EXIT have come a long way this year. I remember quite vividly the first EXIT of the academic year, when I trundled down to The Cellar Door and found myself in the company of a sparse and ragtag bunch of house fans, lightly peppering the dance floor of that dank but oh-so-lovely club down by the quay. Like I often think about too-empty club nights in Exeter, there’s no accounting for taste. That early EXIT reboot had a charm and friendliness unlike any other, but maybe you just can’t go up against Friday Timepiece, I thought.
Gone are those days. After booking the likes of Wilfred Giroux around the start of this term, it’s obvious that EXIT have stepped up their game. I turned up just as Kingtrix and Takao wrapped their b2b set, and there was already a buzz about the place. The usual clientele had been eschewed in favour of, well, normals. Normal people coming down to the quay to enjoy some good tunes and a nice atmosphere. Sure there was the odd dubious crop top dungarees combo spotted about the place but EXIT know how to draw in those who don’t necessarily stream Rinse FM into their cars and have K on their breakfast cereal.
Unlike many other nights down at Cellar Door, you’re hard pressed to distinguish between staff, punter and promoter at EXIT. The people serving your drinks are dancing as extravagantly as the paying customers, the coat check girl seems to already know everyone’s names. As Albin fired up his set, I watched a gaggle of girls have a dance off with a doorman who’d wandered in the bar area.
It’s almost redundant to say that a set played out at Cellar Door was high grade. However, Albin threw down a fantastic blend of house that was both meaty and accessible, an impressive feat that implies a deft mastery of his record crate and a knack for reading the room. Sitting stone cold sober and pretty tired from a misguided Thursday Arena, I still found myself picking out highlight tracks and dancing along at a table. Withdrew darkened things up nicely, ushering the evening along with some deeper cuts, some harder kicks. By the time Hackman was loitering around the edge of booth, Withdrew had managed to perk up the dance floor attendance nicely with a few choice garage tunes (thanks for the Craig David) in amongst a deep house set.
Hackman stepped up and put out a surprisingly varied set. I picked out garage rattles and even dubstep beats in amongst the predominantly house-oriented set. Hackman’s own tunes have a strange quality of being simultaneously heavy and pretty smooth and uplifting, what could be better for EXIT, the friendly house night?
In the end, it wasn’t Hackman that stood out on this night. Sure, he’s a fantastic headliner, another gold star and statement of how serious these guys are. The real standout for Friday night was the success that EXIT have had in growing a community. It’s not a community built under the cult-like worship of a well executed brand, but it’s built from friendships. I’d wager that most of the many attendees of EXIT’s second birthday know or know somebody who knows Monika and/or George. Those two spent the entire evening rushing around hanging out with anyone who decided to come and enjoy themselves. EXIT is about going and dancing to some good music, but more importantly it’s about hanging out with good people.