Shrug pres Eelke Kleijn @ The Abercrombie, Sydney (02/02/2013)

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Eelke Kleijn’s first trip to Australia had been much anticipated, particularly here in Sydney, where a strong – and patient – fan base had for the good part of a decade openly pondered when Kleijn would finally grace Australia with his presence.

It was common knowledge that Kleijn would be in the country for Rainbow Serpent in Victoria, but on a Wednesday afternoon in early January, the Sydney arm of his first Australian tour was announced. Fans, this one included, openly gushed about how excited they were. Armed with reviewing duties, I even made the executive decision to stop listening to Kleijn’s set in the weeks leading to the gig. (Strange decision, but, it’s the little things, sometimes.)

To an artist like Kleijn – someone who’s played at the likes of Dance Valley in his native Holland, the infamous Warung Beach Club in Brazil, Pacha in Buenos Aires, and Privilege in Ibiza – the Abercrombie Hotel could easily seem like a million miles away. Resident Advisor bluntly describes it as ‘an old Australian hotel’, ‘located near Broadway on your way into Sydney’s CBD.” The description is technically, correct, but does not give it anywhere near enough justice. It has got a tremendous vibe, and not only should it be lauded for its forward thinking musical policy, but it also confirms that a fancy club does not always make the best venue. (After all, it’s the little things sometimes.)

I had the good fortune walking into the venue about the same time as Kleijn. The man is a giant, so he’s not hard to miss. The Abercrombie was quiet, and early on a Saturday afternoon with clouds looking ominous, it was to be expected. Nevertheless, Kleijn took it in his stride. He would later quip that he thought that the space ‘could turn into a neat little rave’, no doubt aided by Garth Linton laying down some sweet tunes behind the decks. For those of us that like the progressive tip of all things musical, this lineup was sublime, the local support – top notch. Linton would be followed by Dave Stuart, and with four hours of Kleijn to be followed by the talented Rodskeez, it sounded delightful. At a dinner a few nights before the gig, Shrug boss Stuart got them all together (it’s the little things sometimes), where they all hung out, bonded, and openly discussed their mutual excitement of what Saturday would bring. It would ultimately, be pretty special.

Stuart himself played a perfect warm up set, laying down some sweet melodies. With the crowd swelling, he likely would’ve been pretty happy with how things looked from where he was standing. The lovely Brickman remix of Diving to Deep from Goran Geto was one of many carefully chosen tunes that he lay down, building a rock solid foundation for the Dutchman.

As Kleijn stepped up, people clapped and cheered in anticipation (and I dare say also for Stuart’s set). The Aber’ was pumped. The more mature seasoned punters had waited a long time for this. The younger contingent of the crowd however, was savouring it just as much – they knew who this guy was, and that’s why they were there. Few people happen to just stumble across a dance party on a Saturday afternoon in an old Australian pub.

What then transpired over the next four hours was a sheer delight. I could gush and gush, but with early deep tunes like the Gorge remix of Traumatnzer from Ava Asante to the techier sounds of I Try To Fight from Siopsis, Kleijn was creating something special. With some groovy bass lines with more than just a cheeky bit of melody, we were in the palm of his hand.

At the hour mark, the Daso remix of The Drums from Deo & Z-Man signalled a slight but noticeable change in direction, the more uplifting sounds seeing our hands reach for the now clear, but darker skies. The crowd was loving it. Tunes from Motor City Soul and Acumen added to a vibe that was about as spot on as a party can be. We were about half way through and the lad we’d waited so long to see, was delivering in absolute spades, and with tunes that sounded so refreshing.

As we rounded the half way mark, and he unleashed with his own Rauwdouwer and the place erupted. And over the course of those last two hours, it would do so repeatedly: belters like his own, and epic, remix of the Hartmut Kiss tune Water Games followed shortly thereafter by the monster A Fine Line Between Nowhere and No Where from Jokers of the Scene, made for a tremendous dance-floor vibe. Bolero from Dusty Kid and the brilliant Living Like a Waveform from Rob Hes towards the end added to an experience I’m still shaking my head at. Open air, an amazing crowd, and ridiculously good tunes played and progressed to perfection by a DJ that was as enamoured with us, as we were, him. This was top notch, and up there in my list – it’s a short list – of the best four hours of music I’ve ever heard.

Kleijn himself is one of the nicest dudes you’re likely to meet in the scene. Listen to his podcasts; the friendly persona, with that unmistakable accent of his, is indeed not an act. He fed off the vibe of the Abercrombie, and seemingly wanted to just keep playing. Rodskeez, with no hint of ego or being protectionist of his time slot, stepped up, and for the next hour they went back to back. An absolute delight to listen to – and as they charged through with the sounds of Secret Cinema and Max Cooper – it was an experience that neither artist will probably be forgetting soon. Neither will we.

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