Kink feat. Tom Clark @ Nevermind, Sydney (01/11/08)
Fri 7th Nov, 2008 Event Reviews 4158 viewsin
Oxford Street on a Saturday night is always an interesting proposition. On this particular Saturday, Halloween costumes intermingle with the wannabe thugs from the suburbs. It’s long been said that the gay lifeblood of the precinct is being sucked out of the strip and tonight, between the backpackers and the brawls, this reality is more apparent than ever.
One recent arrival that should be welcomed however, is Nevermind. On this Saturday, the reborn Kink is hosting its first international, a man whose various Sydney appearances almost chart the evolution of techno in our city. In 2001 he appeared as a virtual unknown at the virtually unknown Crunch night at Frontier (better known these days as LadyLux), which was for its short life essentially the only place in Sydney to see straight up European style techno, and it died for the exact same reason: there weren’t enough fans of the genre in a city dominated by house music all night long.
Thereafter, he built a strong profile in Sydney through numerous appearances at Mad Racket, the institution for those that appreciate the more soulful, more American spin on tech. Finally, in 2008 Tom Clark returns to Sydney to play at a night once known as the premiere house night in the city, a night that’s reinvented itself with a music policy much closer to Clark’s hometown, the minimal mecca of Berlin.
You could say Clark has seen it all. Whether he appreciates the significance of his name on the Kink bill or not, the significance is not lost on me as I wade through the Darlinghurst detritus towards Nevermind. Can Kink really pull off such an ambitious evolution, and become a destination in Sydney for quality tech?
The door staff are reasonably pleasant to me, but security are overbearing with others. It’s an issue that needs to be ironed out – the people that are really into the music are staying away, and that’s one of the reasons why. Classic fear of rejection stuff. They’re too big and too intimidating, which is comforting when there’s rolling brawls happening outside, but they do need a lesson in customer service.
Inside, I’m immediately smacked in the face by the delicious-sounding Funktion One sound system. It’s not a new piece of kit but it’s a reasonably unique selling point for Nevermind. The system has been properly tuned for the space and it sounds superb. Tick.
Emerson Todd is behind the decks and I’m pretty excited to hear the chuggy, energetic stuff he’s dishing out. His set never gets too dark or too stripped back, and there’s lots of those big wall-of-sound buildups that hiss over the half-full dancefloor. It’s Kink, Jim, but not as we know it. Emerson changes the tone of his set frequently, exploring a nook of Berlin before roughly slapping on a bit of Frankfurt. Tom Clark is about to play at a night in Sydney which actually pushes the sound of his own country.
But the more soulful German is of course not known for maximal dancefloor-slaying or minimal dancefloor-swaying, and he immediately asserts that with a very downtempo, almost ambient track. There’s some sort of problem with the equipment and while the sound tech clambers over the mixer to find the source of some feedback, the crowd loses interest in this beatless beginning. One punter even repeatedly heckles Clark to “Turn it up!” This speed bump makes the dancefloor drift away, something it never fully recovers from.
It’s a shame, because once he gets going, Clark is a lot of fun, skipping from subgenre to subgenre. The first hour is a steady ramping up of intensity, if a little erratically mixed – this could be down to the problems with the setup, the engineer never far from Clark’s side. With the set throbbing along, Clark then throws in a few housier elements for good measure, changing direction every couple of tracks. It’s very enjoyable, very danceable stuff. Unfortunately, the crowd really thins out, and Clark finishes half an hour before his allotted three.
So what can be done to fill that dancefloor? For all of the club’s gorgeous attention to detail – the Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the toilets, for example – the big issue is one of getting the (right) crowd to the club. The punters we saw on Saturday were quite an agreeable bunch. Unlike other clubs in Sydney, even tech clubs – actually, especially tech clubs as the scene becomes more ‘cool’ – it’s nice to have people apologise to you when they bump into you on the dancefloor. Tick. The problem is that they are not passionate enough about the music to give it the patience it needs. One dull piece of minimalism and they’ve left for something more accessible. The Kink brand isn’t attracting people that like tyhe deeper sounds, and many still associate the name with house music – perhaps there’s a possible solution here.
For me personally, the night was a success. The music is simply fantastic, it is truly a great thing to hear music this good, on a sound system this clear, in a club this swish, in a city that has come so far since Tom Clark first visited. Kink has come a long way since the Arthouse, and while ‘Kink 2.0’ is like comparing XP with OSX, it is worth upgrading. With leading figures in the Australian scene having already played, names like Deepchild and Mike Callander, Scott Robertson’s vision deserves the attention of people with a passion for quality underground dance.
Nevermind needs to start attracting those people quickly. It would be a great shame to see such a credible music policy have to change to get bums on seats. I’ll be back, and happily so.