Review of Chemical Brothers DJ set at Centro-Fly, New York, 2nd November 2001, by James Furiosi
This is a review of The Chemical Brothers DJ set at Centro-Fly, New York, November 2001. James also had the opportunity of meeting Tom and Ed before their set. The following describes his experience and the Chems set that night.
Last night had to be the best show I've been to in a while. I cannot describe the permanent smile I've had since last night and unfortunately it was too dark for me to get any good pictures so here's how the story went.
I left for Port Authority in NYC around 6pm after learning my wife Emma had a late meeting (we kinda debated the necessity of that meeting but she had words for me later-see below). We got into the city and visited my sister's apartment, fed the pets and headed down to CentroFly. For some idiotic reason, despite my constant reading of the address, I thought Centro Fly was on 25th street and we walked down that street. Then on a hunch we walked down 26th until I opened a Village Voice and discovered it was on 21st. This time Emma almost killed me (fuck late meetings when you can't find the club!). Life is always an adventure with Jim. We got there only to see a bigass line at 10:30pm and we were supposed to meet the Chems at 12:30 so I almost had a convulsion! Some bouncer guys in Orange were checking IDs and Emma whose from the UK where they don't usually need IDs for clubs didn't have hers so I played the role of Public Defender Johnny Cochran and begged them to let her in which they did. We were so pumped up on red bull at this moment there was no stopping us.
We got in around 11:15 and we went upstairs (there were 2 dancefloors-the Chems upstairs and Chicago-sounding house music downstairs). The warm-up deejays were on and they played what I can describe as breakbeat influenced techno. They were pretty good but I endured what was probably the longest hour of my whole life-waiting to meet the Chems. I swear I stared at my watch every minute and counted the 5 minutes before going backstage.
I met the bouncer and whipped out printed copies of emails from astralwerks-he read them slowly with his flashlight as if he wanted to verify authenticity. Glenn from Astralwerks met us and brought us back to meet the contest winners Drew and his significant other-really cool people. Glenn brought Tom out first and I asked him how he enjoyed producing Beth Orton's album. He said she has a lovely voice, is a great friend of the group and they had a smashing time producing the album. I told him it was a pleasure to meet him, mentioned the mailing list and told them that I've been listening to them for a while. Ed came out next and I mentioned my wife Emma was from Worthing. He told her Fatboy Slim lives right down the road for her (Brighton area). Glenn told us to go back on the dancefloor and expect to be picked up to go on the stage so we headed out. The Chems came on minutes after we met them.
I work in human services and usually I don't judge people until I get to know them but Tom and Ed have a really good vibe. They seem like two of the nicest coolest guys I ever met and its not hard to sense it. They had no pretensions, were really down to Earth and spent a lot of time during their set acknowledging the audience members.
Feeling almost high from this experience while getting a nice contact high from a cloud of marijuana smoke, we stood up front and the set started. Immediately the set reminded me of the warm-up set to Creamfields broadcast on Radio 1 a few months ago. Emma was happy because they threw in more of their own material-the last show at Centro Fly was mostly others material (12-2-00). They actually started with some tracks off EPD (In Dust we Trust I remember hearing). They played that one song with the sample "we're going to go way back." They stuck Afrika in twice which got a great audience reception. One song had Beth Orton singing in it and that must be from the new album. Star Guitar sounded weird being mixed in because most of the tunes were breakbeat and led me to dance like a maniac (my attempts at dancing are reminiscent of the freaks who used to go to Talking Heads shows). Like the last show I saw they did go on an acid-music kick and brought in Meat Beat Manifesto to the mix. Of course they added Hey Girl Hey Boy which seems to be a huge crowd pleaser at Centro Fly. Last time that was only one of the few of their own songs they mixed. This year they played more of their own tunes and the audience went ballistic. I know I kept repeating "This is fucking off the hook."
I've read all the criticisms about how the songs off the new album don't sound very chemicalesque but for the most part they worked in the mix. Glenn mentioned they played 5 songs-I wish I had heard more-but they did a kickass job of contrasting between heavy beat-ridden tunes and more mellow melodic tunes off the new album. It actually worked and I really did enjoy hearing Star Guitar tweaked. Tom did seem to do much of the deejaying but for most of the show he and Ed pretty much worked together instead of the back and forth stuff I saw last time. I know people usually say Tom is the dominant deejay but this looked like a dynamic duo to me.
They ended around 3:30am this time around. Last year they went past 4am and I was hoping it would go all night. Tom and Ed left the deejay booth and started mingling with the audience on their way out. I happened to be right by the booth and thanked them both for such an awesome show.
Now let me describe the venue they played. CentroFly is a very visual 70s influenced club with restaurants, circular bars, curtains and 2 floors. I can't believe people actually danced downstairs to house but they probably wanted a hookup. The prices are pretty New Yorkish and my efforts to sneak water in my bottle from the restroom sinks were rebuffed by restroom attendants who sprayed soap in peoples hands and handed paper towels to wipe off sweat. The crowd was very mixed-college kids, average Joes, stockbrokers, a few transvestites, racer-types with huge glowsticks and some of the regulars I saw before-one who had a camcorder. The DJ Booth is about 6 feet high off the dancefloor (open air) so Ed and Tom are literally one with the crowd. Last year they were behind a wall-this year the audience could interact with them physically!!!!
Anyways, we went to the VIP room which was like a secret chamber located behind a kitchen. It had a deejay playing some loud music intended to be lounge music and we chilled with Drew and his significant other (the actual Astralwerks contest winners). Tom and Ed weren't nearby and I waited thinking they would go to a table which was guarded by a huge bouncer. (all the bouncers wear orange prison-like jumpsuits and some look like they actually brought these suits back from Rikers Island. The only thing really VIP about this situation was 1) you needed a blue armband, 2) less people and posh people I don't know why they are posh so I'm not a true VIP and 3) the bartenders actually open the water bottles after you purchase them ($4-cheaper than most places).
After a while Emma and I were tired, the caffeine had fast worn off and we headed out. Some people reading this may think I'm disappointed by not being able to get on the deejay booth but the show made more than enough for it and I rather let them focus on spinning. It wasn't like they weren't ten feet away from me!