There’s always been a military feel to the Garage; it looks like a 1940s drill hall, the bouncers throw you through like your parachuting in to Operation Market Garden and then lurk inquisitively like that mad sergeant major from ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’. Fortunately, the walls are big enough for a liberal spattering of Fred Perry logos as well as the showcase of audio/visual fusion that is about to unfold.
Greg Wilson (pictured above) has been a staple of both the electro and house scenes since the ’80s and the days of the Hacienda and Wigan Pier. Today he’s decided to add a synaesthetic element to his fluid grooves with an eclectic mix of footage played out above his decks. Supporting with an exclusive DJ set to mark the 30th anniversary of the seminal ‘Planet Rock’ is the renegade of electro funk, classic hip hop and Zulu Nation; Afrika Bambaataa.
Regulars know that there’s little point breaking a sweat to make the gig start time at the Garage, due to the propensity of both the artists and audience to show up late. True to form, Afrika Bambaataa takes to the stage 40 minutes after a group of mainly 30 something corporate cadavers (a noticeable amount with prize-winning Egremont gurns) have assembled. It kicks off with an old school montage of floor fillers: Sugar Hill Gang‘s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ seems somehow inevitable, as does ‘King of the Beats’ by classic electro funk group (and betting advertisers) Mantronix. The hip hop vibe continues with Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Push It’, but breaks out with Michael Jackson‘s ‘Smooth Criminal’, disco funk classic ‘To Be Real’ by Cheryl Lynn, ‘This Is How We Do It’ by Montell Jordan and Snap ! ’s ‘I’ve Got the Power’. He ends in sing-along style with Frankie Valli’s ‘Oh What a Night’, Bee Gees’ ‘Night Fever’, ‘Kiss’ by Prince and a Notorious B.I.G. freestyle.
The one negative of having a visual aspect to his set is that Greg Wilson’s takes to the stage with only 40 minutes to go before the scheduled conclusion. The crowd stop pretending they can ‘drop it like it’s hot’ dancing to hip hop. They appear in their element as Wilson mixes an eclectic blend of funk and disco inspired house, including samples such as: Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rock Steady’, Primal Scream’s ‘Come Together’, Killa Kalm’s ‘I Am Somebody’ and ‘Welcome to the Pleasure Dome’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The video juxtaposes the antique with the futuristic; music hall, burlesque, ballet dancers, and Bruce Lee are interspersed with anatomical close ups, Tokyo street signs, modern art and spiralling fluorescence.
There aren’t any boundaries broken at this showcase. It wouldn’t take a crystal ball to more or less nail down both sets in advance. But, familiarity is what the audience of a genre that has arguably passed its peak will now settle for, and the visual element, although disjointed at times, added a further dimension to Greg Wilson’s polished set.