With a name like Ultimate and the blending of two brilliant brands, we were expecting the ultimate best of both, but with the release of the D.J. line-up that shouts Trade & tech with one possible exception, Disco Matt cannot divert from his disappointment as he focuses in on this Beyond trade off of an event.
When we think about afterhours clubbing in London, there are a handful of names that we can conjure up, A:M, Orange, Later, & Ultra, four among a few others that spring to mind, although there is little doubt that these pail in significance when compared to the two colossus clubs that have pretty much dominated Sunday mornings for the last twenty or so years. The 1990’s saw Trade turn clubbing in the capital on its head, attracting amazing attention as it broke the boundaries of normality & convention, this mothership of clubbing opening the doors to another, Beyond, which pretty much unseated Trade from its lofty position, taking up the Sunday morning mantle at the turn of the century and then dominating the noughties, like Trade did in the nineties. So, while on paper these brands were seen as bitter rivals for a while, recent times have seen the clubs come together in collaborations that culminated in the launch of a joint forces clubbing brand called Ulitimate, the ethos being that this joining of forces would bring the best of both to the fore, the Trade musical camp clearly leaning towards tech come techno, while Beyond’s musical direction was more uplifting & euphoric, the combination undeniably a tantalising prospect.
So, our exciting enthusiasm for the brilliant beats of Beyond & the towering tech of Trade was very much a match made in heaven and it seemed that with the first Ultimate party back in October, after Trade’s 21st Birthday to be precise, that was exactly what seemed to have been achieved. With a distinct Trade room offering the tough tech that the club has always been renowned for, there was a Beyond space which sported many of its main room residents who delivered that uplifting & euphoric house music we hinted to. And in so doing, this so-called joining of forces seemed to fulfil every expectation and more, host venue Fire not only giving Ultimate a distinctly different definition, but saw the place packed to the rafters well into Sunday afternoon. Yet, despite the winning formula which clearly succeeded in virtually every department, it seems that in this Ultimate second coming, that winning formula has been worryingly fiddled with, as not only has that distinctly different definition been dissolved by housing Ultimate in Area, but casting our eyes across the D.J. line up for this latest joint venture, it in no way shouts a joint jamboree, rather looks more like a Trade afterparty of players with just a mere smattering of Beyond boys.
So what were we expecting from Ultimate’s music and from the event itself? Well, quoting from the promoters own press release, it was clear that this was supposed to see “…the two undisputed heavyweights of London’s afterhours scene going head to head…”, meaning we were expecting a balance of Beyond & Trade, the former having been noted for main room men that included prominent players such as Steve Pitron, Alan K, & Mikey D, these three very much defining the uplifting & euphoric house music for which this brilliant brand has become famous. But with the likes of The Oli, Jamie Head & Fat Tony also delivering delightful delectations in the terrace, latterly know as the “Beyond Da Disco” space, we were kind of hoping that at least one space would be given away to the brilliance of Beyond. That said, having been a Trade baby throughout the 90’s, when we occupied the Turnmills main room weekly, we also love the Trade style of sound, the likes of Gonzalo Rivas, Pete Wardman, Steve Thomas &, who can forget, the late great Tony De Vit, doing us unbelievable justice with their scintillating super-speed sets. So naturally, with Ultimate billed as a joint project between these two huge heavyweights, we were also hoping that maybe Messrs Rivas & Thomas would have been inclusions, indeed taking heart from further PR parts that included the phrases “… forging distinct musical styles…” & “…DJs across three mind blowing rooms will be selected from the super-talented stable of residents and guests from both leading brands…”, we therefore expected line-up inclusions of at least some of the names we have mentioned. Then, as for the event itself, we were hoping it would bring out the best in both brands, an equal share of the spoils of what will surely be a pumping & pulsating party, but reading between the lines, it fails significantly short of our probable pie in the sky expectations.
So, what do we have in this supposed marriage of magnificent minds? Well, deciding on Area means that Ultimate will, without doubt feel like Beyond, the venue for us being all about the brilliant brand and no other. Yet, in choosing the D.J.’s they have and mixing them up as they will be, in Ultimate at Area, they have created a perceived collaboration that actually leans far further towards Trade than Beyond. Yes, in theory the promoters have included Beyond residents, Fat Tony for one, The Sharp Boys for another (well two of course) and Paul Heron too, but for those like us that harp from the Turnmills days of Trade will realise, these terrific talents were very much part of the picture then and, as a result, will no doubt tilt their musical tendencies towards Trade & not Beyond at Ultimate on Sunday. Why do we say this?, Well let’s look at the Ultimate main room line up for a start, Nik Denton firmly in the Trade camp, while D’Johnny (we love his music by the way) is noted for his tougher tech tendencies, these two being joined by Paul Heron, an incredible international whose musical tastes are as diverse as ours, but will surely be channelled down that tough tech towpath that will undoubtedly be the Ultimate main room experience.
Then we look at Area’s second space and while the team have adopted the “Chapel” label which is very much all about Beyond, save for Paul Christian, it is Trade in another name, Lady Bianca & Ross Homson dominating the line-up and sure to send the music in a direction that is distinctly different to Beyond & considerably closer to Trade. But it doesn’t stop there as the third room, the terrace, has, for Ultimate, been renamed “the lite lounge”, a space that has Trade written all over it and in The Sharp Boys & Fat Tony, the pioneers of this awesome addition to the Turnmills partying package in the mid nineties, we have a space that will be much more about T than B. So, our analysis of the music direction of Ultimate seems to suggest that it is in fact a Trade afterparty, an extension of the event “A Tainted Love Affair” which will precede it at Brixton Electric and one we cannot contain our excitement for enough, especially having missed out on the brands 21st birthday bash. Yet while we accept that a party deserves an afterparty, what we cannot fathom out is how Beyond plays its part in this head to head encounter. Yes, Area is the home of Beyond, we get that and yes, Fat Tony plays at Beyond, so does Paul Heron & so do the Sharp Boys ( D’Johnny as well), but we cannot escape the fact that the music, an indelible ingredient that makes or breaks a club, is so much more & will be much more about Trade.
All this means that we have been left undeniably underwhelmed by this Ultimate event, our expectations & the excitement we felt just hours ago, akin to a tremendous tower block that has, in a moment of explosive implosion, been reduced to a demolition site of disappointment. That said, while we feel so strongly about voicing our opinion now and stating our case for the Beyond defence, we will be sleeping on our thoughts, we will be considering the Trade prosecutors persuasions & we will be reviewing our reporting on what will undoubtedly be an undeniably exceptional event that, despite our reserved reservations & implied Beyond trade off, will receive our resounding recommendation. (DISCO MATT)