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  • Black Sheep
    New Years Eve 1998
    courtesy of PWL*

    Black Sheep did it again: every time I go to one of their events, I reckon it to be the very best rave I’ve ever been to. New Years Eve 98-99 was no exception. Been looking forward to it all year, since their last NYE party. (:>) So most of the Hampshire contingent were keen to go.

    Arrived early and found parking spaces close by, in a weirdy tunnel right opposite a grilled-off entrance to the main dancefloor… as we later ascertained by peering behind a drape from inside. The whole area is a sorta underground complex of carparks and warehousing. We can hear the sound of party while parking: maybe it’s just the soundcheck, but it rocks already! Now we just need to wait for it to open. (:>) A few people slope off to find a pub, but our vanload prefer to lurken darkly in our tunnel, which has good photographic opportunities. We greet lots of other lostsoul strangers that are arriving; a few of them are looking for another party that is also happening close by. The significance of this becomes apparent much later. Hehe.

    Ah well, looks like starting now: people are queueing at another grille a hundred paces away. We scoot over, and by our good fortune arrive at the same time as the pub-escapees. As they still have all the tickets which they arranged, this is what I call good timing. (:>) It’s going to be a good party. Greet the gate guards cheerily, especially as I recognise most of them from previous Blacksheep events. We get checked over anyway, but lightly and politely, while sharing a bit of banter about the sort of contraband people might want to bring in.

    Inside now, and it is all beautiful Victorian brickwork arched passages, with walls decked over with swathes of bright fabric. There is a lot of fabric everywhere too: not just around the dancefloor areas. Even the row of portaloos, tucked out of the main thoroughfare among more arches, is a little partyzone of its own. Someone’s been quite enthusiastic and lavish with the decor-budget then! Through to the main dancefloor, a huge area with a high ceiling arching away into the distance, PA stacks at the far end. Eh, but you can feel the sheer dB-power of it! Playing solid techno, but I’m not really ready for that yet. Only a few people in here this early, and we are a little cold. Duck through to the right, and a large chillout zone: nicely heated tho’ so we congregate around a heater for a while, chatting with others arrived before us, and the steadily growing influx of new arrivals. Soaking up the warmth and the atmosphere. It’s becoming a good party already. The tea-stand is here, and the bar for bottled water etc. Nice strong coffee. I go for a little wander on my own, get my bearings before the place gets busy. Find the second dancefloor, much smaller and more intimate, and with a heater in there. Playing some wondrous trancey-stuff, and I get distracted by this and just have to have a little dance to get going. After a while I remember the friends I arrived with, and go and fetch the few that I can still find in the chillout. They also think this dancefloor to their taste.

    The main room is starting to get warm and lively, so have to go and help that along too. (:>) It gets so warm and lively that I need to go and sit down after a bit of jumping about; have another coffee, get more water before any more dancing. Watching the internal security guards cruising about, discreet but alert for any sign of trouble. Say hello to them. I always chat with the security people at raves. Part of my wicked campaign to get at least a smile and a nod from every soul at a party. (:>) Ah, but these ones are easier than most, which I take as a good sign: they know the difference between punters and trouble. Of course, there won’t be any trouble here anyway. This is a very fine party, people are polite and smiling-fluffy. See someone bump another’s drink, and it is just an apologetic gesture, with a grin in return. But one guard did tell me they have to be alert to gatecrashers and unwelcome unfluffy ones who might want to spoil things: they’d caught a few trying to force a back firedoor already. But the gentle nightdancers need not know nor care about any of this. (:>)

    Most of the next few hours become a little blurry in retrospect, but there were some damned-fine choons going down on both dancefloors; to the point that whichever floor I’m on, I have to keep checking the other. Difficult to choose between them, as both so good in their own different ways that I don’t want to miss anything. Heh. A lot of serious bouncing up and down with a friendly bunch of strangers: but not really strangers, for in the dance we are all there. Occasionally I see people I vaguely know, or think I know, so a cheery wave to them, and a hug if I’m lucky too. (:>) It’s definitely a great party!

    Midnight comes and goes, with a great deal of cheering on the main floor. The house is really rocking, and pretty packed everywhere, but still with enough room to dance, or make one’s way around the place without undue difficulty. More coffee, more water, go sit in the chillout area and chatter some more. I’ve been using a little Pentax point-and-shoot camera to grab a few simple pictures most of the evening, but now I reckon time to get the SLR and tripod from outside. It has got cold condensation on the glassware now, so I leave it to warm up as it will, and go and dance some more. Myself and photo-colleague Kym manage to meet up at odd times, and remember where we have stashed the cameras and bulbs. (Usually leaving them in the care of the good peeps at the tea-stand, so our thanks to them for that as well.) Ummh, yes I did say bulbs: as in flashbulbs… it is a little known fact that these fun pyrotechnic devices punch out more lumen-seconds than the biggest studio strobe. Kym held a big long-burn bulb up high to shine over the main room…. and it completely overpowered the not insignificant kilowatts of the Spotco lighting rig : the whole floor turned round to see what the hell was lighting up the roof. Hehe, over by the time one can turn around. (:>) And I know better than to look at one close-to as it fires. Ech, these are not the fiddly little toys still in use for some on-camera applications: these are the size of domestic 100W lightbulbs, and even firing them at arms length one can feel the wash of heat and light with closed eyes.

    Well, it’s about 5am by now: the dancefloors are thinning out a little, and I’m dancing a bit slower too. But that means a bit more space, and gentler dancing around with those remaining: these are the dance – dedicated, and more inclined to play “see if you can follow my moves” sorta games, which I rather enjoy. Heh, I reckon I can keep up with most. (:>) Good fun, and mutual congratulations if we meet in the chillout while queueing for water or coffee. A few more fluffy hugs. This is a great bunch. Quite a few have never been to a Blacksheep do before: came because a friend insisted or whatever. But all I spoke to said they were having an absolutely brilliant time of it. I’d agree with that sentiment.

    Then I realise there is a sorta extra space leading out near the back of the chillout area. Hey! What’s this! Sure it wasn’t there before! Hraark? Someone tells me it is the way to “the other party next door.” Wow.

    Apparently, by mutual agreement of both sets of organisers, a dividing grille has been opened. People from both parties are wandering in both directions, looking completely bemused. What a wondrous idea! I have to see this: follow through a cavernous car-parking area, another doorway…. and suddenly I’m in that other party next door – the Pie & Mash “Reclaim the Beats” do. CAW! It’s kicking too! I don’t know where I summon the energy from, but I have to indulge in some very hectic jumping up and down again. An odd feeling of deja-vu: I sorta recognise some of the DJ’s set, and there are more familiar faces than I can account for from the party I’ve just come from. Ummh. [puzzled shake of head] Then I realise: this is mostly from the Trancentral do I went to a month or two ago! CAW! Brilliant! Wave and grin at a few faces, half-remembered from that other bunch. Okay, that’s two damned-fine parties I’m at tonight then! Greetings to anyone from the Slimelight venue I might vaguely know then. And thanks to the kind people that said they recognised me with a nod or hug. And apologies to DJ Orange, I think we just missed you. Eh, another time then.

    Ah well, back to the place I was before. Being an unashamed caffeine junky, it was great to find the tea-stall open all night. I think I grabbed the last coffee of the party, while the building was being cleared at about 9am. Bleary of eye but cheerful. It was a great party. Eh, I’m up for the next NYE, please put me down for tickets!

    There must be a lot of effort going on behind the scenes to make these parties happen, and to happen so well too. Considering that underground parties are all one-offs, without the benefit of a permanent venue to decorate, it is quite amazing the way these guys transform some tatty commercial premises into a wonderland partyzone. And it’s not just the look of the thing: the mains power required for the sound rigs, and the mega lighting…. require considerable technical expertise. I’m told that the main room was recorded: if so, I’m in the queue for a copy! HRARRK! Thanks to all the Blacksheep DJ’s for the stomping sets. Fritz, and Flerty, a guest I think was Rickee, and many others, I don’t know your names, but it was good stuff playing.

    PLUR with too many words, from Pwl the SAD little ROOK. CAW?

    pwl (©2002 pw – All rights reserved)






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