Mention a garden party to the discerning party goer and manicured lawns and cucumber sandwiches are not what spring to mind; their eyes invariably light up in anticipation of a heady and exotic mix of beats and brews. Under a Garden Get Together banner, Hotplate and Madnice have teamed up with Croatian festival The Garden to put together a pretty stellar line-up tonight in support of headliners NIGHTMARES ON WAX, housed in the intimate confines of 24 Kitchen Street, a venue which has quickly established itself as a must-play on the city’s thriving DJ circuit.
The headliners are represented tonight by founder DJ Ease. Having been around since 1991 their live performances have varied in style over the years, from solo DJ sets to performances with a live band (minus a drummer that is, as Ease insists on maintaining a solid link to his technological roots, stating that “the sound of the beats is what makes Nightmares”).
He takes to the decks to great acclaim and pronounces that “for the next two hours I’m going to play music from my heart”. He launches straight into a dub-heavy version of Bob Marley’s Is This Love, provoking a great crowd singalong, before launching into the Beatles’ Come Together, a guaranteed crowd-pleaser around these parts. We roll through some Jamaican dancehall, MC Kwasi skanking around behind the decks, relishing every moment, urging the crowd to greater heights, and into another, very different, version of Inner City Blues, prompting thoughts about the enduring legacy of great music (and the incongruity of the social consciousness of the 70s forming the backdrop to today’s party tunes). Will tonight’s sampled, cut and paste versions be around in another forty years’ time?
Ease is a livewire performer, alternately dancing and punching the air, or bent intently over the decks, twisting, flicking, sliding the controls – adding echo and reverb and all manner of technical sleights of hand which subtly affect the mood of a track. The back projections add visual touches of social commentary in-between some marvellous animation. The Magic Roundabout footage is a highlight: Florence, Zebedee, et al kaleidoscopically loom towards us before sliding elusively off screen.
Throughout the set I catch snippets of lyrics, melodies, and riffs that I know but whose identity remains momentarily elusive (I know, I know, get Shazam!). Ease slips Grace Jones, James Brown, some heavy Clintonesque funk and N.O.W. originals such as African Pirates into the mix.
In the depths of my sobriety at 3.30am I do find myself wondering why N.O.W. come on so late and whether they should perhaps shave thirty minutes off the set, but there’s not a single other person in a pulsating Kitchen Street who would agree with me.