One of London's more unusual venues, Wapping's Tobacco Dock lay host to the launch of Outlier; a new international party series curated by Simon Green aka Bonobo. The labyrinthine shopping centre was crawling with party-goers from start to finish, navigating the derelict shopping centre via the music pumping from the many rooms. Kicking off at midday sharp, the energy from the crowd was both admirable and impressive, with enthusiasm oozing from artist and audience alike.
Despite initial surprise to see Hodge booked to play midday rather than midnight, the young Bristolian tempered his penchant for dark, bass heavy selections and got the party rolling with ease. With the soundsystem warmed up, Lone stepped up, sprinkling his characteristic colourful euphoria and injecting the crowds’ ears with early ecstasy. Following the eclectic start, Glenn Astro's selections all possessed a typical swing; punchy 4/4 nodded heads, while brassy jazz and avant-garde hip hop prevented things from getting too serious, too fast.
Contrasting the colourful, feel-good sounds of Astro and Lone, Throwing Show provided a dramatic soundtrack to the Little Gallery; a unique listening experience which captivated the imagination of the crowd. Although the smallest of the rooms on offer, the Little Gallery was now host to a set of loyal dancers, who were transfixed, settling in for an afternoon of wearing the carpet thin infront of the decks. Their loyalty was rewarded, as after Throwing Snow's transcendent set, Romare brought the party back down to Earth with a bag full of party starters. Classics such as Ring My Bell and I Want Your Love got the crowd swaying like they were on Top Of The Pops.
By the time the clock reached 17:30, the apprehension was palpable. As Bonobo took to the stage, The Great Gallery swelled with dancers, all eager to catch a glimpse of the man at the helm of the party.
After an ethereal opening soundscape, the lumbering bass of his own Kiara came stumbling in, receiving a roar from the crowd. The three-hour set was as cinematic as a film score, with peaks and troughs, highs and lows. Seamlessly, he blended bangers with his own productions, opting for crowd pleasers interspersed with moments of musical complexity and reflection. The percussive onslaught of O'Flynn's Tyrion into Erdberschnitznel's Cushion was a particular highlight, stirring up the crowd with frenzied fuel. It wasn’t until his own track Cirrus came creeping in however, that his headline status became obvious, the track perhaps getting the biggest roar of the night.
A liberating experience, Bonobo freely crossed genre and pace, taking the crowd on an emotional journey. Despite the size of the Great Gallery, there was incredible unity among the crowd for the duration of Green's slot.
Despite the vibrant party above ground, there was still space where you could lose yourself in darkness. Cut off from the daylight upstairs, the car park wound the clock on by six hours. Every artist flexed their muscles. A particular highlight was Maya Jane Coles. Taking no prisoners, she delivered a merciless aural assault of industrial techno and clattering percussion. The devastating power of the sound system in this dark underbelly was formidable, soundwaves as powerful as shockwaves rippled through the crowd from the electronic epicentre. As the crowd applauded Coles, Alex Smoke left little gap before asserting himself on the system, crushing the crowd with his damaging kick drum.
The unique setting was used to full effect, with surprises hidden round every corner. Those who took time to explore were rewarded, as areas of colour-coded tranquility housing hidden speakers were dotted around the far reaches of the venue. Each playing snippets of an unheard Bonobo composition, visual clues spoke of an area tucked behind the arcade room and, sure enough, a secret area of calm was available for those who looked hard enough. Bean bags, twinkling lights and headphones playing the soothing Bonobo piece offered respite from the dizzying bleeps of the Arcade machines and live music.
George Fitzgerald took over from a reluctant Bonobo, who was unable to suppress a grin and nearly unable to be prized from the decks. As the final track played out, the night was still young and as the crowd bled out into the streets, there was a sense that the spirit of Outlier would diffuse across London and into the night.
Words by Conor Fuller
Photos courtesy of Luke Baker & Luke O'Brien