Belfast 11 @ QBH, Melbourne (24/05/03)

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Jontra Volta gets down at Belfast

Cheese in dance music is not a new thing. There always seems to be plenty to go round. If you consider yourself a respected member of the dance community avoiding cheese is one of the most important things in your life. But once a year or so we all gather for a party called Belfast. A celebration of things past. A party where you can hear some long-forgotten tracks and sounds, and plenty of cheese. It is nature’s perverse sense of humour. No matter how much we hate cheese, a few years later when we hear the cheese from the past we tend to love and embrace it. Well at least I do. I guess it triggers too many pleasant memories.

Belfast is a party celebrating the early days of the Melbourne dance scene. Local DJ’s are invited to give their perspective of the early days. The excitement this party creates as the days draw near to its pinnacle is amazing. There are few other parties in town that can gather such momentum. Everyone gets excited by the prospect of hearing those classic tracks again in a club. Belfast 11 promised to be a great party. Maybe because all of my friends were in some sort of feverish frenzy, but I like to think it’s because it is a fun night, and you know that you will not be disappointed.

We got to QBH as Mark James was playing. From the outside you could hear the sounds of Quench’s Dreams. After messing around for some time we went in QBH. By 1am, the place was already quite full, and the music promised a good night. The Shamen’s Move Any Mountain followed by Inner City – Good Life, is enough to get anyone on the dance floor.

By the time we got in and settled at a spot on the dance floor, Will E Tell was starting his set. His Belfast sets tend to have lots of early house and techno, full of piano riffs. His set was hard with undertones of old equipment and technology. He played tracks such as S-Express – Theme from S-Express, Inner City – Big Fun, and Cygnus X – Orange Theme. A great way to start any party.

Next up was Richie Rich. I have always enjoyed his old school sets immensely, mostly because he has a very tasty vinyl collection. He started off playing some techno and then moved into the more rave sounds. Dark twisted incessant sounds that drill into your head like a jackhammer. The crowd loved every minute of it, and so did I. He played some classic tunes like CJ Bolland – Ravesignal and Mental Cube – Q to mention just a couple, because his set was packed with some choice cuts. And of course where would a retro Richie Rich set be without Moby’s Go? Which of course proved to be a great track to finish his set.

Jayse Knipe was next and he delivered some surprises. I’ve heard him play an old skool set before (Belfast 8), but somehow I thought he’d play more of a house set (perhaps that’s just my memory playing up). Instead he started with some great progressive house tunes and then moved into some great trance. His set was definitely the highlight of the night including tracks such as Illuminatus – Hope, Paul van Dyk – Words, Age of Love – Age of Love and Joey Beltram – Energy Flash.

Simon Coyle was always going to be an interesting DJ to see at Belfast. That was primarily because he is way too young to fit the old skool profile like the rest of the DJ’s. I was a bit sceptical as to what he would deliver, but that didn’t last for too long. Similar to his regular sets, he played a tough techno set and unlike the DJ’s before him he was more aggressive on the mixer. There were a few tracks that made me go insane, namely Orbital – Lush 3.2, Deee-Lite – Groove is in the Heart, and FSOL – Papua New Guinea. His set got a bit flat in the middle, too much of the same old thing but nonetheless he kept the party going, since most of the punters enjoyed what he played.

The final DJ we saw before leaving was Jason Midro. Reading Richie’s posts on ITM regarding Jason’s set at Hardware 20, I was quite looking forward to his set (especially since CJ Bolland tracks were named). He opened with KLF’s What Time is Love, which was great. But that was it. After that he kept playing lots of trance, and the set seemed a bit boring, at which point we lost interest in the performance and left.

And that was it for another instalment of Belfast. In my opinion one of the best big local parties, because the production is great, but more importantly the music is fantastic. Perhaps the music is not that fantastic, but hearing it once a year makes it really special. The entire event is all about having fun, and hopefully we will see many more Belfast parties in the future. One thing I didn’t like were the DJ set times. Perhaps the DJ set times could have been changed, because after all it is a Hardware event, and there are many of us who would prefer a Hardware sound later in the night. I for one regret not seeing Richie’s morning set, because they can be truly special, but I guess I will have to wait till Belfast 12.

Discocowgirl takes it back to the oldschool

I crimp my hair, pop on my lime green flairs and dance around my beige coloured living room and orange tiled kitchen. The Only Way is Up by Yazz, Vogue by Madonna and Small Town Boy by Bronski Beat play on the record player. A party has started and I have not even left my home yet!

Sambucca shots, Ritz crackers and sun-dried tomato dip. A ding-dong on my 80s sounding door bell and a gal pal arrives for some drinking and dancing too. She brings a retro smile and a bottle of Midori. We dance around and flick the lights on and off. Quite not the same effect as a green strobe light bursting with rays of goodness, but for the time being, the effect will do. My cat sits in the corner and watches. She is not amused.

We both lose count on how many Sambuccas and Midoris we have consumed. Who cares? It is now time to stumble to one of the best parties of the year – Belfast at Queensberry Hotel.

It has been awhile since I last set foot at QBH. The dance floor is deserted with only two girls bopping at the front of stage. DJs Andrew Marsh and Steve Robbins pump out songs that are so old, I don’t even know them. But the music makes me drink faster.

I whip out the talcum powder and sprinkle the floor. Now the floor has a few more people but the strobes are not on and the place is dark and retro sounding. A massive smiley star hangs in the middle of the Rock Steady room and little smiley stars are stuck on pillars and toilet entrances.

DJ Mark James comes on and spins some heavy sounds. So heavy, I follow another girl to the biggest speakers and we stand in front of them. Nice and tickly and brrrrr like, my body is pounding with bass and it chokes my tonsils. Punters flock to the floor with two podium dancers on either side of the decks. Tracks that go off and get a cheer from the crowd is the B side of Frank Da Wulf and Move Any Mountain – Shamen. The last song of the set brings back memories of the 80s full of buffy hair, stilettos and house music. Good Life by Inner City formerly Inter City. The MC with the afro (editor’s notes – hahhaha this would be Richie Rich and his fluffy hat) thanks James and introduces DJ Will E Tell.

The Theme from S-Xpress sends me into a dance frenzy with Big Fun by Inner City straight after. Will E Tell hugs a girl on stage and she drinks more wine and plonks her retro self on the retro stage. I hang a few laps of QBH and find myself upstairs in the Smile Arena listening to Astroboy. At this stage, I am all dooshed out.

My pal and I catch a cab home and stop at Caltex. “Let’s get some 80s food” I say and the console operator looks on with a smile. Why? Because there’s nothing like the sound of the 80s ringing in your ears, chomping on a hot Chiko roll, a Chokito Bar and washing it down with a chocolate Big M!

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