Last night, B-Sides offered up one of Britain’s most exciting new talents on the dance music circuit, Harry Agius AKA Midland. The DJ and producer who studied History at Leeds University has undoubtedly played in venues more suited to his dynamic mode of House and Techno than Venue 1, but the crowd that turned out on this Thursday night were more than tuned in to the musical artistry he had to offer. Blasting out beats that breathed warm tones over deep bass rhythms, Midland had this crowd grooving with pure integrity and unabashed flair in a venue often overpowered by the cheese of chart pop and trampled on with the ironic dancing that such music demands.
Not only had Venue 1 undergone a transformation in atmosphere from brash to mellow, it had also undergone a change in environment. The thousand capacity room was halved by large separators and the barren expanse that is often sporadically populated by clusters of dancers trying to outwit each other with wacky dance moves became an enclosed den, forcing the audience closer to the stage and closer to the music. The space was by no means overcrowded – the separators could have been brought forward to increase the sense of intimacy – and there was no shortage of daring dance moves on show, but the concentration of the crowd and the fluidity of the music allowed for an atmosphere where dancing didn’t become a chore or a gimmick.
Opening the night were Moodroom Collective, friends and collaborators with B-Sides. Although the night hadn’t quite hit full swing whilst they were manning the decks, these student DJ’s set the mood for the night with commendable displays of mixing and tonal aptitude. As people starting drifting through the doors, heads started nodding, and even if a few more sips of Tennents were needed to get hands out of pockets and feet twitching, the atmospheric audio offerings from these warm-up acts made the perfect appetiser for things to come.
By the time Midland stepped up to the decks, the room was suitably populated and the crowd was more than suitably prepared. Playing a mix of partly recognisable samples over a consistent base of pounding beats, Midland gave the audience no excuse not to part with their pints and inhibitions and get grooving. Midland’s set last just over an hour and it was seamless throughout, varying from upbeat high tempo rhythms to more subdued, darker moments of sonic bliss.
Looming over either side of the stage were two screens on to which cinematic images were projected. I’ve no idea as to which film these pictures were taken from, but they were pretty bloody cool. If you were to glance outside of your dance cocoon for a moment you’d see images of shiny mass produced cars row after row, look away and back again and there’ll be the smoking skeletal remains on cars on fire. At other times, dilapidated apartment blocks could be seen from street level where junks of debris lined the pavement, look away and back again and sweeping aerial shots gave a more peaceful view. These images, whatever they intended to represent, offered the perfect visual complement to a musical style that is interchangeably serene and hectic, and in its dependence on repetition and artificiality alongside darker, dystopian undertones, the music went hand in hand with images of mass production gone awry. That’s probably way off the mark. Nonetheless, the use of such interdisciplinary art forms was a neat choice by B-Sides, who along with Moodroom Collective often perform at non-music orientated events such as St.Art magazine’s Journal launch and a number of St Andrews’ Fashion shows.
By the end of Midland’s set, a portion of the crowd had migrated on stage, an occurrence that is becoming a regular fixture in St Andrews and perhaps the ultimate seal of approval for performers and event organisers. As the lights came on after a vibrant version of The Rapture’s ‘How Deep is Your Love?’, the crowd was chanting ‘one more tune’ over and over as Harry, embarrassed by the response, shrugged his shoulders and gestured off stage to the Union steward who was no doubt tapping their watch and shaking their head. Perhaps the only downside to an event of this nature, with its repetitive beats and continuous flow, is that it’s hard to accept the unfitting eventuality of a 2am finish. Regardless, B-Sides and their friends have given us a sample of what they can do and its safe to say that St Andrews is hooked and ready to continue the party at their next event.