For one night, on the 26th October, Bowlers- now Bowlers Exhibition Centre- reopened as a club for History of House Music, a retrospective night of house classics. Look at the names on that line-up!
I paid £45 for a highly sought-after VIP ticket, gaining access to the VIP lounge, where DJ Bini shared the decks with Si Forestiero, Jason Herd and his partner-in-crime Jon Fitz (Herd ‘n’ Fitz had a hit with I Just Can’t Get Enough in 2004).
We were treated to a brilliant live PA by Freemasons front-woman Katherine Ellis.
“Is that Inner City leaving the building?” she mocked.
The Main hall of Bowlers is absolutely huge, with a 4,500 capacity and- on this night- a full-width stage with an immense LCD backdrop. The event was far from a sellout, though, and the venue had plenty of space at the back.
As it happens, I did see Inner City, who performed their hits Big Fun, Pennies from Heaven and Good Life.
Here's DJ Adam Guy's set
I suppose the problem with a retro night like this is that the people who go clubbing are too young to remember the era the Anthems night is celebrating, yet the people who ARE old enough are settled down and have other interests than going clubbing. That could be the reason the night had low numbers. The popularity of old-skool house music amongst 20-somethings could also explain the surprisingly young clientele. The majority of people there fit the demographic of the average clubber in any other venue- 18-25 year-olds, which says something about contemporary dance music.
There were a few signs that rave culture was still alive and well- laser shows, fire-breathers, stilt-walkers, axle-grinders, a few topless blokes scattered about, the smell of weed hanging in the air, a few delirious faces and a handful of crazy outfits (but it WAS Halloween). Oh, and this bloke:
I suspected his own zaniness floored him rather than any ingested remedy, and it didn't look like it had kicked off at all. I definitely didn't see any fights all night.
I had a great night and I got to see friends, enjoy performances, and dance my arse off. I think I missed a few PAs and DJ sets by holing myself up in VIP for too long, one drawback to paying for privileges. I suspect, though, that the Bowlers of the 90s era- the period that the night was celebrating- would have felt friendlier and more unifying. I mean, how many people were dancing in those videos? Only the VIP crowd! Perhaps the cliché that clubbers in the 90s didn't realise how good they had it isn't just a cliché. I was too young to know, but I gather the 90s club scene had a whole lot of love that can't be replicated by simply bringing back the acts and DJs.
But it was a damned good effort.