Like the Hackneyed adage regarding London buses, events at University seem to have a habit of coming all at once. Already committed to reviewing Sigma, I was horrified when a slew of 21sts/Christmas parties emerged on my Facebook calendar (disclaimer: I am not trying to make myself sound popular - I am a massive square). My experience of Friday 5th December then took on a rather Oneiric quality, as I drifted around the city for the best part of the evening, before finding myself at the locus of a raucous crowd at the Lemon Grove. In the spirit of gonzo journalism, as coined by Hunter S. Thompson, I attempted to immerse myself fully in the night. Consequently, I woke up on Saturday morning hungover, with an unexplained bruise on my upper thigh.
We arrived at the Lemon Grove at 9pm to negotiate my press pass, which went without a hitch. The first moments in the venue were disorientating, as the clientele was rather different from the crowd I was used to from Saturday Lemmy nights in first year, namely, not all students. It was a pretty refreshing change actually, and we meandered around the bar area, stopping to watch Theon Bower who was dropping a Jungle-tinged set in the early slot. He had already accrued a committed cabal of revelers in front of the decks; however, I didn’t feel that I could match the enthusiasm of these dancers whilst the night was still so young. After ordering some beers we left to go to a house party.
The taxi dropped us back at the Grove around 11.30. In the interim, I suspect that the volume had increased in increments, but not having been present for the last few hours, the juxtaposition between then and earlier was ridiculous. The pump of beat and bass engulfed the smoking area, an almost centripetal force that drew you back toward the venue. We eventually arrived on the dance floor for the changeover between Friskynippa and Reso, with the onstage MC leading an enthusiastic crowd through the call and response of: “I say ‘hold it’, you say ‘down’ - Hold it!”, “DOWN!”, “Hold it!”, “DOWN!”.
Reso was a solid support act and I have little complaint about his slickly mixed, DnB-heavy set. However, it was marred by a fire alarm, which necessitated an evacuation of the building for around 10 minutes or so and shortening his slot. Unfortunately, soon after 1am, when Sigma had taken over on the decks, the alarm sounded again, interrupting the rapid expansion of a mosh-pit in the middle of the dance floor. Again everyone trooped outside, admittedly with little complaint. I only encountered one particularly disgruntled person, who by then had decided he’d had enough and “was off to EX4”.
You can’t blame the venue, the acts, or the promoters for the trouble with the alarms. After all, the staff can hardly turn them off, so whilst the blare of the sirens was a lowlight of the event, it’s not worth dwelling on it. Still, when the crowd resumed positions at 1.20, they did seem jaded, so Sigma astutely raised the stakes, quickly dropping Nobody To Love as an act of rejuvenation, which quickly recrystallised the mass of flailing hands and writhing bodies that had epitomised the first few tracks of the set. Switching through the gears quickly after this, they deployed Afterglow and Waiting All Night in quick succession, working the crowd into a frenzy. It’s worth noting that, alongside the strength of the set itself, the MC was excellent. His charisma provided an integral link between the DJ and the dance floor which is often lacking at gigs like this. The highly charged atmosphere of the headline set should, in some significant part, be attributed to his success in working the crowd.
Having overrun for 15 minutes, the night finished with a triumphant Changing, signaling the close of one of the most enjoyable DJ sets I’ve seen in Exeter over the past few years. The headliner was strong, whilst the venue had an electric atmosphere, generated early on by the support. Overall, Hold It Down’s selections for the evening were incredibly astute, and I look forward to their next night come the New Year.