After Dark
Could one massive event kickstart the flagging club scene in the north of England? Twelve thousand people went to Manchester's G-Mex to find out.

No one can explain the phenomenon that transformed northern cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds into clubbing ghost towns. Contrary to numerous reports, house music has not died - it's as popular as ever in London.

Many stalwarts of clubland folded with a whimper. The crisis reached its zenith when Manchester's Hacienda recently closed. Beset by problems since its inception, the Hacienda's elaborate 15th birthday celebrations - a fortnight before closure - were intended to restore confidence in the northern club scene. Instead, the club imploded under the considerable weight of intrigue, diminishing attendances and increased police attention.

With three arenas, 12,000 people and the UK's finest spinners, Friday's Lynx/ Fantazia '97 was a gargantuan event by any standard - more so when you consider its billing as heralding the rebirth of Manchester's club scene.

Southerners, like myself, hate to admit it but northern cities have traditionally spawned every major clubbing innovation since the early Eighties. Lynx/Fantazia '97 didn't unveil any new clubbing formula, and instead chose to showcase the best acts around. Danny Rampling, Carl Cox, Jeremy Healy, Boy George, Tall Paul and K-Klass were just some of the signed acts.

At 10pm there were hundreds of people trying to get inside. At 1am there were still hundreds of people trying to get inside and a few dozen police officers stopping anyone gaining admittance. At that point I knew it would be a good gig - isn't every great party visited by the law at some time?

The scenes inside this old railway station would have made its Victorian designers blush - thousands of sweating, writhing bodies danced to the hypnotic beatz emanating from numerous bass bins. Multi-coloured drapes hung from the rafters while the stage was illuminated by massive flaming torches and numerous dancers in advanced stages of undress.

Everyone seemed to be in attendance - sprinklings of sports celebs, soap heart-throbs and assorted beautiful people. Combined with the high turnout of media luvvies and industry bigwigs, the VIP enclosure was throbbing with kisses and goodwill. More importantly, Joe Public turned up in force to make the atmosphere truly bumpin'. Encouragingly, Lynx/ Fantazia '97 was brimming with youthful exuberance - the event was a definite success.

There were mishaps, including Danny Rampling being unable to attend after succumbing to physical exhaustion. But in the main arena, the bangin' set of the night award went to Carl Cox. Probably the best room, however was the garage arena - dark tunes and innovative mixing.

The surprise of the night was a quality performance by Freestylers in the Chemical Lab. Large dollops of break-beat rhythms fused with electronica created a powerful cocktail of phat beatz. Their brand of live instruments and sampling deserve a bigger stage.

Events this size are often a risk; they can be too big and too impersonal, but everyone who negotiated their way into the event only had good things to say. Seventeen-year-old Jackie from Moss Side said, "It was great. My parents don't know I'm here with my mates, but it was well worth the risk." It's always a good sign when the younger generation are willing to break their curfews. Wandering back to the hotel at around 7am, a meandering Mancunian asked where the Hacienda was. "Don't you know it's closed down?" I remarked.

"I know," he replied. "I'm meeting some mates there."... The legend lives on.