To think of the best of Bristol, one would think of Just Jack. The house music institution has been throwing world-class raves in the South West for 11 years now and has steadily gained a solid and loyal reputation among thrill-seekers. The transatlantic line-up for this 11th birthday of theirs catapulted into Motion – their adopted palace – and would be an intergalactic wonder for Miles Jackson, if not for, what he sees as, the venue’s many flaws. Tech-heads beware, there may be some Motion-shaped blasphemy headed your way…
When it comes to Bristol’s house and techno scene, Just Jack stand head and shoulders above the competition in terms of quality lineups in exciting locations. This year, they celebrated their eleventh anniversary with a monstrous assembly of some of the genre’s finest, assembling Detroit heavyweights DJ Bone and Robert Hood in Motion’s main room alongside some of Britain’s finest – Midland and Optimo – in the Marble Factory, as well as an appearance from Japanese house icon Soichi Terada in The Tunnel.
A lineup that stellar is rare anywhere on the planet, let alone in Bristol, and before the event had even begun I was faced with the dilemma of who exactly to see. Indeed, it was a shame that in a lineup as crowded as this I ended up missing exciting up-and-comers such as Jayda G, instead opting to pay respect to heavyweight DJ Bone.
Bone is nothing short of a master when it comes to techno, his set appearing basically effortless as he moved the crowd through nasty, gritty tech bangers and house ballads. I was able to get somewhat near to the front during this set, and it was only here that one could truly appreciate the force of Motion’s mammoth sound system. Even with earplugs, Bone’s brutal selection was overwhelmingly loud. Unfortunately, however, the skyrocketing volume came at the expense of sound quality, and many of the grooves and melodies in Bone’s tracks were overwhelmed by sheer pounding bass.
Bolstered by the quality of the sound in the room, JG Wilkes and JD Twitch treated a visibly energetic, friendly crowd to a crop of wildly entertaining, fist-pumping house tracks.
Around two, we made the decision to take a look at the Marble Factory – by far the most welcoming and exciting room in Motion, with ample space whilst still retaining a sense of intimacy and a beautifully crisp sound system. It was here that legendary Glaswegian selectors Optimo took to the decks, delivering simply one of the best house sets I have ever seen.
Bolstered by the quality of the sound in the room, JG Wilkes and JD Twitch treated a visibly energetic, friendly crowd to a crop of wildly entertaining, fist-pumping house tracks. The two bifurcated their set, with Twitch mixing solo for the first hour and Wilkes taking over in the second. Twitch has earned his namesake, his anxious, jerky movements behind the decks belying the nervous energy with which he infected his part of the set, offering breakbeat bangers such as Tessela’s ‘Hackney Parrot’ and finishing with an absolutely electrifying edit of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’. Optimo’s set was by far the highlight of our night, and I look forward to their next visit to Bristol.
After a quick break for some fresh air, we took a quick peek into The Tunnel to check out Soichi Terada. It was around now that I realised how horrendously overcapacity Motion was. Terada – practically a nobody before a re-release of his catalogue last year on Rush Hour – looked to be having the time of his life, actively communicating with the crowd and playing tasteful old school house cuts for a crowd that unfortunately appeared disinterested in the music that was being played. The room was positively crammed, with people jostling about for room. It prevented me from ever really getting into the groove of Terada’s set, a shame as he is a selector I greatly admire.
Returning to the main room for Robert Hood’s headlining set, I was taken aback by the sheer volume of people that had assembled to see the seasoned veteran. It was without a shadow of a doubt the busiest I have ever seen Motion, with hundreds of people – the vast majority of whom again seemed not to particularly care for any of the music they were listening to – pushing their way through the sea of ravers to get to no place in particular.
Getting to the front for Hood’s set was simply an impossibility, and we actively found ourselves being pushed to the back of the crowd, where Motion’s sound system simply didn’t cut it; the overwhelming bass completely drowned out the vocal samples and licks in Hood’s soul-inflected set.
Hood, who has made his name with projects such as Floorplan – taking the bare minimum of soul music and removing the, well, soul from it – offered a relentless series of hard-hitting techno tunes. And yet the very thing that makes Hood’s brand of music so invigorating – the soulful samples – was drowned out at the back of the room, the music falling on the deaf ears of a crowd who didn’t really seem to have any regard for the music they were listening to at all. Looking down from the top deck of the main room, a depressingly large number of people were on their phones.
Relegated to the back of the room by an agitated crowd, it was at that point that I reflected on the value of events such as Ben UFO’s intimate 5 hour set at Timedance last week. Whilst I see the appeal of a superclub, I can’t help but wish that artists such as Bone and Hood could have played in a room such as The Marble Factory to a smaller, more engaged crowd.
As Motion continues to monopolise the house and tech scene in Bristol, with all the best DJs from out of town almost always playing there as opposed to venues such as Lakota or The Island, it seems unlikely for events such as Timedance to be anything more than the occasional one off. The all-star talent Just Jack assembled for their birthday was – with the exception of The Marble Factory – wasted on overcrowded, disinterested rooms. I can only hope that next year they do the unthinkable and take a chance on a smaller venue for their 12th birthday.
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