17 - 18 February
Surely the jewel in the current run of All Night Long events that fabric announced back in November, was this, an 11-hour b2b between Ricardo Villalobos and Craig Richards.
Despite Villalobos’ semi-regular appearances at the club, this one seemed to invoke particular excitement among the techno faithful. By 2am the club was full with a colossal queue around Farringdon serving as a potent reminder of the reverence his presence brings to fabric’s dance.
The heightened security measures put in place after the club re-opened early last year are particularly visible on high-profile nights such as this one: increased security, ID scanning, possessions in a tray. Yet the attitude from security remains as consistent and fair as they were pre-closure. It isn’t stressful getting in and the vibe outside is anticipatory. Whilst the attraction in Room One is obvious, we take a look in the second room to watch The Zenker Brothers play to a crowd keen for their brand of energetic but varied techno. Theirs is a sound that resists pummelling you hard, instead acting as a perfect precursor to the activities in Room One, which, at 4am is absolutely full to the brim.
What follows is a fascinating exploration. Those used to Villalobos’ weirder, off-kilter techno explorations would have been left slightly disappointed on this occasion, with the focus generally being on groove as much as challenging the crowd. An initial foray into the more tense and tougher end of the house spectrum eventually leads into a series of techno tracks that keep the crowd in perpetual flux. If slightly wonky, hypnotic techno is not always your bag, infusing it with utterly infectious basslines all night long might be the tonic. It’s actually quite a rigid formula that deviates few times during the evening – most notably a couple of electro-tinged moments from Richards and a particularly strong disco-indebted track currently doing the rounds on music identification groups.
Still, minimal techno this is not, and sets like this serve to increasingly distance Villalobos from those who seek to pigeonhole him. While he perhaps saves these kinds of stripped back sets for particular festivals that book minimal to the core, his sets in Farringdon have long been about showcasing the sound system to its maximum potential and tonight the winding progressive nature of the music feels important.
One particular standout came in the form of a segue into ambient before the track crashed straight back in, connecting to the rolling techno hypnosis that preceded it. Villalobos’ penchant for chopping between tracks was a consistent feature of this set. Whether this was vintage Ricardo in fabric is debatable, but what landed was a middle ground between Richards’ versatility and Villalobos’ tougher side more versed in making a crowd move than pushing them to the limits of their musical sensibilities. It made for a really wonderful evening’s dancing – which in the current climate of experiential clubbing in London felt real, vital and important.