Two of the most mythic figures in the dance music scene, Chicago’s Green Velvet and Germany’s Claptone, were booked for the New Year’s festival Beyond The Valley (BTV). This weekend they’re back, headlining the official recovery day party at Burnley Park – which turns into a (dusty) disco dystopia. In fact, Claptone hosted the latest edition of his masquerade here last April.
The event site is well considered – its circus tent used, not for the solitary stage, but rather as ample shade from any summer heat. The stage itself, beside the railway, is decked out in unusually elaborate props, smoke machines deployed sparingly. In the evening, there are coloured floodlights on the canopied river red gums.
Programmed late in the afternoon is the solid Michael Bibi – the Londoner, listed at #2 in Mixmag’s top 10 2019 Breakthrough DJs Of The Year. Up next is the mysterious Claptone, materialising under a visible moon in the blue sky. On Reddit, dance heads have speculated conspiratorially about the Berlin DJ/producer’s true identity – even questioning how many people actually constitute ‘Claptone’. But, while Claptone performs the Immortal Live show as a duo, today it’s a lone, beardy DJ wearing white gloves, a black hat and that iconic golden beak mask. Typically, contemporary DJs wave their hands in the air, yet Claptone pretends to be a conductor. It’s theatrical brilliance.
Regardless, the houser keeps the vibe festive, energetic and carefree, playing slick grooves, textured by vocals. Claptone glides through piano house, deep dub, and squiggly acid techno. He drops his own tunes – including the single The Music Got Me from 2015’s debut album, Charmer, and, later, the career-defining remix of Gregory Porter’s bluesy Liquid Spirit. Claptone also pulls out recent DJ staples – such as the OFFAIAH revamp of Ian Carey’s 2007 Keep On Rising (featuring Michelle Shellers), and his extended version of Purple Disco Machine’s Body Funk, which he ranked at #2 on a Best of 2019 beatport chart. Coolest is Claptone’s mash-up of Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy remix (alongside Justin Bieber) and Local Dialect’s Poseidon (Gorgon City Remix), known informally as ‘Bad Poseidon Guy’. Plus he slips in Wh0’s driving remix of Basement Jaxx’s Where’s Your Head At. A gold-draped dancer is briefly spotted at the front.
The Chi-towner Curtis Jones is lauded by the deep house contingent as Cajmere. But, assuming his punk Green Velvet alias, he’s circulated subversive techno tracks like Preacher Man and La La Land. In the 2000s, Green Velvet entered the mainstream consciousness as a credible foil to electroclash. Still, surprisingly, his early Cajmere hit Brighter Days (with Dajae) was covered by Kanye West at the Coachella Sunday Service, exposing it to younger hip hoppers. Latterly, Jones tweeted his concern about EDM’s marginalisation of dance music’s originators. And so his leading this Melbourne party is timely – and symbolic.
Jones, sporting Green Velvet’s signature fluoro quiff, directs things back underground, delivering a compelling set of techno and house heavy on spoken vocals – often his own. Among the bangers is his Deceiver, cut with fellow BTV DJ Chris Lake; another his epically oddball Space Date with Adam Beyer and Layton Giordani – both from 2018. Again, dancers appear, this round in sci-fi costumes. The stage platform is bathed in more green light than Lorde’s song. Alas, soon after Claptone, there’s a crowd exodus due to a cold snap, rising dust and encroaching bushfire haze – a poignant new reality even for party kids. However, Jones intuits the mood, dropping Jeff Mills’ ’90s techno classic The Bells – beloved by Melburnians. He might just be DJing at the end of the world.