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“She is the Law?” Can Kate Lawler cut the mustard behind the decks?
Reported by Craig Gunn
Submitted 17-10-07 17:34
Stick. Kate Lawler has had loads of it. A reality TV star working as a DJ? A good looking girl behind the decks? It could never happen, could it? But the bookings continue fly in. And when a booking came in for Gallery DJ competition winner Craig Gunn on the same bill as Kate, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to investigate her while checking out if Cardiff really is the 24 hour party people town.
“Bore Da”, my HarderFaster cahorts. When I was booked to play in Cardiff recently accompanying Big Brother winner Kate Lawler no less, I saw fit to don my journalistic hat for this visit and get the low down on one of the country’s leading clubbing capitals and to finally put to rest the ghost of recent forum threads on the much heated debate — can Kate Lawler actually mix?!
As I headed up the M4 to Cardiff I took time to reflect on the bubble of the London dance scene. Having played primarily in the nation’s capital for over seven years now, I love London and everything it has to offer me culturally, so this sojourn to another country put me slightly out of my comfort zone. With its fantastically diverse musical landscape, London can boast cutting edge fashion and sounds as other dance genres fall in and out fashion quicker than the latest Fendi Handbag.
What did I expect from the music scene there? Were the crowds going to like my style of progressive electro house madness? Is the average Cardiffian going to miss the point of my music?
To my surprise I found Cardiff to be fashion conscious, street wise and musically diverse city. My naïve London perspective and musical snobbery were kicked into touch Neil Jenkins style and my lesson learned — London’s bubble is there to be burst. My mind was breaking free of the fog of London clubbing opinion.
Arriving late on a sunny Thursday afternoon after negotiating the tricky Cardiff one-way system, our hotel room overlooked the mighty Millennium Stadium, an architecturally breath-taking structure. In contrast, the ancient and beautiful Cardiff Castle just yards away, looked small in comparison to this looming symbol of Cardiff modernity. This forward thinking nature has seeped into their club culture with modern venues and forward thinking promotions.
With a tight schedule and geographical ignorance, we found Cardiff to be surprisingly small, but effective for our needs — as opposed to the cumbersome sprawling nature of London, more behemoth than boutique.
For shopping there were tonnes of great high street malls and designer shops, all within the St Mary’s Street and Queens Street area. The majority of pubs and clubs can also be found in this area — so for club tourists this means you won’t necessarily be racking up the miles on weary legs, saving some for the dance floor.
The Cardiff club scene is burgeoning with a plethora of great venues and good promotions nurturing plenty of local raw talent and bringing established acts to the city. Whether you dig the student vibe and the multitude of Cardiff Student University events or fancy mega-concerts such as The Police at the Millennium stadium, Cardiff has something for everyone. On the dance music front, clubs like Liquid, Point and the Qbar offer eclectic and well attended events. This week alone Phil Asher, Fergie and the Stanton Warriors were in town. All it took was checking out one of the multitude of flyers and posters available for an ad-hoc clubbing excursion, but I would strongly recommend seeking out the web for specific events — some sites I have listed below.
In the evening prior to my gig, my fiancée and I hit a couple of local bars for cocktails. In the Glo Bar we found a particularly nice doorman who previously worked in London (along with other venues in Cardiff) and asked for his opinion on his experience of the club scene. He said that most nights he worked were generally trouble free. The R&B clubs that had been the blight of the local council and police had all been abolished. The non-smoking indoor rules were firmly adhered too and on big Rugby days the fans well behaved – if not proudly loud and vocal in their support of the national game. A far cry he said from some of the trouble he experienced as a doorman in Hackney’s Oceanic club years before. He said there was 65 pubs and clubs within the mile of the town centre (though I cannot back this statistical fact) making club hopping from party to party a viable option without incurring dodgy and expensive mini-cab drivers.
I was playing at Pulse club and the launch night of new promotion Strawberry. This venue over the years has had various re-incarnations as Union Bar and Chillies, as well as being a well established gay friendly venue. A plush place spread over three floors, the building holds a restaurant, upper funky bar and terrace along with a basement club which boasts a loud and crisp sound system. The promoter Casey Lee Jones is a young guy with ambition. He is part of Connekted, a Swansea based DJ agency with Mike Rutherford and Gareth Waters. Casey from his experience of warming up, like myself, the dance floors of The Gallery aimed to bring a familiar name to his line-ups whilst cementing Strawberry as an event that encourages local DJ talent. So, in line with Fresher’s Week for Cardiff University and to see if she could pull a crowd, enter stage left Big Brother winner Kate Lawler.
Kate has been DJing for a couple of years now and has born the brunt of an awful lot of criticism on this site, and I am sure others, for capitalising on her TV fame to break into the world of DJing. My perspective is this. Hopefully my review will stop the doubting Thomases in their tracks. If a bit of TV fame can get you (as shown on Kate’s web site) week in week out residencies in Ibiza, a tour in Brazil and a new European city slot every weekend then the best of luck to you. No-one criticised Sir Ian MacKellen from being darling of the RSC one moment to C-list Coronation Street bit player the next or say Will Smith making the move from late ’80s rapper to A-list Hollywood actor the next did they. Success I think is self-perpetuating. If you got it flaunt it — if the opportunities are there then take them. Hypocritically though, in the 24 hours we experienced this trip we did bump into Les Dennis and Will Young — both of which I would not advise taking up the decks - so maybe there are exception to the rule!
Now as a connoisseur of all things progressive house for over ten years now I admittedly have done my fair share of chin stroking on the dance floors and I found myself for the sake of HF doing the same for Kate Lawler. Kate pleasantly surprised me. She played a dynamic set that ebbed and flowed between tech, prog and electro house in an uplifting fashion. Her beat matching was spot on and simple and her crowd control never required the use of water cannons or tear gas, in all she played a wicked set and my hands soon left my chin and were firmly in the air. Did I enjoy Kate Lawler’s set? Guiltily I did a lot, which prompts this response from me — does anyone really care if Kate is utilising her BB fame for something else? She clearly can mix and has a thorough understanding and care for her craft. Casey Lee Jones played a good set, establishing himself I think as a future one to watch and although Strawberry was not packed to the rafters with people, I can say all concerned had an extremely good night out. We got to meet some great friendly locals and we terrorised a few University Freshers with our professional Sambucca drinking skills — in all we felt comfortable and at ease in the cushion of Cardiffian clubbers.
Although Cardiff is a place for 24 hour party people, we unfortunately did not represent London well in this respect and called it a day at 5am in the morning via another cocktail bar and room service at the hotel. The following day we had a sobering seven hour return car trip on the motorway and traffic jam on Hangar Lane - reminding me how much I had missed London (not!) and leaving me thirsty for a bit more of Cardiff. My advice — try another city in the British Isles for clubbing. Although I won’t be leaving London for a while, if you’re travelling to and around the UK don’t get stuck in the London clubbing rut — venture forth — and if you are stuck deep remember there is energy and life in dance music outside the M25, so go seek it out. I did and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Photos courtesy of Craig Gunn. Not to be reproduced without permission
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Other Features By Craig Gunn:
Glastonbury, The Biggest Show on Earth
I survived Glastonbury 2015
HarderFaster Guide to Glastonbury 2015
The Speed of Sound
THREE ‘BRINGS’ THE CROWD TO LOST DAWN
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.