Hard House Academy 9: Reviewed
Reported by Agnes Klos
Submitted 02-11-09 14:55
There is only one event in the hard house calendar to which a whole year of anticipation leads. The words on the flyer speak for themselves: ‘Every single major hard house artist who matters in 2009’. It claims to be the biggest and the best hard dance show with a truly electric line-up. As Hard House Academy (HHA) returns for its 9th birthday, it sounds like a definite must for all fans. Agnes Klos went out to check if the event really delivered what it promised.
The fact that HHA takes place at the 02 Academy Brixton (previously the Carling Brixton Academy) - the most legendary venue which has hosted names like The Chemical Bothers or Coldplay – provides one of the most essential ingredients to a successful night. Then simply add to that: 4500 crazily-dressed ravers, 50 of the most charismatic, heart-stopping hard dance acts and four arenas with mind-blowing production and you have yourself a rather spectacular dance show. The final ingredient of the recipe for HHA success is the contribution of the famous Frantic group who oversee the event. Frantic equals raw, cutting-edge sounds and the most exciting lighting technology that money can buy.
From the second I walked into the Academy I could sense that HHA was more than just a night of great DJs. It is culture, ideology of music, life attitude and freedom of clothing. Instantly I was surrounded by revellers who looked like people from the future with plastic incorporated into their clothes, furry boots, fluorescent signs on their T-shirts and hair enriched with all the colours of the rainbow. The first time you see clubbers with dummies in their mouth and strange cable goggles is always a shock, but if you aren’t into the scene you shouldn’t be surprised as it is actually a whole trend of fashion, easily obtained from shops like Cyberdog in Camden Town (not from people from outer space as some may think, haha).
I wasted no time and went straight into the main room, just to please my eyes with a slowly growing ocean of hard-house lovers and award-winning spectacular lights, designed each year exclusively for HHA. There was no disappointment this year as well. With the stage being set up with a circus theme, it was certainly something different than the previous years. There were two staircases on either side of the DJ booth, a red-striped background and two screens on the edges of the stage, teamed up by two high up in the air, plus lighting and lasers.
The first room on my list to visit was the Black Gold Room as HF editor and talented DJ, Adam Symbiosis, was serving some wicked tracks. It was a great pleasure to see him being transformed into a deck wizard, dropping some sensational classic tunes on us. When asked about HHA Adam said: “Hard House Academy has always been about mixing up the hard dance styles and trying new things, look at all the hardstyle in the main room this year. Still, it’s been great playing in the first vinyl only room as it’s given me a chance to play a few of my oldest favourites and the set has certainly surprised a few people!”
The beauty of Black Gold Room is its intimacy. It is in fact a long corridor type room usually used as the VIP bar, converted into a clubbing space. Behind the bar sat the DJ table, unprotected by walls or podiums. This design solution enables everyone to literally see every single move of the DJ. Plus, of course the interaction between DJ and the crowd is terrifically enhanced. When I stepped into the room at 2.30am, just in time to hear Kevsey D & Aaron James take over the decks, the atmosphere was already upbeat with people dancing in every corner and chatting happily on the leather sofas.
Next I moved to the first floor, to the Euro Zone area; a corridor again, but this time much wider, with a real feel of vastness. At the back, the DJ was hidden in something that looked like a cloakroom space, while across the way there actually was a cloakroom, just next to two bars, which made it so much nicer to stand in the queue to check my coat and nod my head to the music at the same time.
The Euro Zone offered a pleasant escape if you got tired of the full-on vibe in the main room and needed to reload your batteries. The music, served by such DJs as LED andMark EG, was excellent with remixes of some classic tunes such as |The Prodigy – Breathe and Fatboy Slim – Star 69. The last one made the entire room sing: ‘They know what is what. But they don't know what is what. They just strut. What the fuck?’ Awesome! Sadly A*S*Y*S thought better about being a cloakroom attendant with decks and decided not to play, more fool him!
The main entrance hall was also transformed into a shopping and dancing area called the Filth Foyer. Those heading there expected to dance to likes of Dave Curtis, Pickup & Rise and Adam M. Also, if you missed the Andy Whitby set at the main stage you were able to hear him play filth at 2.30am in the foyer. He definitely lived up to his reputation, pulling a massive crowd, which made walking through the area a real struggle. Andy Whitby told me, “HHA rocked big time!! Peak time thrashdown was wild, filth foyer was crazy! Thanks to all that came, you were amazing!”
Every year the foyer becomes a hive of hard dance activities, with almost two entire walls setting up a shop where you can buy gadgets and accessories, from fluorescent t-shirts to glasses to crazy jewellery. So if you thought that you stood out from the crowd and your clothes did not match the party vibe, then you could very quickly get one of the funky blouses or necklaces, changing yourself into a proper hard house raver within seconds.
Great clothing is part of HHA. But this year was even more exciting as there was also the Twisted Circus theme going on. No wonder there were girls dressed like little tigers or fairies and guys looking like chess pawns walking around; and they descended in their masses. All came with the hope of winning two free tickets to Frantic NYE for best dressed female and best dressed male.
After walking around all rooms I knew that there was only one place to be for the rest of the party: the main room. Entering the room gave me an instant kick of energy; with the floor slightly sloping down towards the stage, I felt like I was on an ocean of cast-aways - the floor enables even those clubbers standing at the back to have an unobstructed view of the DJ. The size of the crowd filled me with a feeling of excitement and ecstasy, though it was definitely down on previous rammed to the rafters years.
The line-up was truly mighty, with beautiful Cally Gage warming up the crowd. Kutski’s one-hour set kicked off at midnight with some proper banging tunes – gabba, breaks, scratching and more. They were followed by Andy Whitby, who utterly smashed it for the hungry ravers. During Cally & Juice’s live performance MC Shocker stood in front of the crowd with the microphone, motivating us to follow the hardstyle. I asked Cally Gage later on what she liked most about HHA, she told me, “Hard House Academy sums up everything that hard house should be, all in one night – an incredible venue, up for it clubbers, amazing tunes and all supplied by the top DJs in the scene. I have HHA circled in my diary months beforehand and could almost burst with excitement when I step up onto that main stage. If you haven't been to HHA yet, then you're definitely missing out!”
And then a sudden shock wave spread like a tsunami over the revellers when a piece of Apologize by Timbaland was played. Some looked utterly startled, some began waving their hands like at a concert and sang: ‘That it's too late to apologize, it's too late. I said it's too late to apologize, it's too late’. But when the beat returned every single person went nuts.
When Activator came on stage with his male dancers wearing seriously scary and twisted clown masks, I was happy to be with my friends. Looking into their eyes directly gave me shivers. Then another two more clowns popped out from the boxes in front of the DJ. They were hiding and coming out again in time with the music. I must admit it looked provocative but personally I preferred the female dancers doing dirty dancing on the stage.
Definitely one of the highlights of the evening was the moment when the dancers came on stage blowing fire into the air and dancing with fire sticks. The effort of the promoters invested in ensuring unforgettable, next generation clubbing experiences, was clearly visible. From that point on, the atmosphere got properly heated up with Phil Reynolds tearing walls down with his hard trance set (almost literally) while the finishing beats belonged to Alex Kidd & Proteus.
HHA gives all clubbers from around the country a chance to see hard dance superheroes in a magnificent venue. But if you are not in shape and not able to dance and still want to enjoy the music and visuals there is a solution for that as well. The Academy has a balcony/mezzanine overlooking all the superlative main room action with 1000 seats. You can go and relax, in a similar way to a cinema experience, only much louder. You might even close your eyes and allow yourself to being taken away by music, without being stared at of course! Sadly this was not open, perhaps next time?
HHA has an unbeatable atmosphere and loyal fans, which is hard to compete with for any hard dance event. DJs who take part in this amazing event are real performers, dedicated to their work and visibly thrilled about playing for the crowd. However there have been grumblings on the amount of hardstyle in the main room, the fact that water bottle lids were retained by the bar and the ticket queue for some left a lot to be desired. Let’s hope these issues are ironed out for the next event.
If you hadn’t had enough at the very end of HHA, Frantic and Twist had also prepared a fierce afterparty for all hardcore dancers. Located at Hidden club, with two arenas and eight hours of hard trance, hard house, euro and bounce, it must have satisfied even most sophisticated and demanding music tastes. But next morning they were probably already checking the date for next HHA too.
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Other Features By Agnes Klos:
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Atmosphere Records - The opening of IBIZA 1936
Entering the world of Waldfrieden in Germany with DJoanna
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Progressive flavours with DJ R'Deem ahead of Neelix party
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.