|Report from Mixmag, November 1994:|
ON paper it was a perfectly balanced equation. Megadog had the brawn and ability to provide, 808 State the brain and the music to create. Two market leaders on the same stall selling complimentary wares - the kebab and the extra chilli-sauce. This night was always going to be hot.
By 10.30pm Megadog was its usual animated self. Rigged up and hammered out with fun loving, festival-going, dance music fanatics beyond the restraints of pretence, showing clubland how it should be done. It felt like a package tour to Hades with a burning tempo and a naughty-but-nice atmosphere.
The In The City music seminar was also in town, and the record company delegates that come with it buzzed around the bar, networking, exchanging business cards and generally getting on people's nerves. Graham Massey popped up amongst them, more to cool his pre-gig nerves with a can of Red Stripe than anything else. "It's been a year since we played live at that Olympic Bid thing, so I'm pretty nervous," he said, "but I like Megadog, I come each time it's on, it's a good vibe."
Support acts Spooky and Pentatonik came and went with predictable ambient/trance sets straight from Traveller FM. Around 12.15am, after a downright shit-scary intro, 808 breezed onto stage. The crowd surged forward leaving the bar empty (except for delegates), and while photographers jostled for position at the front of the stage, Darren Partington casually ambled up and thundered: "Manchester! C'mon! Let's fucking have it!"
808 ripped into their set which included seven new tracks from the forthcoming, as yet unnamed, album. With heat seeking, heavy duty, explosive sounds, 808 ruthlessly plundered human energy reserves, wreaking communal havoc. Three fortified units of musical equipment, three individual controllers - one major impact and mass treatment needed for whiplash.
Kinetic in every sense, Darren took any available opportunity to jump around the stage, mic-ed up, goading the crowd. Graham Massey made occasional forays to the front clutching an array of musical instruments (guitar, violin, soprano sax, mouth organ), looking like a busker and sounding like a rock star. While Andy Barker stayed steadfast behind his Roland fortress, hardly visible, impervious to the commotion he was contributing to, the coolest man in the building.
'Pacific' and 'Cubik' made the set, (how could they be left out?), and predictably got the loudest cheer. But it was the new tracks which provided the fire and spice. 'Cajun' had 808 lead a full-frontal bass assault assisted by savage samples; 'Dubby' was a bongo, spliff-head extravaganza; while 'Insane Lover' packed more stock and flavour than Glen Close and a rabbit ever could.
Show over. Come-down time in the subdued atmosphere of the dressing room. The lads looked shagged, but you could tell they were buzzing. As record label big-wigs queued up to shake their hands, there was knowing glint in their eyes. 808 had proved they could still cut it on stage and that their new material kicks.
And despite having just spent 55 minutes sweating it out on stage, Darren went to change a flat tyre on the van, returning 15 minutes later even more drenched, covered in shit and mouthing expletives.
Obviously 808 State still know how to jack.