“You can’t understand the blues until you’ve had your heart broken and you can’t understand my music till you’ve had group sex on ecstasy.”
Ministry of Sound, London, 8th April 2017.
Although I will most certainly plead the fifth if you ask me why I understand DJ Harvey’s music, what I will tell you is that he is one of the true masters of his craft and a bonafide rockstar.
Lemme just list some of his accolades. He was the pioneering British resident DJ at Ministry of Sound in the 90’s. He used to hang out with Larry Levan when he came over to London, and he’s the only notable DJ to channel his inner Keith Moon like he did here.
Being one of London’s beloved lost sons, as he was banished from England’s pleasant pastures for over a decade due to visa issues, an unparalleled mystique has consequently surrounded his DJ sets; there is hushed folklore about his legendary sets in Hawaii and in Freddy Mercury’s old bedroom at Pikes Ibiza, where he would play for 10 hours or more in that 80 capacity space.
Although his 70’s porn director look may polarise some, this is a guy who emulates Hank Moody levels of coolness, which is about as much of a superlative as I can give.
He is notorious for being a true gunslinger behind the decks. Revered as the King of Balearia, he is just as likely to throw down a Shirley Bassey tune as he would an enviably groovy house cut. Never has anyone displayed a brashness like his behind the decks, nor can anyone rival his personality and stage presence. For example, name anyone that can simultaneously ooze sex appeal and coolness whilst playing gooey, emotionally charged ballads?
So, when we heard that His Majesty the Cosmic-Deity was making his triumphant return to his residency at the Ministry of Sound to play all night long, the 909 crew jumped at the chance to see him.
We would never usually set foot in an institution as naff and exorbitant as Ministry of Sound, but this provided us with a unique opportunity to see someone properly utilise the club’s fantastic sound system, which is so unfortunately wasted on its usual guests.
Harvey was playing in The Box, a gigantic room neatly tucked away in a corner of the club. Upon entering, what we assumed to be a small gaggle of people turned out to be a monstrous horde. The club was heaving with veteran clubbers, who I romantically envisaged to have been blown away by Harvey at the club in the 90s and were back to relive their finest moments. There was also a lot of tourists who were there purely for the spectacle, but thankfully did little to deflate the energy of the crowd.
Harvey was literally placed on a pedestal at the focal point of the room. His indistinguishable features occasionally coursing through the hazy smoke. His presence was a metaphor of his omniscient command of the room, and I was genuinely astounded by his dictatorial stranglehold of the room throughout the night.
It is actually quite rare to see a DJ play all night long (the only other DJ I had seen do it was Ben UFO last year at Phonox). Playing for longer than 6 hours is usually reserved for German clubs, as licensing laws in this country simply restrict clubs being open long enough to accommodate these marathon sets.
Harvey is universally renowned for his extended sets, and I was therefore initially shocked by his continual insistence to restrain the crowd’s energy. It was clear that the crowd was yearning for some heavier music than the disco he was playing, and I naively believed there to be a miscommunication or even a misunderstanding from Harvey’s part of the crowd’s desires. This turned out to be wrong. He swiftly played the absolute chugger that is Decadence’s On and On (Leo Mas & Fabrice Danceology Dub Mix) and it catalysed the crowd to a momentous deluge of flailing limbs, enslaved to his sorcery.
You know that age-old saying: “I’m good enough at DJing to know how shit I really am”? This served as a vivid reminder of that.
The confidence and swagger in his set was electrifying. Songs were often left to play from beginning to end and then were quickly, yet expertly mixed out. Anthems like Daniele Baldelli’s Gandharva totally mesmerised the crowd, and the hefty sound system enforced enough power for the various melodies within the italo, house and disco joints he was playing to really go to work.
The absolute highlight of the night for me was when he played some edit of Cool Breeze by The Jeremy Spencer Band. It was a proper curveball, as it was essentially a prog-rock tune from 1979 with some weightier percussion behind it. However, it absolutely entranced the crowd with its hauntingly beautiful main hook: Makin’ me feel, feel like lovin’ you. I felt that it perfectly encapsulated everything about Harvey; his confidence to play a prog-rock song to a thousand ravers at peak time; the overarching positivity that infects his selections and his uncanny ability to pluck out and play forgotten gems from yesteryear.
His performance was a confirmation that he truly is one of the transcendent talents of the scene. Being inexplicably affiliated with a club usually means you’re one of the greats (think Villalobos at Fabric, Ron Hardy at the Muzic Box, Levan at the Garage, Klock and Dettmann at Berghain etc.), and although his residency with Ministry of Sound should not singularly define his legacy, a performance like the one I was lucky enough to witness absolutely attested to it.
£7.50 FOR A BOTTLE OF BEER ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME????!!!!