Having just yesterday walked away from another truly brilliant Beyond elated by a whole host of figureheads for which the brand has become one of THE most popular in recent years, but moreover our elation one terrifically talented D.J. that left us breathless in admiration of a pitch perfection & precision performance (see our Preview The Review report “Waiting For You” at http://discomatt.com/web/2011/05/reports-waiting-for-you-beyond-sunday-8th-may-preview-the-review-2/), when we looked at elements of yesterday’s pulsating party, we kind of reckoned two things, firstly that possibly the best was indeed back and secondly that maybe, we hope at least, the current promoter of Beyond had listened to a number of points we had raised with him via a special report, which having been persuaded to hold back on publishing, was shot across his bows a couple of weeks ago. Indeed looking at the line-up of D, J,’s, the changes to dancers and the general, what we call “Bread And Butter Is Best” nature of yesterday seemed to indicate that perhaps he had listened and as a result taken action.
However, what has continued to frustrate us over the last few weeks is his reluctance to face us properly to discuss the issues we raised in that special report, despite having given him plenty of opportunities to do so. We have been asking ourselves just why? Does he not want to face the music? Has he been instructe3d not to? Or does he simply not care? Therefore, given this reluctance on his part, we have come to the point where we now feel it is time to publish this special report, or at least extracts, so as to highlight the burning issues at the time of its creation, but to also now reflect on where Beyond & some of its key players have moved since. But rather than a wham bam thank you maam article, we have decided to broaden the format into a full blown “Disco Matters” feature, pulling out those relevant extracts from that special report and then giving our own reactions to what was said, based on conversations we have had & information gathered since the report was compiled in April. Naturally, we have reviewed the report, attempting to bring it up to date and, for the sake of good harmony, toned down a few phrases, but the main content & thrust of the report remains, as does our sentiment.
So where do we kick off? Well probably by giving you the intro to our special report which lays the foundations for the reasoning behind us raising all these burning issues in the first place, the title of the report being “Bread & Butter Is Best”, devised because we believe that Beyond’s simple & straightforward nature should be just that.
“…… It is no secret that we have been round the clubbing block a number of times, indeed with our label as “London’s Original Party Boy” it would be fair to say that we have seen a huge amount of change to the scene here in the capital, club brands coming & going with alarming regularity, some surviving the test of time, others falling by the wayside, but there is one particular club that ascended to the top of our tree as rapidly as it appeared on the scene, consigning the mother of all clubs, Trade, to an earlier than expected grave. Mind you Lawrence Malice’s creation did have a good innings, opening out what is now commonly known as the “afterhours” market, although when the brainchild that was Beyond hit an unsuspecting market, it was clear that it got the formula right straight from the off, a neat hop, skip & jump away from clubs like Crash & Action in Vauxhall, transforming a clubbing scene & culture that has seen this south London mecca for clubbers remain close to the top of the game. And Beyond has remained top of this Vauxhall pile, finding favour first at Colosseum, then after changes to the promoter picture, in its latest & most prolific place, Area…..”
“…..Yet, as good (no great!) that Beyond is, recent developments have questioned its lofty position in our ratings, the regularity of our visits dissolving from the weekly turnouts that were a feature for so many years, to only occasional ones dependant in certain circumstances. That said, despite having been on holiday in South Africa for close on four weeks, Beyond has featured in our schedule every week in the last nine (save for our time away of course), we having been sent off to our homeland in superb style at “Erotica”, returning to similar scintillation at both “Muscle” & “Black” and then just last weekend, blown away by another pitch perfect Pitron performance at “Midnight”. Yet underneath this vivacious veneer, the unnerving changes that we have experienced of our most favourite brand, one which we may add has scooped the best club award in London’s most respected clubbing website’s annual poll three years in a row, have forced us to, once again, challenge these changes in a special report…..”
Before we move on, we feel it appropriate to state for the record that, with the exception of one weekend when we were in Barcelona, we have attended every single Beyond in the last eight and, despite the underlying issues that will come to light, have had a truly terrific time, EVERY TIME, you only having to check out our bite sized & full-on reviews to see just how & why.
So with that small point clarified, we move on and back to our special report, the next set of extracts highlighting some of the issues which, we must stress are not just our opinions but those of a number of regular customers of Beyond. These extracts will put the club into perspective & then delve into the issues raised, although what we will also do is challenge our own observations with the reactions received from individuals since the report was created.
“…..It would be fair to say that we have been supporting Beyond from day one, that day being back in 2001 at Colosseum, some truly sensational times had throughout the five years it was based there, many friendships we still hold today being formed as a result of Beyond. Then, when like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this audacious afterhours bounced back at the newly acquired Area and immediately grabbed the initative, the mood of the clubbing public, establishing itself as THE place to be, not just in its Sunday morning slot, but THE visit of the weekend. Striking a winning formula came really easily and for close on three years that formula was not meddled or tampered with, what do they say, “…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…”, a policy which made Trade the success it was, afterall, keeping things fresh for a big Saturday night club is a given, but when it comes to an afterhours, people want to know what they are getting. And with Beyond, that is exactly what happened, week in week out, the same winning formula that gained it the winning status it has, packing out its trophy cabinet to the extent it now brims…..”
So, you can see here just how lofty we place Beyond in our estimations, we not being alone in this view, probably why Beyond has achieved the award winning status it has. However, our special report then went on to question certain elements that had been tampered with.
“…..Not only does the current promotions team see fit to tampering with the D.J. line up week in week out, but one of their biggest stars has been short of driven out of the organisation as a result of what we termed with our title original report title “Generic Grouping”, the merry-go-round movement of a stockpile of D.J.’s from one club brand to another and in doing so, causing the loss of any individual identity. As we highlighted above, when it comes to an afterhours, clubbers like to know what to expect and in the Beyond recipe, especially in the main room, they lapped it up every week, the combination of Mikey D, Steve Pitron & Alan K proving unbeatable and the numbers through Beyond’s doors at their best. Yet in the last few months, not only has Steve’s regular slot of 9 a.m. been turned on its head and Mikey D’s appearances have been less frequent, but Alan K has disappeared from Beyond completely, the official line being retirement, but reading between the those lines we fear there is something a little more sinister to it. So, with the regular three changing around more often than the wind, the current regime see fit to slot in guest D.J.’s in the prime time positions, some of whom (no disrespect to them) are just not Beyond main room material……”
“…..But this recent meddling is not just confined to the main space, the pattern is similar in the so called sunshine Terrace room (why they call it that we have no idea!), D.J.’s that are a better fit in the main room (should the team see fit to meddle there) actually being confined to this third & smallest space, The Oli for example, a terrific talent that has always proved his worth in the main space, yet in our eyes seemingly underutilised in the Terrace, not that he fails to attract a crowd there when the club is busy, far from it. Plus, the noticeable absence of a Beyond favourite of ours, Jamie Head, means that we hardly ever venture into room three these days, save for a spot of socialising at the back by the bar. Then there are some D.J.’s that are used in priority to others, these names not just playing Beyond, but A:M, Later & Orange too. So for the discerning Vauxhallite that clubs from Friday to Monday, they see the same D.J./D.J’s from one party to the next, hence this generic genocide that we have referred to. That said, at least the Chapel Room seems to be relatively unscathed, probably a reflection that is core crowd continue to support the likes of Hifi Sean & Paul Christian who very much deserve their slots there…..”
Now, whilst there is a lot to digest there, since commissioning our report, we have been speaking to a number of individuals regarding our comments and need to state the following for the record. As far as Steve Pitron is concerned, we now know that he actually prefers the earlier slot, explaining that he finds “…the energy of better…” and we know that his other work commitments do mean that making certain slots & certain weeks can prove quite tricky. That said, Steve has featured in the last five Beyond’s in a row, in a variety of slots and always packing out the main room with his magnificent music. Indeed, having been treated to so many scintillating sets from this terrific talent over the years, the last few weeks have been something quite special, so in reality, regardless of what’s going on around us, our trips are transfixed with tears of joy in his hands, which is enough for us. Plus, we are pretty sure he is considered one of Beyond’s best assts and the only D.J. that has been with the brand from the start in 2001. As for The Oli, whilst not speaking with him on the subject, we have been told that he does actually prefer playing in The Terrace and judging by recent performances (not least at Beyond vs La Demence two weeks ago), it definitely shows through the quality & style of his superb sets. Further observations since April have seen the return of Jamie Head to Beyond, plus the settling down of the D.J. rosters, bringing back that “Bread & Butter Is Best” feel we have already mentioned. It must be remembered that what we observe & perceive as changes, may actually simply be the club juggling with the demands of D.J.’s commitments outside of Beyond and not necessarily change for changes sake as we have perceived.
That said, our report continued with the following observations & reactions, drawing on some real positives, of which Beyond has in abundance, but through those positives, questioning certain elements that just don’t seem the same.
“…..All of this said, there are some amazing positives we can draw from Beyond, not just their award winning status which must surely indicate they are doing lots of things right, but for the truly tremendous times we have had over the last few weeks. “Erotica” was enthralling, “Muscle” was magnificent, “Black” was brilliant & “Midnight” was magical, just look at our glowing reviews!, on all occasions the shining stars making our morning, Steve Pitron, Hifi Sean, Mikey D & Jamie Head, Beyond residents that have been doing the business for as long as we can remember. Pausing the positives for just a second, what is this idea of labelling Beyond with theme’s and names, we thought this sort of thing was reserved for other brands that need to attract, whereas Beyond is simply Beyond. Yes for the special occasions like Easter, Bank Holidays & the like, we agree a “label” is a good idea, but this all smacks of Onyx ideas being rubbed off on our favourite afterhours and these weekly names are just not needed in our view, as all they do is to serve to complicate what is a straightforward offering. And create yet more generic grouping…..”
“…..Back to the positives and there is no question that Area rules when it comes to lighting, pyrotechnics & effects, Beyond in particular having benefitted from the considerable installations, indeed, not a morning would go by in the good old days when rockets a-plenty would wiz across the ceiling of the main room and ticker tape & other effects would be timed to prolific perfection as a certain record by a certain D.J. would reach its crescendo. Beyond has always been known for the best effects and this stood it apart from other events, striking that sense of individuality & excellence that was part of its award winning status, although with the absence of one of the vital cogs , namely Smalls, it seems even this has gone to pot. That said, what seemed to be an everlasting problem, only sorted when the superb Steven Sharp was steering the Beyond ship (the clubs best promoter in our eyes), the coatcheck now looks to have settled down into a relatively smooth operation. Then, another intrinsic part of the operation that has always run like a dream has been the door, the major Beyond cog being Tom Fuller & his team of merry security men that prove the best in the business when it comes to controlling a crowd (and an afterhours lot can be very rowdy!), yet it seems the current regime see fit to interfere with that too, also not allowing hostess Chrissy Darling enough house room to do what she does best, host & look after the inbound customers both inside & outside the club…..”
As we mentioned above, the issues of names like Steve Pitron, Jamie Head & Hifi Sean not playing weekly, we suspect, is very much down to their own personal commitments, so we have taken that point on face value. However, there is no question that the truly amazing lighting, effects & pyrotechnics for which Beyond & moreover Area was so well known for, have deteriorated noticeably, we concluding that the absence of one particular cog in the wheel here, is the reason, we have noticed it, other customers have noticed it, the dancers have noticed it & even the D.J.’s have noticed it. As for Tom Fuller & his team, it seems that, since our report, the lines of demarcation have been made perfectly clear and the smooth running harmony that was always a feature of this element has returned. In terms of Chrissy, she remains a vital part of whole hosting operation, does a fantastic job and we can only hope she is getting the support she deserves, more recent visits probably vindicating the fact that she is.
Back to the special report, we realising that some level of modicum was required, hence stating the following, while also highlighting some issues that still hold true.
“….So, climbing off our treble story soap box, what does all this actually mean? Certainly from our point of view it means that Beyond is changing, perhaps for good, but certainly not for the good. When we talk of a generic grouping, labelling and running Beyond like a Sunday version of Onyx is exactly what it is doing. When you look at the family of clubs, a slice of the other brands, Later, Orange & Booster, follow traditional form, the club stands on its name alone on regular weeks, only choosing to label itself on special occasions. These clubs always used to and, in the main still do, have their own identity, their own designated D.J.’s and their own atmosphere and for the best part of its history, so did Beyond. Yet the current promoter not only seems intent on treating it like his Friday night conquest, but what gets to us most is, he hardly ever there to see the operation for himself, this last weekend being a perfect example, perhaps suggesting that he is either being overstretched in his duties or he is simply not interested in promoting Beyond.. And while we are on the subject of last weekend, a party promoted as a special thank you to voters for choosing Beyond as the best weekly club as well as the clutch of other awards people linked to the club received, saw very little in the way of a “thank you”, oh sorry we forget, they let people in for an £8 discount on the full price for the first hour (midnight to 1 a.m.!)…..”
Now, we are hopeful & pleased that the so called labelling has disappeared, of course excepting the big occasions which we have always agreed with. We suspect it was natural for the promoter to try some of the successful ideas from Onyx on Beyond, yet he never really needed to. Allowing Beyond to simply stand on its own two feet is exactly what the promoter should have done & is hopefully now doing, as the brand is so strong it doesn’t need a label to get people through the door, Beyond is Beyond, it’s as simple as that.
Summing up our special report we said the following
“….Now, concluding this report and weighing everything up, the impression may be that all this smacks a little of sour grapes (our grapes are sweet thank you!) given that the latest promoter failed to follow through on a promise to consult us on the club, that we are perhaps being a little bit too overzealous in our estimation of the effects of the current regime and in some ways, we expect this to be a view taken not just by a certain element that either don’t know Beyond better than it is right now, or actually like what they see, but most probably by the protagonists of this generic grouping which we feel so strongly about. However, we are not just speaking for ourselves when we make these observations, as more than a handful of Beyond regulars have voiced similar & same opinions, making us wonder whether the promoter actually know what’s happening on the ground, Indeed how could he, as he his hardly ever there in person, so why promote a club when you are not there to see it operate.. So, if there is any message we would use to sum up this special report on Beyond, it is “…we the Beyond supporters of old prefer the plain & simple Beyond, the one that strikes its own individuality, plays to its strengths, uses its “bread & butter” stars & avoids this generic genocide…” leaving a final thought for the powers that be to ask themselves, would Beyond be better with a promoter who doesn’t front the club, or by a team of capable cogs, each combining their areas of responsibility to ensure that it runs the way it always used to, brilliantly….”
So, dissecting our final comments and then concluding this Disco Matters feature, yes we still feel very strongly about the generic grouping trap that Beyond had fallen into, although we hope that attention to our observation will see Beyond return to its plain & simple nature. But we also feel strongly about the promoter issue as Beyond has always seemed to run well without one. Yes it is important for someone to take overall responsibility, maybe there is a need for the club to be represented to the likes of the press, organisations & when the club goes on tour, which we are pleased to report, Beyond will be doing again this year, but back at base, there is a perfectly capable collection of cogs that ensure Beyond runs like a dream, Tom, Chrissy, Phillipe, John, (and a few others unnamed or absent from the team), who, when taking care of their own designated responsibility areas (no pun intended), prove Beyond can be run without a promoter figurehead in London. In addition, we always draw incredible comfort when any one of the Elder brothers are around, Aaron in particular managing issues & making himself very visible, plus showing he is there to look after our interests and generally take on the role of duty of care, which clubbers, especially those at Beyond, very much more appreciate, rather than a promoter wafting in when he feels like it.
In having our final say, Beyond should be about plain simple clubbing & having a good time, which is what we always used to enjoy most about this brand. And yes the music, of course the music, it probably being the single most important part of any Beyond experience, not least delivered by well known Beyond D.J.’s, but it’s also about the club attracting the right crowd and has the right organisational people in the right places. Follow these simple basics & Beyond will not only survive but thrive meaning that, despite everything we have said, Beyond will always remain our most favourite club ever, that being down to its sheer brilliance created by the “Bread & Butter Is Best” feel, we finishing by answering our title question by shouting out loud, after the magnificence of the last four weeks at least “…yes the best of Beyond is back, although in the musical hands of one man, it never really went away…”. (DISCO MATT)