“This is NOT a sex party”
I’m still picking up the pieces of my mind since I experienced my first Magic Door last month, but here’s a rumination on what was without doubt already a mainstay highlight of 2017’s event calendar.
At the start of this year, we reached the conclusion that Ransom Note has been too London-centric for too long. Instead of complaining about the recent closures and almost closures and the real feeling that them up high simply don’t want to keep kids down here dancing around the capital, we’d resolved to venture further afield. And for phase one’s further afield we delved into a city that is embracing the night-time economy. Recognising the jobs it creates, the cultural value it brings – no, we’re not talking about Berlin again – but Birmingham, the country’s second city has been quietly cultivating a party network for years that is ready to rival any in the rest of the country.
As the city disappears from view as we pull out from Birmingham New Street station, the night before is still pulsing through my veins. The last time we came up this way was over 15 years ago and to be honest we didn’t think we’d be back any time soon. My lasting memory was of a depressed, concrete urbania. None of the electronic music I was falling in love with at the time came from here and all I could think of was fluffy boots and day-glo trance. So it was was with one sceptical eyebrow raised when we were invited to make the journey last month to one of the city’s unsung jewels; Magic Door in the city’s dancing heart Digbeth.
Alighting at the now pretty impressive Birmingham New Street station you can feel the buzz of the city instantly, not something I’d felt the last time I was here. This could be down to Birmingham City playing at home this Friday night, but it was more than that. It’s a feeling that we’re in a city abuzz and reinvigorated.
“Magic Door is not a metaphor, there is real Magic Door
This is not a sex party
Making underground dance music fun since 2012”
Leaving our preconceptions at the door I’d deliberately not read much about these parties other than they were a “homegrown, yet understated” sort of Elrow. This is doing the party a massive disservice.
Walking through an unassuming arch, upon entry a ‘magic bean’ is placed in our hand by the Guardian of the Door and we’re advised to find the Magic Door to the Transformation Tent. Normally I’d be pretty sceptical of all this but it’s hard not to be caught up in the energy that runs through everything this group of mates that started “a party in a pub that got out of hand” do. I’d normally run a mile from glitter, fake fur and fancy dress… but not tonight. It seems everyone else is of a similar volition.
Stepping inside the venue Lab11 feels like all those incredible warehouses from yesteryear – something Birmingham appears to not be short of as you wander around Digbeth. It’s a maze of intimate arches and rave rooms, all adorned with their own unique touches, and dripping with detailed elements of production. The main room is set out by its revolving white cubes suspended from the ceiling, that appear to have your nan’s lava lamp projected onto them. Behind the booth there’s this disorienting fake fur that changes colour and texture – spoiler alert; it’s a light and fan underneath but it had me fooled for half the night – and the Transformation Tent at the back. We succumb to the tent and the face paint it entails… and tonight Matthew I am Ziggy Stardust. There’s very little pressure that this is what you MUST do but the queue for the tent attests that everyone’s getting involved purely of their own free will.. And this is the beauty of the whole evening, FUN is encouraged but it’s not a imposed. And this is where the beauty of great nights are built upon. Characters are integrated throughout the night but without the anxiety of full audience participation that always scares me off these sorts of nights normally. Shout out to the fun police…
Magic Door has quietly grown from a group of mates throwing glitter, fake fur and fancy dress on in the back of the aforementioned pub into one of the country’s most interesting, yet still understated parties. Chatting to Jit (aka one half of Jukes of Hazard) and the family of friends that run the party, what’s so striking is the love they all still have for it. There’s often a certain falseness of an assumed ‘family’ amongst club-nights but this really feels like the real deal. It reminds you of those parties that you used to put on with your mates because you actually wanted to put on a party. There’s a true belief in everything they do and this permeates across the whole vibe of the night.
They also don’t piss their money away on mentally priced DJs to bring a crowd – the biggest pull tonight is Maxxi Soundsystem – and they still sell out way in advance. Tonight it’s the local talent that inspires most; Big Danny Kane’s jacking main room warm up gets things bubbling perfectly whilst Adam Regan and Matt Beck pick up the peak time in the second room veering all over the place, yet keeping a continuity that only a resident of a club knows how to do. Adam has also been at it for a long time so you’d expect him to command a floor like he does tonight.
Wandering into the courtyard we clamber through a camo-net which emerges into an outdoor arch room with more of nan’s lava lamp – yes I love lava lamps ok – where Ernest has a packed floor. This is the most refreshing thing about this party, that no-one there is there for the headliner. They’re there because that original feeling of when these mates started this party is still there. And that’s really the biggest advert anyone can ever have for a party… if that magic is still there then you’re still doing something very, very right.
Make the journey. Very possibly the most fun you’ll have all year.
Catch Magic Door’s boat party on Friday 30th June @ Love International in Croatia, or for the proper experience we suggest heading to Lab 11 in Digbeth on Friday 26th May celebrating the Love International launch! The next London date is coming soon too! Keep up to date HERE.