At first, I thought this story would pre-write itself. I'd heard the comments: "He doesn't use headphones". "He can't mix". "His show in Guangdong was crap". "He cleared the dancefloor" "If he's gonna DJ, he should practise. He wouldn't tour with New Order without rehearsing". Sounds like we're in for a wild ride. I get to Tribeca about 0115. A crowd of at least 120 people are patiently waiting to go inside. They all have tickets. Door security tells me the police are inside, doing either a head count or looking for drugs. Someone remarks "Typical police. They've forgotten to bring ther own. Again". Some people, including ligger James from Argentina, have been waiting for two hours. It's steamy hot. A small sign reads Full House. The crowd are cut off from the a/c inside. I'm impressed by their restraint. The police do seem to be over-zealous in their monitoring of the rave scene. Anyone remember the bad old days at Queen's nightclub? Welcome to the re-runs. You don't see the police bursting in midway through the Opening Concert of the Arts Festival. Screaming and shouting. Turning on the lights. Silencing the Orchestra. Breathalysing the first 10 rows. Would make one helluva video though.. While, this isn't the venue for a debate on the pros and cons of drug legalisation, please note two points. 1) Hong Kong's origins as a global fiscal megapolis stemmed from the (then legal) Opium Trade. 2) Next time, you're on a ferry or boat, check out the city skyline. See how many buildings look like syringes. Finally, OMD's 2nd LP title "Architecture and Morality" makes perfect sense.
I've been waiting with James for about 40 minutes. Inside, we see PH being escorted upstairs. Time to play my trump. "I'm from HK Clubb-..." "Go, right on in mate". ("Coming, James?"). DJ Dicky (?) is blasting out hard electro, some subliminals, good long fuzz breaks. The crowd are happy. I position myself back of the DJ booth. There's light to write and the bar by my side. The lady cashier is making change, swiping cards, checking bills with total aplomb. She's unfazed by the noise coming from 10 feet away. The lights go on and the sound is muted as another police visit is announced. This time, apparently, it's a "license check". The crowd inside are indifferent. The crowd downstairs is getting larger and hotter and no closer to entry. Tribeca, you must try better. James has vanished. I'm chatting with Sebastian from Germany who's glad he made it. A sexyy lovetet of ladies wonder what I'm doing. I promise to mention Yippy, Kelly, Karen Chan, Sheila Wan, Pansy and Melissa in the story. It's nearly 0240 and Peter Hook is about to make his second debut in HK (I'll explain later).
The first track is a piano-enhanced mix of "Love Will Keep Us Together" and slows the musical pace right down, but not for long. A string of 80's styled and inspired electro-throbbers, mixed with some digi-dub keep the crowd dancing. A splendid version of "She's Lost Control" is in the mix. (Is it Joy Division meets Martin Hannet?) A chorus of "I don't take drugs, cigarettes or go out at night. I just fuck" features lots of syncussion and vocodervox. It's another highlight after "Control". PH has pulled out a pair of headphones, but hasn't used them yet. His mixing isn't seamless, but that's just one technique. Overlay, Cut-N-Paste, Mix and Match all work. I remember that James Lavelle and DJ Hell can't mix, but they're great producers. From where I am, PH's CD case is 2 feet away. Most of his discs are the equivalent of white label dubplates with 1-2 tunes on them. No need to have a cue anxiety attack. He's certainly enjoying himself. Dancing up and down. Kicking his right leg backwards like a reverse Can-Can-cum-prancing Pony. The crowd is warming to his style which flows along. One tune melds the Blue Monday drum pattern with a chorus of "Fly across the restless sea". A little pre-taste of New Order glories to come.
By this time, PH has signed about 20 autographs, on tickets, bits of paper, the flyerboards surrounding the DJ booth, somebody's shoulder. (Hell, I got 2 myself!). Notes for requests are proffered, which he reads, smiles, and puts to the left of the DJ mixer. People tell me, he's really caught the mood tonight. Into his second hour and it's getting harder. "Mr. Brightman" by The Killers raises a roar of approval, especially from Jim on my left. The Sex Pistols "Anarchy" flows into "24 Hour Party People" by Happy Mondays. (Possible Oakie mix?). Some synthi-Bollywood strings over gothbeats and stomping dub bass. Some John Digweed sirens come and go. Blur's "Song 2" as done by Armand Van Helden. Good control of the tension/release dynamics and pacing. He's worn his headphones twice as well - once for 2 minutes, once for 1 minute.
A synaptic spasm of sense-memory ripples through the dancefloor as PH moves into the New Order section of the set. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (nice counterpoint to the opening tune), "Blue Monday" and "Crystal" are extended mixes driving the dancers to possible multiple auralgasms. I've never had so much fun listening to a 50-year old man playing his own records. There's a country-billy version of "Folsom Prison Blues" which fits weirdly-well into the selection. At this point, PH has done about 2.5 hours and the promoter is trying to get him to wrap it up so David Lam can take over. PH promises "one more song" (and plays three) before stepping down. So, what's the message tonight? Don't believe the hypers!. Don't judge a book by its cover!. Don't budge a Hook before it's over, either!
We walk out together. I tell him I'm the only person in the room who saw New Order make their HK debut at Andrew Bull's Canton Disco in mid-1985. (Told you I'd explain later.). He says he's exhausted. His 10-day tour is over and he's glad to be going home. As we part, he calls out "See you in another 25 years, la" "Make it much sooner than that, mate" I reply. I stroll away, into the sunrise, whistling a happy tune. We Fade To Grey. The End.
Review by Nick L.