After dark: Garage's fine tuning

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Rich gospel vocals coupled with throbbing basslines have made speed garage one of the hottest sounds in the capital's clubs

1997 was the year for garage, and 1998 looks set to follow the same trend. Everybody wants to dance to that deep garage sound.

Hailing from the underground clubs and gay venues in the US, garage was one of the first shades of house that surfaced in the UK back in the early 1980s.

Mainstream house transposes vocals for samples and electronica, but garage has always been characterised by its soulful component - thick slices of gospel-inspired vocals that send shivers down the spine. When speed garage arrived, it raised the bpms and married traditional garage with throbbing basslines. The end result has been filling dancefloors ever since.

Forget the unholy "garage vs speed garage" spat that filled so many column inches last year, they are two sides of the same coin.

If you want to check the scene, it's always best to start with the best. Twice as Nice has been running for about 18 months and was playing speed garage before some clever-dick dreamed up the phrase. It was in Sunday clubs like TAN that the sound was forged, before it hit mainstream venues.

"It's been a lot of hard work, but it has worked," says TAN promoter Katrina Emerald. "We had an idea in mind when we first started the club and we've tried hard to stick to it."

TAN attracts a slick and mature crowd who come to dance and socialise. DJs Karl "Tuff Enuff" Brown and Mike "Ruff Cut" Lloyd keep the garage deep in the main room, but the tunes are secondary to the excellent vibe throughout the gig.

"We maintain very high standards here and try to keep things smart and over 25," says Emerald. "Everybody seems to know everybody else, so it's an incredibly friendly atmosphere. We've done a few other events on other nights, but we've never captured the same crowd or vibe that we see on Sundays."

A well-dressed and well-heeled clientele at Absolute Sunday, at the Aquarium, suggests an early-morning start on Monday is not an issue. Despite the regular popping of champagne corks, the vibe is friendly and unpretentious - just excellent partying.

The Sunday garage scene is often characterised by the maturity of its patrons. Too many Friday and Saturday clubs make you feel like you've stumbled into a fifth-form disco, but if you haven't got the bottle for Sunday-night clubbing there's plenty of garage elsewhere.

Roger Michael's The Next Big Thing attracts plenty of beautiful people, a sprinkling of celebrities and fashionable beats (that means speed garage at present). It's regular venue, Hanover Grand, is being refurbished, so TNBT stops at Iceni this Thursday before returning home. Derek B and friends know how to work a crowd, so the night is always memorable.

Revellers seeking an induction course in garage should head for Garage City at Bar Rumba or Pure Silk at SW1 - both outstanding gigs. The two events run on Saturday in smallish venues that really seem to encourage an uplifting social vibe.

The Zoo Crew at Garage City are old hands at the business. Bobbi & Steve keep it real with traditional garage, but are no strangers to innovation.

Pure Silk, on the other hand, lets you have your cake and eat it. Quality garage and throbbing speed garage all under the same roof. It's a formula that really packs them in and will leave you wanting more.

Twice as Nice (0171-272 4185); Absolute Sunday (0171-251 6136); TNBT (0171-371 0430); Garage City (0171-434 1074); Pure Silk (0171-630 8980)

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