Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Atomic Jam, Birmingham (7th March)

Q Club feels like a throwback to the good old days when anything with four walls and a roof (and sometimes less) was ripe for a party. Housed in a former Methodist hall and not in the slightest bit small, the bible bashers have long since made way for those who are instead slave to a beat. Techno mentalists Atomic Jam set up shop here many a year ago before the venue shut for five years but after a successful homecoming in November, the Jam crew have committed to throwing two parties a year. Headlining the bill Saturday were Dave Clarke, Adam Beyer and Ovr (James Ruskin and Regis), ably supported by residents Chris Finke and Steve Strawberry and in the other rooms by a whole host of bleepy, breaky, bassy DJs and performers from Birmingham's underground.

Quite frankly, I'm surprised the HSE let anything go on in there at all; dancing up in the gallery overlooking the floor in the main room is only suitable for those with a head for heights, and certainly a memorable experience. The whole place could really do with a lick of paint - peeling, crumbling walls, long untreated wood and torn fabric chairs are abound - but quite frankly who cares? With hundreds of likeminded clubbers swarming through the venue there's more than enough life about the place. There's also no clear presence from the organisers, save a shabby little portakabin on the way in, and it all very much feels like a little secret, albeit a loud one. Pranged out and over excited clubbers prowl around the upper levels and the dank corridors, but even the most unsavoury of clubland characters feel harmless as flies. It's all very blissful and there's something heart warming about seeing old forgotten buildings given a new lease of life and a new purpose, almost like a life transfusion.

By far the most charming aspect of the club is the punters. Students, mods, the odd chav, glammed up girlies, metalheads, fashionistas, seasoned ravers and even a few couples the wrong side of 40 all shared the space, and as cliched as it sounds, were simply united by the music. Despite the cavernous main room with its ceiling up in the clouds somewhere, the techies have got the sound near perfect and the oozing acid of Hardfloor's 'Acperience' welcomed our arrival to an already buzzing and bustling dancefloor. Looking up at the gallery it was hard not to think of the rave scene in the Matrix and the irony of a subculture getting their rocks off to their own demigods in an abandoned place of worship was never far away.

Adam Beyer was the first of the headliners to take to the booth and plunged into a Drumcode inspired set of rolling, percussive techno, warming up smartly for Dave Clarke. As ever, the baron of techno tore the crowd a new arsehole, showing off an astonishing ability to read a dancefloor and keep it on tenterhooks throughout. Chris Finke followed with a more Detroit and pure funk orientated set, but it lacked a bit of direction and by the time Ovr took the controls the crowd was thinning, a shame, considering their set was funky as hell.

Elsewhere in the rabbit warren that is Q, drum'n'bass rocked the generally empty third room at ridiculous decibel levels, whilst in the bar tucked away behind the main arena, Noodle, Electrode and Data Trace Records warmed the cockles with some bass heavy electro and dubstep. The turntables lay dormant in this room, with all manner of hardware devices controlling the music, most of which I've never seen before and no doubt it was the cutting edge that was carving out a groove all night. And if all got a bit much, there was the Chai Tea room overflowing with the charm of a school tuck shop come hippy haunt, though somehow my vast reserves of energy steered me away from there until the end of the night when half the club could be found piled on top of each other in a soporific mess.

In a clubland where clearly defined crowds dominate despite the increasingly mixed and ambiguous music policies, Atomic Jam is a breath of fresh air, it's clubbing as it's supposed to be. Simple, bare bones with a melting pot of good people and great music. Long may it continue.

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