Reckless Republic pres. Chez Damier @ The Spice Cellar, Sydney (21/07/2012)

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Reckless Republic’s party last Saturday at the Spice Cellar featuring Chez Damier was originally planned to be the second stop on a night of Chicago house legends at competing parties here in Sydney. Lil Louis sadly could not make it to Boom Boom’s ‘secret rooftop’ event, but it turned out to be a great party anyway. I left while it was peaking and made my way over to Martin Place to catch Damier’s late-night set.

It was my first full-on party at Spice Cellar, and I was really impressed with the venue’s unusual layout and all the great design detail. The sound system is killer as I’d already been told. (Actually on the night it was a case of overkill – the sound was too loud, full stop. Tinnitus alert, no joke.) I loved the lack of lighting effects – just some red ambience along the walls and a disco ball, contributing to the timeless vibe of ‘a basement, a red light and a feeling’.

I couldn’t help but be a bit let down by the clientele, though. After the mostly discerning and switched-on underground heads that packed the Boom Boom party, the more random, commercial and drunk crowd here was a bummer. At one point I had to leave the floor after a bunch of silly girls drunker than characters in an LCD Soundsystem tune kept bumping into me and falling all over the place. Par for the course in Sydney CBD you will remind me no doubt. I overheard a kid in the queue say that Spice Cellar is like that for the main part of the night, before it clears out and takes on a more civilised after-hours feel in the early morning, and that’s pretty much what happened.

I will say this – however generic the crowd was, they were truly up for Damier’s relentless grooves. As the last man standing and carrying the banner of Chicago house in Sydney that night (unless Larry Heard was playing somewhere else in the city and no one told me), Damier did not let us down, and the peak energy on the dancefloor never once slacked off. When I arrived early in his set, he was playing André Lodemann’s stomping The Light, one of my fave tunes of the past couple of years and a firm indicator that he’d be sticking with new-school stuff.

If you’re a devotee of Damier’s classic ‘90s output on Prescription Underground and Balance like I am, you probably often think of tracks like The Meaning and Forever Monna that are deep, moody, soulful and vaguely tribal with an electronic edge. But Damier was always capable of big tunes with a main-floor feel (e.g. tracks like Can U Feel It and I Never Knew Love), and on this night he gave us more of the latter, which suited the energy of the crowd. I was fine with it too – his selection and mixing were so good I didn’t miss the deeper stuff. He went back and forth between hard-charging instrumentals, garagey vocals and disco-ish breaks with a sure hand. This is not to say he lacked subtlety – far from it, as the night wore on he delved into more minimal, tech and dubby stuff, and the whole set was laced with plenty of real soul and melody.

It was basically just a clinic in contemporary house, and the fan in me was satisfied as I got on an early train home, leaving a packed and pumping Spice Cellar behind me.

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