Annie Mac is a name that has grown to mean so much more to the student population of Manchester than just ‘the Radio 1 DJ’. Indeed, for many, her mashup shows and legendary DJ sets sum up the musical mentality of Manchester: so long as its good, anything goes. Having not seen the DJ in these parts then since brief encounters at the most-recent Warehouse Project season, so a trip down to Koko in Camden last February was in order to check out if the magic was still there and what we can expect back in Manchester ahead of her Parklife festival appearance this summer.
It was clear on the night why Annie Mac Presents has gone from a side-hobby to a full blown phenomenon in little over a few years; The venue provided the perfect blend of a space that allowed you to get down and dirty, while at the same time emphasising the grand sense of occasion. Meanwhile, the clientele themselves were on form, everyone encouraging everyone else to appreciate and ponder the strength of the track selections, while still not refraining from cutting lose the music. And what music it was:
Arriving to the sounds of Liverpool wunderkid Melé, the crowd was given his unique take on the bass-ier side of the dance music spectrum. At only 19 years old, the DJ blended effortlessly from the freshest of Jackin’ tracks, while at the same time respecting their genesis with the inclusion of Grime instrumentals, House and Bassline classics from yester-year, and capping it all off with the producer’s own remixes and edits. From fast paced beats all the way down to hip-hop jams, the crowd kept up with Melé’s energy through the entire set, proving there there is definitely star quality in this boy (of course, there would have to be for anyone dubbed one of Timeout Magazine’s ‘DJ Stars Of 2012’ or featured on the legendary Boiler Room broadcasts). Best believe the hype then; tonight showed it was well and truly deserved.
Picking up proceedings without dropping a beat were Swedish electro ensemble Niki & The Dove. The evening’s performance saw the BBC Sound of 2012 shortlisted group on top form, the extra set time and opportunity granted by such a high-profile billing allowing them to really develop their live sound and segue from one dark-pop flavorings to another, much to the delight of the crowd. Radio-friendly singles ‘The Drummer’ and ‘DJ Ease My Mind’ tonight became intricate and progressive electro jams, with Malin Dahlström’s ethereal vocals rising over the top all the way to Koko’s upper levels. The set marked a perfect marriage between the world of dance music and live performance, something the Annie Mac Presents brand is now widely respected for.
After tonight however, there is no doubt of what this club-night-turned-brand is really about, and that is of course its namesake; taking to the stage with the most modest of entrances- at the side of the stage and dressed casually in a plain T-shirt- tonight Annie Mac is all about the music. Tonight she shows the crowd why her Friday-night shows have become a showcase for the state of dance music today, blasting out of Koko’s speakers everything that’s hot in the world of Disco, House and Dubstep, while still keeping the seasoned ravers happy with Garage classics and even a sneaky remix of Janet Jackson’s ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately?’. Gone are the days of when you might have seen the Dublin-born DJ bounce around the stage and compromise with cut-and-paste mixing; tonight, the blends are so precise like they were engineered in a lab, while the track selections are sublime.
Later on into her marathon near-3-hour set and Annie continues to works the crowd masterfully, producing hard techno sounds of artists ZZT and the Turbo Records label, sounds that wouldn’t typically strike well with your average Radio 1 listener, mixed into modern dance-floor classics like Yeah Yeah Yeah’s ‘Heads Will Roll’.
The night ends with a tribute to the then very recently deceased Whitney Houston, and while ‘I Want To Dance With Somebody’ soundtracks the lights coming on inside Koko, the remaining crowd can reflect that while one musical hero has passed, they have witnessed Annie Mac’s progress onto becoming a musical hero of a different kind.