James Zabiela @ Chinese Laundry, Sydney (21/05/2011)

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Summer has come and gone and left room for long nights and low temperatures. Far from leaving us with nothing to do, Chinese Laundry has once again turned the heat up with another Garden Party. And who should take the reins at this one, but the one and only (British) JZ. Where there’s a winter, James Zabiela can’t be far off, seemingly the only non-professional-winter-sportsman to follow the sub zero temperatures year round.

There’s no doubt of Mr Zabiela’s uncanny ability in the DJ booth. He’s got sponsorship deals with all the big names in the DJ game. He’s got nicknames galore attesting to his magical touch and musical prowess. He’s got legions of adoring fans. …Frankly, I can’t add in enough hyperbole to tell how good this guy is. But. (yes, there is a but). The Garden Party did not do him justice.

Unfortunately for me, and it might only be me (and the few members of the crowd I got talking to), the sound quality wasn’t up to scratch. While the highs were distinct, the mids and lows were lacking the oomph needed to make the whole track really kick. There was enough there to know what was going on, but not enough to appreciate the detail that (surely) James Zabiela would add in.

On top of the dismal sound, the crowd was far too enormous. There was barely room to stand comfortably, let alone to hold a drink without it spilling it, and to even GET a drink… well, one round took twenty-five minutes to buy… that is so not right. And there was certainly not enough space to dance. What a shame! It’s a dance party!! The Garden Parties are normally immense fun. And some of the best fun comes from dancing around like a lunatic or with a lunatic (who’s carrying kitchen utensils. I’m sure everyone knows these guys by now)…

The last downer I’m mentioning is the video feed. When it was focused on JZ and the DJ booth, it was bliss. When it was not, it was pointless. When a wizard of that calibre is doing his thing, it’d be nice to see what his thing actually looks like.

Enough griping! It WAS fun. The people there, though too numerous for my liking, were all in high spirits, and most were happy and polite. Not too pushy or wasted or bitchy. James Zabiela, when glimpsed, was a pleasure to watch – bouncy and energetic and smiley as always. True to form, he embraced his inner geek and let rip on his latest DJ tool, the iPad, along with his trademark trigger, the Korg Nanopad. (I don’t know how fast those fingers of his can move, but it must be some sort of world record.) The set was large and remained engaging for the entire three hours. I’m no train spotter, and when asking around in the crowd, it seemed that few knew what tracks were what. However, Radiohead’s Everything In Its Right Place was a crowd pleaser, as were mixes of Underworld and Depeche Mode.

He finished somewhat abruptly; three hours just disappeared. And (heartbreakingly) didn’t perform an encore. But for those three hours, if you could just imagine some personal space, it was a gorgeous afternoon and a great set from one of the best.

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