Disclaimer: This review has been collaboratively written using an innovative new journalistic technique.
Basically, the bits we wrote have our names above. Not so hard is it?
The night we saw CamelPhat was like a film. It was scenic, dynamic, colourful, and the soundtrack was fucking great.
I’ve stepped outside the club to find a less disgusting toilet, and after singing Livin’ On a Prayer with some nice gentlemen at the urinals, I’m denied re-entry by the bouncers.
“I don’t think you’ve been here before mate”
“I have! I’ve been inside all night; the reservation is under Sony Music”
“Yeah? Show me some Sony Music ID then”
“I don’t work for them, I was invited. I’m a journalist!”
Cut to black, then fade in on Milo and Gem, 4 hours earlier, unprepared for the wild night ahead with celebs, carcasses, cutting shapes and CamelPhat.
The evening began with sharing a tinny on the tube. We left class early and sprinted home to get changed, then high-tailed it across London via the city’s charmingly sooty large intestine. The Central line was hotter than your girlfriend and the Victoria trains were packed with CamelPhatters – identifiable by their complete lack of warm clothing. We sat quietly while a group of girls argued over where the O2 Academy is, and when we arrived, we watched one of them storm off into the night in the completely wrong direction. The DJ duo were set to take the stage at 12:30, as in half past midnight, but Milo and I had arrived in Brixton at 7:48 PM.
Fresh-faced, fair-haired, and freaking out, we’re 12 minutes early for “Drinks and Nibbles!” with Sony Music and some other press at a swanky bar called ‘Lost, Brixton’ – I know, right?
I want to make it clear that this is new territory for us; personally, I’ve never been invited anywhere before a gig! (Except once when I was waiting to outside EartH for Little Simz and a man asked if I wanted to see his new bong in a nearby alley). With some time left to kill, we engaged in an argument over whether ‘drinks and nibbles’ would be free. Gem said they would be, but I picked up a cheap can of Merlot for the walk.
“Networking events give me diarrhoea” belches Milo as we traversed a cobble street covered with trash and fish corpses. O, Brixton, never change!
After getting lost once or thrice, we found the artisan-plantasia-meets-porta-potties bar and slinked inside, squirming through a pulsating organism of homogenous homo sapiens to find ‘our people’. Greeted by the wonderful PR manager Olivia, we’re told to help ourselves to the unholy and beautiful amount of beer and wine adorning the table. Sufficed to say, I was right about ‘drinks and nibbles!’ We began to trundle through greetings with the group: “I’m a model” says an American in response to Milo asking her name. “I’m just a boy” Milo retaliates.
The buzz is beginning; the night is alight with anticipation. There is only one single lull in conversation, which was excellently punctuated by our new model friend who leaned into the silence and proffered:
“So, are you gonna do any drugs tonight?”
The buzz isn’t surprising. This gig has been a long time coming. The now infamous DJ and production duo came out of Liverpool in 2004. Dave Whelan and Mike Di Scala have operated under a seriously impressive smorgasbord of names, such as Shake n’ Jack, The Bassline Hustlers, Wheels and Disco, and my personal favourite: Pawn Shop. The duo’s combined tech and deep house with some innovative and iconic samples, first breaking the top 100 on the UK singles chart in 2006 as Pawn Shop with Shot Away, which was based around a sample from The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter. Releasing their first singles as CamelPhat in 2010 (then anonymous), they quickly became a household name, and stood proudly in the House scene until sprinting into godlike status with their 2017 single Cola, which hit number one on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, and secured them a Grammy nomination. They’ve done nothing but grow since then, and they’ve amassed a loyal army of fans who, as we drank in Lost, diligently waited in the cold for their deities to grace them.
Around midnight we briskly (well, the group was dragged out of the bar) moved on to the venue, the good old O2 Academy Brixton. Winning the NME award for best venue 12 times, it was a fitting canvas for the house giants to play their “first proper headline show” (-Quote from their twitter) in this historic heart of Brixton.
Interrupted by Milo’s burning urge to urinate, we separated from the rest of the gang as he relieved himself behind a bin. Showbiz ain’t all glitz and glam, kids. The group soldiered on without us, so we staggered the rest of the way alone. We arrived to sea of ravers who appeared to have just flown in from Ibiza, and felt very out of place. Which, thankfully, was all forgotten as soon as the music floated, or rather thumped, into our consciousness.
We agreed to copy the Mystery Gang from Scooby Doo, and split up to look for clues. I scoured around the bar looking for our group, but with no luck, turned my attention to Heidi – the opening DJ who made quite a huge splash on the house scene at the start of the decade with her global Jackathon events and the compilation album of the same name which followed. Her energy is infamously unmatched and this gig was no exception; she combined a mastery of her craft with the enthusiasm of evangelical vicar giving a sermon after 400µg of LSD.
Speaking of Acid Priests, the experience got decidedly religious when CamelPhat took to the stage. Out from the darkness, rising tones shot around the room like quidditch players, and the crowd practically fell their knees in worship of their saviours. The time had come. The witching hour was upon us. My shoelace needed retying. As tension rose, the crowd became hot, our attention was hyper-focused and the building feeling was immense, so when the boys launched in with the first drop of the set, the release was, in a word, thunderous.
CamelPhat’s disciples moved in a beautiful ripple, their tidal nature complimenting the waves of sound emanating from the venue’s muscle bound PA system. The speakers were pushed to their limit, but never wavered, and the duo delivered on striking that all-too-difficult-to-achieve balance of power and nuance. Don’t get me wrong, the sound hit you in the face like a brick wall, but amidst the bricks, texture. They smoothly pushed and pulled at the levels, giving us a tasting platter of each track, first accentuating their percussion, then cutting through the ambience with striking samples and hypnotising melodic riffs, before exploding with each drop, and I don’t just mean musically.
FIRE, FIRE AND SMOKE AND STROBES AND FIRE!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting pyrotechnics. I was expecting a black room, a desk, and some visuals behind the boys. Alas, my experience with seeing DJ’s in shipping containers had given me devastatingly low expectations. My preconceptions were annihilated by CamelPhat’s phenomenal light show which combined with flourishing, trippy visuals and thrilling, daring, oh-god-I-know-it’s-hot-but-I-wanna-touch-it pyrotechnics. Had the room been totally silent, I’d still have neared a sensory overload.
But oh no.
The room wasn’t silent.
The room was erupting.
With all the power of Yellowstone volcano (which will one day reduce you and your family to ash), the boys emitted wave after gargantuan wave of cosmic house and dance. The vibrations blew my hair around, and the bass took charge of my ribcage and sent pulses to my heart. CamelPhat’s new single, Be Someone (feat. Jake Bugg) went down a smash, and the duo’s slick blends of tastefully selected house favourites put me in a worryingly inescapable trance. Submit to this music, my friends, submit and let your atoms dance, so commanded the men on the decks.
I’d brushed up on my mixing knowledge just enough to be sufficiently blown away by CamelPhat’s rich sonic tapestry, pulling from a diverse range of tunes under one common heading: Stuff To Make People Dance Their Socks Off. My highlight was the duo’s hit single, Breathe, a collaboration with Cristoph which, along with another absolute banger, Rabbit Hole, features the mesmerising vocals of local London talent, Jem Cooke, whose voice rose above the crowd, above the boys, and above this spectral realm. I was, for a moment, forgotten. The voice of God was echoing around my skull, and it sounded like house.
I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t pick out the names of too many songs. CamelPhat melted my being from half past midnight to the pale blue light of the trembling not-quite-dawn.
I wondered out the venue in a daze. Across my shoulders lay colourful paper ribbons in which we’d been showered. I found Gem stoically leaning against the wall of the nearby chicken shop. Never seen one of those closed before.
For whatever reason, we weren’t tired.
We’d been electrified.
And no, our sweet American model, we hadn’t done any drugs.