November is a busy month for I Love Neon. The electronic music promoters are celebrating 20 years of parties with, you guessed it, 20 parties! On Saturday, November 10th, Neon co-hosted a pair of events in Montreal featuring two bigtime headliners. Over at Newspeak, acid house guru Josh Wink, known for his rave anthem “Higher State of Consciousness,” played an extended three hour set in the intimate club.
Across town, meanwhile, Bucketlist was in the house for UK house duo Gorgon City’s big shiny live show at Corona Theatre. After King Henry’s opening set was canceled, warm-up duties fell to Beachclub resident DJ Ludo. The local selector stepped up with two hours of bass-heavy vocal house tunes. Probably because of the early 8 pm start, the venue was almost empty for the first half of Ludo’s set.
Opening DJ must be one of the loneliest jobs. For one, you have to stand on stage and play music with no bandmates to keep you company. And with an empty dance floor, the DJ looks extra awkward spinning tunes for an audience of bartenders and sound techs. The venue eventually filled up, and Ludo responded by building the tempo with vocal-heavy bassline house, including Tom Budin’s remix of “Love Me” by Torren Foot and Offaiah’s slamming track “Trouble.”
After a long intermission, the lights went down and a woman announced, “The time has come… this is our escape” over an ambient soundscape. Blinding strobe lights and screams from the crowd indicated our headliners were in the building. This was my first time witnessing the enormous spectacle of a Gorgon City show. The London producers Kye “Foamo” Gibbon and Matt “RackNRuin” Robson-Scott lived up to the hype—and they don’t cut corners live.
The duo crafted banging house and garage tunes on a mountain of synths and samplers. They were accompanied by Nathan “Tugg” Curran, a real drummer playing not on a machine but on a full drum kit, which is unusual for an electronic set. Curran, who also works with Basement Jaxx and Roots Manuva, is a session drummer specializing in electronic dance music. Drumming in time with endlessly repetitive house and techno beats must be quite challenging, but Curran was tight and professional.
Two guest singers also joined the band, Chenai and Josh Barry. The live vocals added a soulful touch to the cold EDM. They also kept everyone focused and engaged, preventing the crowd from losing themselves in the hypnotic rhythm of the music. Chenai, who recorded “Never Enough” with Gorgon City and performed the track live, sang with energy and passion. Barry performed his singles “Blame” and “Saving My Life.” While dramatic and entertaining, the singers sounded like commercial dance pop and removed most of the underground cool from the set.
A futuristic high-end light show and warm sound system were the icing on the cake for this over the top sensory overload. At one point, the singers briefly left the stage, the lights went down again, strobes fired up, and Gorgon City played a dark and slamming interlude of dancefloor destruction. This was the atmosphere I was waiting for all night, and, for a brief moment, I felt like a young raver again.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Kate Erickson