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Summerset goes wild

Flappers and gents resplendent in Oriental make up, fruity flowers and oriental brollies

24 Apr 2008

Jedi Night

Jedi Night

Tom Middleton set the bar at last year’s inaugural Summerset – warmth, sonic science and booty-spinning vibes collided that night - who could deny the wave of jubilation when he played Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” or the crescendos of joy at hearing Groove Armada’s “Get Down” for the first time? He was so good that Summerset ‘07 headliners Fat Freddy’s Drop were left kicking tumbleweeds around the stage and audience-less in his wake. It was the finest festival DJ set I have ever thrown a shape to.

And he was all set to do it again for Summerset ‘08 – this time as main stage closer. As a devout fan of the Jedi Master my anticipation levels were red-lining – the man is patron saint of eclectica. 10.45pm and conditions were sublime - the big, waxing moon was glowing lupine-silver, beaming Balearic energy over the expectant crowd but …lo!…who is that I see lurking backstage?

If it isn’t Sir Norman Jay, Mr LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad with gathered entourage in tow. That’s nice, I thought; having played your own sets earlier you have now come to relax and watch Tom weave his magic. Right?

Wrong. It turned out to be The Great ’08 Hi-Fi Hijack. Bukem, Jay and Conrad had seized control of the decks under the guise of collaboration.

Middleton vs Bukem

Middleton vs Bukem

Professional jealousy? Misplaced machismo? Or just plain bad manners? – I haven’t a clue as to their motivation. Perhaps my fanboy status is clouding my judgement but one thing is certain, we’ll never know if Middleton could have topped last year’s benchmark set. His final slot was only 1hr and 15mins – Bukem and Jay ‘collaborated’ with him for about half an hour. Rhythm ruined and vibe kaput. It wasn’t really cricket but, to his credit, the Jedi Knight went with the flow.

Fiasco aside, Summerset is evolving and I couldn’t be more chuffed that it happens in my beloved hometown on its most hallowed of sporting grounds. The first act I saw was Nelson breaks outfit Minuit playing in the marquee, it was only 2pm but the assorted students, freaks and music geeks were already going berserk buoyed by booze, Easter eggs and god-only-knows what else.

Crazy P

Crazy P

Thanks to this lot - and other home grown heroes like the Black Seeds and Shapeshifter - the verdant and venerable green was transformed for 12 hours into a hedonistic melting pot of partying punters mingling with hired human props – a 12-foot stilt walking cricketer with a speaker for a head; flappers and gents resplendent in Oriental make up, fruity flowers and oriental brollies; and hordes of kids dressed in neon lycra and face paint who had obviously put away a far whack of gym ‘n’ tonic.

UK collective Crazy Penis were something of a revelation to me, I’d heard a few of their tunes on various compilations but had no preconceptions about their live show. As it turns out they are an semi-organic disco/house band in the vein of Moloko – lead vocalist Danielle Moore even shares Moloko singer Roisin Murphy’s charisma and stage presence, if not her vocal talents.

Notting Hill Carnival selector Norman Jay, had played some tunes on National Radio earlier that morning. He had told Kim Hill he had never once failed to make the sun shine at a festival - good to his boast, the sun burst through the clouds during his dub/house/disco/funk set. Let the good times roll. And they did, LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad ignited the packed super top with a cacophonous onslaught of drum ‘n’ bass and lysergic rave visuals before making way for the first of Middleton’s two sets. But Middleton didn’t stand a chance - in a testament to their grassroots cachet, talent and pulling power Shapeshifter almost capsized the party. If the Basin had been a boat it would have listed violently as punters performed a mass exodus from the marquee to the main stage.

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Captain Lager’s “Sounds of the Cosmos” First XI - tracks and remixes

1. Global Communication – The Groove
2. Kerri Chandler – Bar-A-Thym (Cosmos remix)
3. Global Communication – The Way (Secret Ingredients mix)
4. Jedi Knights – Catch The Break
5. Odyssey – Lovelife
6. Cosmos – Lost Inside (Tom Middleton 3D dub)
5. Link - Arcadian
4. Bebel Gilberto – Simplesmente (Tom Middleton mix)
3. Mighty Dub Katz - Guaguanco (Tom Middleton mix)
2. Zoot Woman – It’s Automatic (Cosmos Club mix)
1. Model 500 – The Flow (Jedi Knights mix)

Summerset goes wild

Summerset goes wild

I had a few words with Tom before he played. He has visited the capital on several occasions and I suspected he was building a rapport with the city. I was right.

Tom:“Wellington’s the music hub of New Zealand, I’m really not feeling Auckland, the music passion here is exceptional.”

Me:“You should come and live here”
Tom: (pointing at Mt Vic) “Yeah, just over there”

Me: “The first time I saw you DJ was in 1999 in this weird, kitschy 60s Melbourne cocktail club. You were playing an ultra deep house set and weren’t nearly as interactive as you are now. The second time I saw you, years later at Sandwiches, you came into the audience and hugged me and my mate Greg. What happened?”

Tom: “I got bored with playing purist sounds – as you evolve you discover your musical personality and I decided to stop using monikers and be Tom so now there’s no boundaries”

Me: "My favourite DJs are you, Ben Watt and the Unabombers. (“Really?”) Do DJs have favourite DJs? Who are yours?"

Tom: “Norman Jay MBE, pure inspiration, he plays what he feels. Gilles Peterson is not afraid to try things out and John Peel for his diversity”

Me: Middleton’s philosophy on DJing is one of ‘edutainment’ - "so what is the most common mistake DJs make?"

Tom: “Some DJs are lazy and don’t take risks – it’s about entertainment and communication – playing honestly and from the heart”

Finally, after the success of The Sound of the Cosmos, The Trip and Cosmosonica compilations I suggest it might be time to release a berko/festival mix on CD. He assures me he’ll look into it. Here’s hoping and we’ll see you next year at Summerset ’09. May the funk be with you.

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Words - Matthew Stewart

Pictures - Dominika Zielinska