It is best known for classical music concerts, but following almost three years of extensive renovations, the historic Queen Elizabeth Hall now plays host to Southbank Centre’s first regular club night dedicated to experimental electronic music.
The monthly Friday night, taking place within the iconic brutalist walls is called Concrete Lates, and is essentially the welcome return of the hall’s foyer which has been reconfigured to accommodate a 1000-capacity standing-only gigs space. The venue has hosted several late-night electronic events in the past, but Concrete Lates is the first time that Southbank Centre has made them a regular event outside Ether and Meltdown festivals.
The inaugural night saw Boiler Room join forces with Hayward Gallery, to present an evening of techno and art inspired by the major retrospective show of German photographer Andreas Gursky, who likes a bit of techno himself. The live acts at this Gursky-inspired gathering weren’t on for another hour, so it was a good time to pop next door for a late-night entry into the gallery where a specially commissioned soundtrack from Pan Daijing accompanied the exhibition. Her original composition, spread throughout the display space, looped continuously throughout the night, immersing the gallery-goers in Gursky’s abstract aesthetics. The artist’s examination of scale distortion and repetition of themes reverberated in Daijing’s work.
"Everyone loved the raw and sweaty energy most often experienced in London’s dark techno basements, but tonight it came with a view over the brightly lit River Thames."
I returned to the main venue for what was expected to be a night of sonic sumptuousness. First up was Pan Daijing, known for her theatrical performances and unconventional sound design. Eerie drones and instrumental harmonies met with soul exposing ominous vocalisation as the whole room was on suspense waiting for what was about to happen. Twisted beats seemed like building up to something – this overdose of tension was alluring and addictive, and I found myself completely transfixed at this full-onstage insanity. The performance was, typically for Daijing, an intense catharsis that part of tonight’s crowd was not quite ready for; nevertheless, this was an evocative and memorable listening experience.
As midnight approached, the crowd were aching to dance. JASSS, whose remarkable 2017 album ‘Weightless’ ventured into more abstracted and experimental territory, tonight played a club-ready live set that settled mainly in the techno realm with added elements of African rhythms and industrial bursts, as well as some fun surprises throughout the set. A seamless transition from Fallbeil’s gritty industrial to 80’s Italo disco from Peggy & The Pills was an especially glorious moment for everyone on the dancefloor. Surprisingly, there was more than enough space at this sold-out show to dance and socialise – it took a while to get used to the space, but it also gave it a casual vibe where people could easily step away from the main action to have a drink and chat.
Lastly, Bristol’s Giant Swan landed and summoned a heavy-layered, distorted cloud of noise. Increasing gradually in volume and intensity, they played a chaotic and ferocious but very danceable set that worked the crowd into a frenzy. It was the most fun part of the night as everyone loved the raw and sweaty energy most often experienced in London’s dark techno basements, but tonight it came with a view over the brightly lit River Thames.