‘Alfresco Shuttle’ - the sign illuminated from the front of a bus, casually situated next to the bear pit.
There was a certain novelty to collecting a bus ticket which would gain passage to a secret rave. The atmosphere of anticipation in the shuttle bus felt akin to the anticipation running through the minds of those part of the illegal rave scene in the 1990’s.
For us however, we had two benefits they did not: we had a professional driver who was driving and navigating for us and; we need not expect there to be police trying to shut down the party before we got there, since Alfresco Disco is fully legal.
As soon as we arrived at the unfamiliar location, I took in our venue for the evening.
There were two large warehouses: one (Room 2) consisted of light hearted disco and house; whilst the other (Room 1) was filled with blunter aggressive industrial techno.
The DJs played from a towering maisonette in Room 1 and there was a stage in centre for the crowd to dance upon.
Stepping on to such a stage always gives me a sense of empowerment, when you can watch over everyone dancing and appreciate the dynamics of the room.
Alfresco Disco is uncommon for modern day raves, in the fact that it actually reaches a sense of adventure.
The more mainstream raves, especially at large clubs, find it hard to create this atmosphere – between queues, aggressive rather than assertive security and expensive tinnies.
Instead, the security at Alfresco Disco were friendly, real people who were there to keep ravers safe and who seemed genuinely to want us to have a good time.
In addition to the two warehouses there were two containers one of which contained the ‘Drum Machine’.
Entering the metal box, you are met by a Doctor Who-like control panel, where buttons and levers could be played with on each side.
These controls allowed sounds to be outputted in perfect rhythm with the music playing, which was a sight to see in terms of people’s reactions.
My experience of the DJ’s at the event started with room 2.
Tee Mango played a two-hour set, a light-hearted disco introduction to the night that helped situate the bouncy Chicago-house vibe which ebbed and flowed for the rest of our time there.
Auntie Flo’s two-hour soulful-house set was the highlight of my night.
He features in many Autonomous Africa label releases, as well as bestsellers on Phonica records, all infusing African beats and melodies with industrial, techno and house basslines.
This translated to an unusual ambience in Room 2, rhythmic bouncy beats giving the crowd a high energy.
Auntie Flo was impressive.
Room 1 was topped off by London Modular Alliance.
Here I was introduced to a style of techno I’d never heard before.
It was much less like the Berlin beats I was used to – it was more off beat and made me think more of 90’s New York hip-hop.
Though the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy the music, I was much more impressed with Alfresco Disco’s venue, décor and the general organisation of the night.
Their high-quality standards, mixed with the quirkiness of their vision, created an atmosphere much more quintessential of a real rave – a world away from a typical profit driven mainstream event.
Written by Ashan Abeywickrema - Underground Writer