the evenings serving of House would be Dubstep. Lots of it. Of the hardest variety. In a warehouse, bursting with Skrillex clones and more lasers than an Imperial Battleship. As I walked through the venue I had the sensation of bodies pairing off and parting around me with no need to squeeze and push as would normally be the case. Lauren shouted our introductions into the promoters ear, who promptly fled without a handshake or ‘hi’. I was starting to feel like the first parent to arrive to collect their child at a birthday party.
A while later after pondering the sonic merits of Dubstep and feeling a little smug of the fact I actually quite liked it (at this place and time), a glistening promoter returned wearing a relieved smile. Apparently on hearing a few letters (ATFC) when Lauren had introduced us he’d thought she’d told him I was DEA.
I spent most of the next 24hrs with my face pressed against my hotel window staring at the torrential rain. Once it eased, it was time to visit NASA with Praia Urbanas promoters Alex and Bobby while stopping at Joe’s Crab Shack for lunch along the way. Bloated with crustaceans, we bumbled around Mission Control and the complex like excited schoolboys, smiling for cameras and ‘yee-haaing’ astride rocket thrusters. It was weird to think that America had spent so many billions on NASA and had now abandoned the project. The only working staff were 2 relaxed operatives reclining in their chairs, looking more like they were minding a car park, than monitoring the Astronauts on the Space Station.
My next stop was Miami, and it felt quieter than usual when I arrived. That said, it was a still a few days before WMC and I’d only ever visited during the conference. My first appointment was to visit the Pioneer Suite in The Shelborne Hotel and test out their new FX unit the RMX-1000. Needless to say it’s a fairly sexy bit of kit which further bridges the gap between dj and producer by allowing quick and easy loops and a multitude of fx.
It was then a short trip down to 1 Ocean Drive where the bikini beautiful were waiting for me at Nikki Beach. My job was to kick on the proceedings inside and summon the sandy revellers into the venue. The gig went really well and it was clear there was a solid Defected fanbase in the house. The Coup De Ville mix of Intruder and Chocolate Pumas rehash of Envision both encouraged raised hands and whistles. Once my friend Olly (DONS) took over the controls I made my way out into South Beach’s technicolour glow and hailed a taxi to take me downtown….to Space! Spain’s Stereo crew were hosting the terrace and I figured my Spanish residential status entitled me VIP access to get down with The Iberican League. Fortunately they agreed and the next 10 hours were spent being hugged, kissed and hi-fived by David Penn, Abel Ramos, Rober Gaez, DJ Chus, Pablo Cheballos, David Herrero, and many more while being engulfed by the tribal wave spewing from Space’s immense sound system.
As I tottered squinting out of the back door and into Miami’s midday sun I collected my thoughts and focussed on the 2 gigs I had to play that day.
I scooped up my usb stick and headphones from the hotel, made my way back to SoBe and to The Perry where Saeed Younan was hosting his label showcase next to the rooftop pool.
I was lucky that the relaxed atmosphere allowed me to feel a great deal better than I deserved to and played for 2 hours while many took delight in poolside recovery.
The Viceroy was the next stop on ATFC’s one man party shuttle, for Armand Penas……have a guess……Rooftop Pool party. David Penn called to tell me the, by now slightly unhinged, Spanish posse were going to join me and it was only then I felt a little jittery. Tom Novy, Carl Kennedy, Armand Pena, Abel Ramos, David Penn, Rober Gaez, Patrick M, Harry Choo Choo, Jose Nunez and my good self all kept the bodies splashing and bumping in the night sky, and as I closed my hotel room door on the Spaniards later the next morning, a thought shook me and buckled my weary legs. Plane to catch in 5 hours to Cancun!!
Mexico was humid. At that point, hot and sweaty was not my feeling of choice, so I shuffled into my hotel room, bolted the door and passed out. It was essential to be fresh for a Defected In The House show the next day.
Two of my favourite members of the Defected family were also on the bill, so when I saw Shovell and Sam Divine’s gleaming smiles in reception, all was right in my world. Big hugs ensued and after lots of laughs and catching up we took to the stage overlooking the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. If you’ve ever seen MTV Pool Party, this is THE place, and you can imagine the sight before us. Bikini clad silicon hotties and pumped up muscle boys mixed with Screech lookalike’s in mankinis and Dawn French lookylikey’s downing yards of ale. Their one common goal…..to let loose during SPRING BREAK!!!!!!
We were all a little wide eyed and worried because the dj handing over the Sam Divine was bashing out Mafia beats, but things seemed to chill out before she came on and was able to get her groove on as usual. We finished the evening back to back (in both senses) and waddled off to the restaurant for much needed sustenance, heartened by the fact that the college kids didn’t need lowest common denominator dance to keep smiles on their faces.
A seat on the first flight back to Miami the next morning had my name on it as I was due to jump on a sailing vessel moored opposite The Fountainbleu Hotel on South Beach. As I’m often heard to shout in a Ralph Lauren fitting room, ‘this was always going to be tight’, but it got worse, as a delayed take off and my good friends at Miami Border Control ensured another nail-biter episode of The ATFC Show.
I leapt out of the taxi outside my hotel with merely 30 mins to spare until the boat left, and stumbled into a lobby full of disgruntled hotel guests all screaming at the receptionist, complaining that their rooms weren’t ready. It was 4pm after all. I simply didn’t have the time to be impatient so I fluttered my eyelashes, smiled sweetly from the back of the throng, and was soon handed room keys as 20 pairs of eyes disbelievingly followed me and my raised middle finger into a closing lift.
Now, there’s a few times in my life that I’ve looked and felt really stupid. OK, maybe a few times a week, but nevertheless sprinting on a dockside up to a party boat, in flip flops, and a face the colour of a baboons behind while the entire top deck look down in shock and awe isn’t a good look once you’re inside and the boat doesn’t leave for another half an hour. Oh didn’t we laugh?? Hmm.
Anyway, I’d played the Island Sessions Yacht Party last year and was glad to be asked back. It was great fun sailing around the waterways, peeking into the back yards of some of the most exclusive residencies in America while bombarding them with House beats. That time I was escorting 10 stags from my hometown Javea around Miami so, on paper this should be a more lucid affair. Paper, however, has a tendency to fly out of your hands on the windy deck of a booze cruise, and as I looked around me at the revellers wound up like Energizer Bunnies, my dj friends Jamie Lewis, DJ Yass, Andy Caldwell, my brother from another mother, David Penn, and the ball of fire that is Abel Ramos it was clear the word ‘lucid’ wouldn’t feature in any self respecting review of this party. As the engine flatulated itself to life, an expectant cheer rose and we set off like The Flying Dutchman packed to the gills with party Pirates.
As I walked back from La Sandwicherie (a late night Miami munchy institution) much, much later in the evening, caressing a five foot long chicken salad sub, I pondered over the previous two weeks, the gigs, the places, the people and the fun that had been had. I’m glad America has ‘got’ House again. Sure, EDM is flowing through its main arteries on a commercial level, but real House Music still has a pulse in its veins.
Many thanks to Bobby, Alex and Esteban at Praia Urbana Houston. To Rik at Pioneer, Armand and Rio at Welcome To Miami and Nikki Beach. The Iberican League and Spain’s Stereo posse. To Saeed Younan, The Gran Oasis Hotel Cancun and Eric at Funky Couture.