Yep, you read right. This party went down in a bowling alley. And not the youth-oriented, ten-pin kind of bowling, either. We’re talking the “played on a village green by an old-aged pensioner wearing nothing but white while cursing the youth of today” variety.
But don’t worry—the place was on loan for the night. The Mad Racket crew have cottoned onto the fact that you can hire out a bowling club—even one usually reserved for people with Zimmer frames—and throw an undisturbed all-night party in an inner-city industrial wasteland. They’ve also realized that if you do it with alcohol at genuine ‘70s prices, things tend to get pretty wild. Sheer bloody genius!
The Mad Racket parties have been running for about eight years and are famous for serving the best in tech and house without doing too much damage to the hip pocket. Of course, these days, Mad Racket is also where late-20s/early-30s ex-clubbers and ravers go to age disgracefully. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, as the lack of Glamazons and image-conscious scenesters meant that everyone could just let go, get down, and enjoy the Mad Racket crew’s heavy grooves.
We arrived close to midnight, walking in to the sound of heavy beats. It was the first whiff of the Minimal influence that pervaded the night’s proceedings, complemented by a healthy dose of house-friendly hip-hop a la Spank Rock.
The whole New Year’s angle was downplayed, and midnight was marked somewhat cursorily. At a few minutes past 12, the tearing beats stopped for a few seconds, and a voice came over the PA and announced, “Umm, yeah, it’s 2007.” And then the tearing beats started right back up again.
Shortly after, the music stopped, and the crowd started screaming at an affable English guy in a disco-ball shirt. Jamie Lidell had taken the stage and was greeting the crowd, his shirt refracting light into a few hundred dilated pupils. This isn’t the first time Lidell has played a Mad Racket party, and his performances have been routinely described as nothing short of amazing. Of course, having only heard cuts from Multiply, I wasn’t expecting the hard, techy onslaught that made up the bulk of his set.
Lidell is a master of his craft, feeding vocal samples back on themselves and punctuating the mix with hard, crunchy beats. It wasn’t until he came back for an encore that we caught a glimpse of the neo-soul we expected. Lidell looked every bit as loved-up as the crowd as he brought it all to a close with a singalong of “Multiply.”
The rest of the night faded into a montage sequence of dimly remembered moments: cigarettes in the parking lot and twisted conversations with strangers in the queue for the bathroom. The Mad Racketeers kept the beats flowing until dawn, when the crowd was finally turfed out into the eerily deserted street to face up to a new year.
Later that day, as I was forcing myself to sleep, I remembered that a friend had turned to me midway through Lidell’s performance, in one of the more soulful stages of the show, and asked me, “Is this guy just the new Jamiroquai?” Like Jay Kay, Lidell is a consummate all-around performer, but musically, Lidell he has a whole lot more to offer than recycled soul and a fucked-up hat. And, he’ll rock a bowling alley.