Mad Racket Ninth Birthday feat. Chris Duckenfield @ Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney (27/10/07)

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In Sydney, it’s hard enough to stay in the promoting game for nine months, let alone nine years. Trends come and go faster than most people can latch onto them, quality venues are few and far between and crowds are fickle. So it’s well worth acknowledging – and celebrating – that Mad Racket, a party that never once followed trends or pandered to the lowest common denominator, has now been running for nine years.

Before jumping into reviewing the music, a little has to be said about the party itself. Racket ha been going for well longer than I’ve been of clubbing age, but in the times that I have attended the night I’ve noticed some things that characterize the party, and it seems that these are indeed what makes it so successful and so special: a friendly, educated crowd who actually show their appreciation for the acts that are playing; a unique, interesting music policy that isn’t afraid to branch off into territories most other promoters are afraid to even contemplate pushing; and a bloody cool venue. Oh, and the sound is ridiculously good too.

But now onto what everyone comes to Racket for: the music (even though the balloons were an awesome touch and provided hours of amusement, the music was still better). I must apologise in advance that this review won’t feature the usually high level of trainspotting that you’d expect from me. It’s not that I wasn’t paying attention, it’s just that the music at Mad Racket was so fresh I had no idea what most of the tunes being played were, and I liked it that way.

I arrived just as Jimmi James was starting what proved to be a thoroughly impressive, well-mixed opening set. One thing that has to be said about Jimmi is the man certainly has the funk. His set was funkier than a yeast infection in James Brown’s underpants, but thankfully much more pleasant. Blending deep, sub-bass driven tech-house and bumpy minimal tech, there was plenty of shuffle, bounce and groove to his sounds, which got the crowd onto the dancefloor nice and early and kept them there.

Next up Ken Cloud took over the controls and picked up where Jimmi James had left off, starting out by continuing the deep tech house vibes before picking up the pace a little with some quirky John Tejada-esque tech vibes and splashes of almost disco influenced sounds. As the set progressed so did the music, with Cloud slowly building up to some bouncy, crunchy techno and even dropped some slightly ravey tunes such as Simon Baker’s massive Plastik. Technically, Cloud was spot on, mixing nice and tightly and even throwing in a few cheeky layers and effects.

With the dancefloor now heaving, Simon Caldwell jumped on the decks to warm-up for the evening’s guest, Chris Duckenfield, and Lord did he do an incredible job. Starting off with lush Detroit techno, Caldwell quickly worked his way into warm, funky tech house which soon gave way to some jacking old school techno (including the classic Recycled Loops Volume 2A), splashes of jazzy tech and even a liberal dose of squelchy acid thanks to Late Nite Tuff Guy’s I Get Deeper. Skills-wise, Caldwell was definitely the most impressive of the Racketeers on the night, mixing new tunes in every minute or so, cutting up the tunes like a man possessed, and bringing together a wide variety of sounds with scary cohesion and precision.

At 3am, Racket favourite Chris Duckenfield took to the stage and proceeded to work the dancefloor into a frenzy until the disgustingly early hours of the morning. Starting off by winding down Caldwell’s final tune and then dropping a disco version of Happy Birthday, Duckenfield immediately set the mood for the next few hours: fun. While there were plenty of banging, crunchy and surprisingly dark cuts scattered throughout his set, there was an undeniable groove and funk for its entirety, and a straight-up vibe of fun and unpretentiousness. It would be nearly impossible to give a blow-by-blow account of his set because it was so incredibly diverse, with Duckenfield switching up the vibe in an instant through inspired track selection, but for those wanting some idea: for the most part, tech-house was blended perfectly with jacking house, thumping, crunchy tech, and some proper bassline driven nonsense, but in the final portion of the set he got very adventurous, dropping bits of disco and old school house, chunks of Joakim-esque bleepy goodness, and some low-slung, intense acid grooves.

Although he played largely un-ID’able, fresh, upfront goodness, Duckenfield wasn’t afraid to drop a few classics such as Is It All Over My Face? by Loose Joints and Shades of Jae by Moody Man (to finish no less!), as well as some well-known crowd pleasers such as Solid Groove’s This Is Sick and Sicknagood, and the simultaneously most loved and most hated tune of 2007, Samim’s Heater. It’s this ethos where what matters is the quality of the tune, not its age or popularity, that a lot of big-name DJs disappointingly don’t hold to, so it was really refreshing to see someone who played tracks purely based on their individual merit.

And while musically Duckenfield was outstanding, it was his technical skills that really were the highlight of his performance. Riding mixes for upwards of two and three minutes at a time, and cutting, layering and EQ’ing superbly, he honestly made DJing look like child’s play. Even if, by some freak accident, a mix would go even remotely out of time, it was back in before one could think “did he just drop that mix a little?”. Flawless is the only word I can think of.

I always suck at conclusions to reviews so I’m going to just leave it here with this: Happy Birthday Mad Racket. Nine years is an achievement worth celebrating. You continue to impress those who’ve been attending the party for years, but also manage to recruit fresh faces thanks to your unique music policy, friendly vibe and high quality acts. Don’t ever change.

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niallmurphy1979 said on the 5th Nov, 2007

as ever, mad racket was superb, from my first night at brooks at the bday party 3 years ago (which by the way, was the best set ive heard in sydney), to last sat, mad racket has been such a great night every time: from the friendly bar staff, the vibe, th