Sunday, October 01, 2006

danny does dallas seven

Nathan McWaters ~  Dallas, TX - 23SEPT06 - In the fickle and dynamic world that is house music, there are few who have missed the name Danny Howells in their foray into that particular genre of EDM. In fact, it could be argued that Danny Howells is a man with a penchant for redefining just what house is with every album he releases and every venue he spins at. He also has this nasty habit of being attractive to several different varieties of EDM fanatic: househeads sharing the dance floor with trancers, technoids, and prog-devils, all thrust into a veritable vortex of music that appeal to the masses on multiple levels. From his work with Bedrock, Global Underground, and Azuli, Danny has traveled the world and blown crowds away with mix sets that defy description into any particular genre, be it house, trance, or tribal. For all his work with others, he stands alone.


As with what usually happens with me whenever the huge names come rolling within a 200-mile radius of Fort Hood, I had plenty of warning that Danny was going to drop anchor in Dallas and commence to kicking up a typhoon or two. For all my respect for his talent, though (I had known him from his work with Nick Warren, primarily), I wasn’t certain I wanted to go, especially since the venue was Club Seven, sister to Club One, and that was unfamiliar turf. So I did a bit of research into the matter about the venue, noted the advance ticket price, calculated fuel costs, and basically tried to convince myself that at this stage in the game, seeing Danny Howells live was not only a worthwhile cause, but a darn good mission as well. After the Tiesto event in Austin, I wanted another big act to cross my path before I flew out. In spite of these reasons, even after the numbers came out on the winning end I was still holding back. I needed a sign, an occasion that might only happen once in what could turn out to be the remains of a short lifetime. . .something spontaneous, unplanned, and wildly unexpected. I’ve always been a big Fan of the Plan, and am leery of off-the-cuff maneuvering with things like this due to the Murphy Factor that increases proportionally to every un-thought-out decision one makes, but that was precisely what I needed to tip the scales into a position even I couldn’t turn down, for any reason.

One dropped into my lap a week prior to the gig that made it all worth it: I wasn’t going to be alone this time. It turns out I wasn’t the only one looking for an excursion into the realm of the not-so-well-planned. Enter David McGlothlin, spontaneity incarnate, Dallas virgin, and also fan-of-Danny Howells. It didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting over anything except his willingness to travel 5.5 hours, logistics of time/space factors integral to in-Dallas road travel, a designated linkup point and time on arrival, the ticket purchase through Groovetickets, and a certain wish list of "Things That Must Be Done", and we were in it to win it. Old habits die hard, though, and I wanted perfection on this one. I so much as begged even the weather not to botch this up. Nothing and no one dared cast an occultation over this adventure, or there would be calamities of Biblical proportions in response. A bunch of Google maps later, I was certain of victory over even my ingrained and innate knowledge of the "Art of Getting Lost in Big Cities". I then prayed that Dallas wouldn’t kill David as it has so many other neophytes into its demesne. Having driven Baghdad before, even I am not comfortable driving in Dallas, Texas.

Club Seven lies within a seven-block radius of Lizard Lounge, in the Deep Ellum district of Dallas, near the old city. I had never crossed its property line before, but from the website description and the word of those who had been there before, it could mass a thousand souls in its confines without offending a fire marshal, sported three bars, an elevated DJ platform in the middle of the dance floor, a roped-off VIP section, and a bathroom with an actual attendant inside it. I bought it all except the bathroom attendant part; it was too outlandish even for a Dallas club. We arrived at Seven at about 2230 hours, half an hour after the doors opened. Things had gone pretty stellar by that point, but our first brush with calamity was moments to come. We had no sooner reached the Will Call when it struck.

Danny was trapped in Chicago, waiting on his flight. Through circumstances beyond his control, the weather in Illinois, and several delays, he wasn’t even going into the air until midnight. That meant he was going to be very late. Full Access, the production company that booked Danny, was very forthcoming about it, didn’t try and hide anything from anyone, and even went so far as to post flyers all over the exterior of Seven (and the interior) mentioning that Danny was going to be late, time of arrival undetermined. They even offered to give me my money back and still allow access. I declined the refund; Danny Howells is worth a wait, and from the sound of things, DJ Kean was warming up a nicely house-y blend of his own.
Seven languished in vacancy for about an hour after we got there, which was nice in a certain way and disturbing in others; Danny Howells is going to spin and the club is empty? Travesty. I had expected better from Dallas. Seven turned out to be smaller than I had envisioned it, but that may have been simply due to the amount of furniture that was scattered throughout the club. As it turned out, there was a bathroom attendant, who even sold gum, mints, and other sundries as he handed you paper towels after you washed your hands. I recommend the mints.

DJ Kean was someone who I’d never seen live before, but like so many other Texas talents, his name had been dropped into my ear before. An old-school Seb Fontaine-influenced house DJ that was languishing in bedroom-DJ squalor until his linkup with Willie Trimmer of 12inchPimps, he had come from his residency at Fuse to open with stuff that would flow nicely into Danny’s usual fare. He was also a man who had been set up from the get-go; not only was the headliner going to be very late and Kean had to cover down to fill the void, but he was also booked to spin the afterparty at Eden Afterhours at the Jaguar’s Gold club about ten miles away from Seven, starting at 0400. He was in for a long, rough night, whether he knew it or not. Still, he dropped a solid house set, chock full of familiar tunes that I couldn’t ID to save my life, and a bunch of others I’d never heard before. Seven began to fill at about 2330 or so, and all of a sudden, Kean had a crowd instead of an almost-empty dance floor. He set a tone in the first thirty minutes and simply maintained it... for the next four hours. The club kept getting more and more crowded as the night went on, and if anyone was having an issue with Danny being delayed, they must have been few and far between, because the club was still packed at 0300 when Danny finally arrived. Kean accomplished his mission, looking for all the world like a gunfight survivor when he was finally relieved. He poured serious energy into that set and kept the crowd there.

As I said, Danny arrived at 0300, apologetic, seemingly quite embarrassed to have been so tardy even though everyone knew it wasn’t his fault and that he’d just spent almost ten hours stuck at Chicago O’Hare, fuming at one of the bars over the whole debacle. If anyone had any animosity about it, they had left long since, and the throng that remained was enslaved to Danny Howells after one smile and the headphone plug-in. I knew not to expect him to just drop tracks from his “24:7” album or anything like that; like Nick Warren, he’s notorious for unleashing the unexpected. What he gave Dallas for the next hour-and-a-half was like one extended, long, sick build that just kept getting bigger and bigger until I thought people’s heads were going to burst from the pressure. The tales of Danny Howells spinning for four-plus hours at gigs are well-known; he crammed that same level of energy into this set with what little time he had left, and Seven kept its doors open another half-hour after closing just to eke out a little more time for him. The crowd went nowhere, riveted into the groove. Hernan Cattaneo wields that same kind of energy, but Danny Howells is a wizard at intensifying it to an almost razor-frequency expectation, transmitted through one massive build after another into tunes that simply don’t let you go once they kick off. I ran my camera batteries out again trying to keep up; I should probably just expect it as habitual now.

Danny’s encore was on the same level as the set itself. Moby’s “Go (Trentmoeller Remix)” was buried deep into it and was a hit, but the one that tore the crowd apart was the final track, a little something from his GU: NuBreed album: “Mindstream (Mind the Bend the Mind)” by Meat Beat Manifesto. Absolutely a smash. It’s a pity that time ran itself out, but we were all pretty well cooked and amped by that point. I had nothing left to even give to the Eden Afterparty, so I skipped it and headed back south, whilst David went back north. The next day, Danny dropped an apology letter about the late arrival onto DallasDanceMusic.com, promising to book another venue soon for a “proper set”.

I considered the mission a success after that. A late Danny Howells is better than no Danny Howells at all; a Danny Howells promise for more later is like getting an IOU from God.

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