By Michael Boyle
Before we go any further, I’d like to wish all of you a happy new year, albeit a little bit late. The 11 days between New Years Eve and now have been filled up with parties, spending quality time with family at home and a few days of recovery since getting back to Dubai. Only now am I getting the chance to finish this off.
On December 19th, 2014, I went to the last big club night of 2014 in Glasgow. The legendary Sven Väth played live at The Arches, Glasgow, a club I’ve mentioned here many times before and hold very close to my heart. For those of you who don’t know who Sven Väth is, which I sincerely hope is none of you, he is a German DJ. He’s 50 years old, and was part of the movement that brought Trance music to our ears way back when cassette tapes were still the big thing. He is one of the only DJs around these days who refused to move on to CDJs and DDJs and laptops, instead opting for the much more difficult to play with, therefore much more impressive, vinyl.
One more thing I should mention is that he is #15 on the Resident Advisor Top 100. Most of you probably consider DJ Mag to be the ultimate authority on who’s good, but you’re wrong. DJ Mag rates DJs on records sold, which means that sell-out EDM shite that panders to the ears of pre-pubescent girls and involves pop singers – think Zedd, Calvin Harris and Hardwell – don’t even make it into the Resident Advisor Top 100. Yes, RA rates DJs on technical ability, so to the electronic music purists among us, it’s the scripture. Only the chosen ones make it to the top 20.
So back to talking about the gig. We rolled up to The Arches after a lengthy pre-game drinking session at my friend’s place. There was a ragtag group of about 4 of us and we met up with the others inside. After the usual farting about at security, the bouncers searched us then turned us loose inside. The cloak room was a bit of a buzz-kill because we had to wait what felt like half the night to check our jackets in, but this is unavoidable on a cold winter night in Glasgow.
While all this was going on we could hear that familiar thump of the bass from the warmup DJ coming through the stone walls and it gave me goosebumps – there’s nothing like that sound to get a techno-head riled up. With the jackets safely checked in, we headed for the bar.
Sven Väth eventually came on, but I can’t even tell you what time because by this point we were all good and smashed. We all got separated a bunch of times through trips to the bathroom or the bar, but none of us really cared. We always caught up with each other eventually, plus we were there to listen to the mighty Sven, not waste our time with idle chitchat.
As the foundations shook under the constant barrage of bass, the crowd went as wild as is possible with no room to move. The dance floor was packed so tight that the only dancing anyone could do was nodding their heads to the beat and if you were real lucky, you could throw your hands up in the air. It was hot, loud, sweaty, uncomfortable and awesome all at once. Everyone was either too drunk or too high to care that their noses were inches away from someone else’s sweaty armpit, and with the universal sense that the guy behind the decks was some kind of supernatural being, all was right with the world. There was no trouble, nobody fought or pushed, nobody got mad that half a can of Red Stripe had just been spilled over their feet – we were all united under the watchful eye and wizard hands of Great and Powerful Sven.
The music started great and got better. The bass got chunkier, the tunes got more aggressive and the crowd got crazier. Sven Väth had everyone right there in the palms of his hands. A style of DJ’ing that is so rare in these dark days of EDM, Väth watches the crowd and plays FOR them. He was there for us just as much as we were there for him. He gauged the reactions to certain things, riffs and bass lines, and built on them. I saw Zedd live last year and he pretty much just pressed Play on a pre-recorded set then jumped around for 2 hours. Sven was different. He did it the way it should be done – the way that has sealed his name among legends.
I can’t speak highly enough of how I rank Väth as a musician. All I can say is that I was thoroughly blown away by his set, everything from technique to execution to song choice. One thing is for sure – I’ll be keeping an eye out for his first trip to the UAE and getting tickets right away.