It’s 1.30am in a bare-bricked, underground room in Farringdon, east London, and a crowd flooded in blue and red LED light has opened out into a huge mosh pit. There’s a delicious moment of tension, then the bass drops. Arms and legs flying, people happily hurl themselves at each other to Chase and Status’ pounding dubstep. If it’s true that death knell is tolling for London’s nightlife, Fabric could hardly have done a better job of proving why that is a crying shame with their sold out reopening.
The iconic venue closed last summer following the deaths of two 18-years-olds who took drugs at the 2,500-person capacity club. Its future, after almost two decades of legendary events in central London, seemed bleak.
The tragic deaths were regarded by some as a scapegoat for plans to sanitise London. The subsequent #saveourculture campaign prompted an outpouring of support from both the public and behemoths of the dance scene, including drum and bass legend Goldie and tech-house DJ Seth Troxler who spoke on national news to support it. Tonight, a new hashtag is being beamed onto the club’s walls: #yousavedfabric.
The re-launch is truly a celebration of UK dance music in all its multicultural, genre and generation-spanning glory. The line-up for this “Friends and Family” re-birth was top secret, but once unveiled the traditional Friday-night schedule of drum and bass and grime felt symbolic. Chase and Status, who cut their teeth at Fabric, reminded the crowd of the dubstep glory-days by harking back to the genre’s foundations in jungle and drum and bass.
As the night progressed, the acts got heavier, darker, and more progressive. DJ Sir Spyro represented the future and arguably the genre of 2016 with dirty grime, while jungle veteran Dillinja stormed through a fast-paced set to a packed Room Two, which stayed full for the relentless, almost industrial, Ed Rush. Sam Binga, meanwhile, presented the most imaginative set, weaving flashes of grime, garage, dance hall and glitchy noise with a throbbing bass.
The MCs SP:MC, Mantmast and Jakes, the unsung heros of dub-influenced electronic music, made the night all the more authentically “UK”. The message was clear: these genres that often spill into the mainstream wouldn’t be thriving without venues like Fabric.
And the content, eclectic and unpretentious, crowd only goes to show how influential and cherished Fabric was, and now continues to be. There are as many fresh-faced students in ironically ‘90s throwback clothing as there are receding hairlines, crows' feet and dad bods, dancing and waving their arms in half time.
Among the crowd is Lauren from London, who has been visiting Fabric since she 18. Now 26, she has returned to to celebrate its relaunch of a space where she says she has always felt safe and free. “As a woman, it’s great to come to a place where you don’t feel harassed,” she says, adding that despite charges that the club had an issue with drug culture, she prefers it to bars elsewhere in the capital filled with “men in suits doing coke”.
Melvin Boone, 24, is here from his native Netherlands, where he signed the petition to save the club in the summer. While he - like many other revellers - had wished for a line-up of techno and house which the club is also famed for, he’s in good spirits at 5am. Asked if the event has lived up to his expectations, he replies: “My friend and I said we have to come here when we visit London. Fabric is so famous, and it is been amazing. Everyone is friendly and the atmosphere is great”.
But one universal complaint is how security has been ramped up. Like others, Melvin felt that the pat-downs and bag searches were excessive. Another club-goer who didn’t want to be named said it felt like it was to underline the zero-tolerance drug policy. Although after the deaths, the new welfare tent certainly doesn’t seem to be doing any harm.
Still, other than a few grumbles, at 7am the remaining pocket of the crowd is still excited, galvanized, and far from ready to let London’s mecca to underground music slip away.
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