Will Saul, co-head of Aus Music with Fink, played first out of the three headliners from 12 till 2. Aus Music have had some great releases in the past, like Void 23 by Ramadanman and Appleblim and Youandewan EP by Youandewan, so Will has clearly got an ear for a decent record. The set that he actually delivered, however, was a little mundane. He was professional and seemed to do a decent job of gauging the mood of the room, but he played nothing out of the ordinary that might lift someone out of a monotonous head bop. Maybe this was just out of consideration for the pacing of the rest of the night. Bicep, the night’s headliners, wouldn’t be finishing their set until 6, so maybe Mr Saul was trying to save anyone from expending too much energy too early on by keeping it a little drab. Either way it was a decent opportunity to get a feel for Plug, wading through dense clouds from the smoke machines.
Leon Vynehall took over the decks at 2 and picked up pretty neatly from where Will Saul had left off. The pace and mood remained pretty much the same, but immediately Leon’s selection was more soulful than anything Will Saul had played. This was a pretty welcome change as Will Saul’s set had definitely been lacking in character and I was in need of something with a more distinctive feel. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Leon Vynehall, despite not being the headliner, was my main motivation for being at this night. He’s had a great year so far with a very original debut album that could appeal to a broad range of house fans, alongside a nice uplifting single on Royal Oak and a Fact Mix, a significant milestone for any DJ aspiring to bigger and better things.
Taking all this into account, it seemed pretty reasonable to expect big things from the South coast based DJ. He didn’t disappoint. By about twenty to 3 Vynehall had snapped the crowd out of their hypnotic robotic motions and had everyone moving and grooving. From here onwards he had the crowd eating out of the palms of his hands, admittedly with some help from whatever chemicals people had chosen to accompany them. But this should take nothing away from Leon Vynehall’s obvious quality as a DJ. His track selection was nothing short of brilliant. From his own back catalogue he played “Butterflies”, the single I mentioned previously on Royal Oak, and “It’s Just (House of Dupree)”, arguably the best track on Music For The Uninvited. He played some great tracks from the likes of Floating Points, HNNY and Takuya Matsumoto, as well as a fantastic edit of Cymande’s psychedelic funk classic “Dove”. This was all before finishing on DJ Fett Burger and Luca Lozano’s “Electric Blue”, definitely one of 2014’s standout tracks. Besides his track selection, he made great use of the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it technique of taking out the bass and bringing it back in. It might be a technique that every bedroom DJ is intimately familiar with, but Leon Vynehall used it to great effect.
Bicep closed the night from 4 till 6. Despite playing some pretty decent stuff, they couldn’t keep the energy going that had characterised Leon’s set. They played hard hitting house and occasionally soulful house, bringing a warehouse vibe to middling sized club. This was always going to be an option, as playing at this stage of the night guarantees a lip biting, gum chewing, water bottle clutching crowd who are likely to eat up this particular style. But as the set went on, the numbers thinned as more and more people presumably opted for taxis, a smoke and bed. Ultimately, Will Saul and Bicep served as perfect bookends for Leon Vynehall, who’s set was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. This should not serve as any disrespect to these DJs, as Leon’s career seems to be on a pretty unstoppable trajectory. We can only hope that he offers as much in 2015 as he has this year.
Written By Sam Jacobs