Waiting in the queue for Mall Grab, I got the sense of a very diverse crowd. As to be expected in freshers week, some just seemed keen to get inside and dance whilst others were discussing the credentials of Mall Grab, the UK based Aussie who has gained himself a huge following amongst dance music fans, especially those who shun pretentiousness and unashamedly put pure, unadulterated fun at the forefront of what they want to see from a DJ. Out of all the DJs to grace the booth at Wire in recent months, very few have sold out as quickly as Mall Grab, which serves as a testament to how popular he is.
When chatting to a friend in the smoking area before heading into the depths of Wire, he told me he wasn't here to be blown away by his technical ability or track selection, but as he himself always aims to put fun at the heart of his sets when he plays out, he wanted to witness how Mall Grab did the same. So I entered Wire with an open mind, hoping Mall Grab would impress me like so many DJs before him at Wire have done.
There was certainly no shortage of tracks to make you dance, as he mixed bouncy house into UK Grime from JME, and hip hop from DJ Juice. However, there seemed to be very little attempt from Mall Grab to make one song transition into the next in a way that flowed nicely. As far as I could tell, his mixing was absolutely fine, but the constant shifting between totally unrelated genres was slightly jarring.
Aside from this, he also chose to select more widely known tracks than any DJ I had seen before at Wire. Admittedly, I enjoyed the chance to hear these played out of Wire's sound system, but those who go out to hear music they have never heard before and may never hear again would have been disappointed. “Aerodynamite” by Daft Punk, “Needin You” by David Morales and Armand van Helden's “My My My” are great tracks, but uninspired selections.
Another feature of his set I feel compelled to mention was the spin-backs. If these are done sparingly and at the right moment it can sound fantastic, but he seemed to be using them as a tool for when the BPM difference between the tracks was too high to mix on more than a few occasions. There was also the baffling moment when he seemed to simply speed up the tune he was playing by dragging the pitch to +8 over the space of a few seconds and then suddenly whack in another track. Peering around Wire whilst this was happening I could see half the crowd cheering his bravery, whilst the other half gazed at each other, baffled and confused over why he had just done that.
I think this reaction sums him up as a DJ. During his set he was certainly enjoying himself, and was even relaxed and comfortable enough to have what looked like a handful of young fans dancing with him in the DJ booth, something I can only respect him for. However, judging on how busy the street outside Wire was at 3am, not everyone appreciated his style. The friend I spoke to before entering was correct, Mall Grab is a DJ who focuses on fun above all else, for better and for worse.
Photo courtesy of Mall Grab