Sounds pres. James Zabiela @ Arq, Sydney (15/02/08)
Tue 19th Feb, 2008 Event Reviewsin
James Zabiela is one of Sydney’s favourite artists and has a massive chinstroker following that rivals that of just about any other DJ who has graced our shores. Every gig that he’s played in Sydney has been hyped up to insane levels, and then critiqued for days and weeks afterwards. His amazing DJ skills are only surpassed by his loveliness: he not only posts on ITM when he is in the country, but he is more than happy to pose for pics and have a chat with the local punters when he’s around. Sydney quite rightly loves Zabiela.
This time round, Zabelia was in Australia for the Good Vibrations festival and a couple of side shows that were slotted in to his schedule, in this case a Sydney show with a warmup set from my favourite Sydney DJ Robbie Lowe, as well as the Minimal Fuss lads – Ben Korbel, Declan Lee, Matt Aubusson and Dave Choe – rocking out in the Basement. The gig was hosted at Arq at Taylors Square, the city’s most popular gay venue but not really known as the place to go see some “out there” progressive techno and minimal sounds! However, I’d heard rumours about Arq and whispers of its amazing setup and killer sound system, so I was really looking forward to checking it out.
After beginning the night with a feast at another gay institution of Oxford Street – Betty’s Soup Kitchen – we strolled up to Arq in time to catch Robbie Lowe banging out some brilliant sounds. I am a huge fan of Robbie and it was no surprise to see him with a crowded room, punters with their hands in the air and him with a huge cheesy grin on his face, and all before midnight! I am going to go as far as to say that this was up there as the best set I have seen him play – he totally exceeded his biggest fan’s expectations and I could tell that the crowd was getting right into it. It was great to hear him play some of my favourite tracks at the moment like Dousk – Nails, Kolombo – Realistic and the track that he and Matt Rowan produced together Sam I Am.
Zabiela smoothly slipped into the groove after Robbie left the decks, and the pace didn’t falter. He produced a glorious eclectic mix of sounds – from techno to progressive, some acid and even some breaks and minimal tech stuff too that flowed perfectly from start to finish. He of course played with his effects unit (it wouldn’t have been a proper Zabiela set if he didn’t!), but definitely not to the extent that I have seen him fiddle with it in the past. At previous gigs I’d been frustrated by Zabiela’s sets, finding that the flow had gotten lost as he mucked around on the effects unit, but not this time. From woah to go, it was on for young and old.
Technically, Zabiela is one of the best – watching his hands flicker from mixer to effects to decks is both mesmerising and awe inspiring – and I don’t think I was the only one who got chills from watching him. Track selection was insanely good – hearing his own productions Perseverance and No Other Way But Down getting smashed out was brilliant, plus other tunes like Radiohead’s Everything in its Right Place, Matt Rowan & Jaytech Noodles and Phil Kieran Again And Again. I’m even going to go as far as to say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen Zabiela play a better set than he did at Arq. I’m still undecided if this was also because of the awesome atmosphere, thanks to the vibe of the crowd and the lasers inside the club – something that we need more of in Sydney that’s for sure! – or if it that was solely related to his stellar performance. Regardless, it was incredible.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get to see the Minimal Fuss boys too much – a couple of trips down there to have a bit of a break from the heaving crowd upstairs was all I managed, but from what I heard it was really great down there. One of my partners-in-crime who had made the trip from down Brisbane for the weekend was very, very impressed with the sounds in the basement – choosing to chinstroke in the corner to the lads for a lot of the night.
I know that this is going to be in my top 5 gigs of 2008, and I think it will be up there for a lot of others who attended. The crowd, the sounds, the venue and the atmosphere all were fantastic and I really hope to see future gigs at this venue because it is right up there with Tank and Home as one of the premiere venues in Sydney. Congratulations James, Robbie and the Sounds and Minimal Fuss boys… That one was helluva night!