Tenaglia at Egg – A Reflection

Art & Culture

It's been too bloody long since I saw Danny Tenaglia – three years felt like an eternity. Although his return to the UK is long overdue, it was still surprising to see him pop up in Glasgow, London and Newcastle in such quick succession; but there was little doubt in my mind which date was the one. The rather liberal 11am closing time at Egg was the clincher. The 250-mile journey from Newcastle seemed entirely justifiable. Yes, better than walking half a mile down the road to see him for only three hours.

Those kind folk at Supernova forked out to make it happen, with the likes of Nils Hess and Tom Stephan in support. Like the Tenaglia-tourist that I am, I barely got to see any of the support, rocking up at just after 3am. And as I battle through to the front to see if Tenaglia's on yet; I stumble across Dave Beer, front-right of the dance floor.

Good lad. Even a seasoned pro like him was seduced by the potential of a Tenaglia all-nighter.

But where's Tenaglia? He's normally a man that is illuminated up on high…. you can't mistake the dimly-lit baseball cap as you walk in the room and look towards the DJ booth. I had to get pretty close before I noticed that he was indeed there, setting up, but no baseball cap, no flashlight; and hang on a minute… a moustache! For one brief moment in my addled mind, he became the third Mario Brother.

Having had just enough time to digest the new Tenaglia, the marathon began. This is how it happened:

3:40am: Tenaglia's opening gambit, and it's techy.

4:10am: We're in Nic Fanciulli-Saved territory. Not a melody in sight.

4:23am: First nasty synthesiser – good news.

4:39am: He drops Be Yourself. Oh yeah!

5:34am: Some nasty Assido Da Bass noises – it's all very industrial.

5:45am: He's really going for it now – it's now officially techno.

5:58am: Tenaglia's first turn on the microphone, later than expected. "Holy shit, this is fantastic – we are officially in the after-hours," he says.

6:20am: For about the fourth time, Tenaglia brings in the sample of a man saying "AC DC". I ponder whether Tenaglia is aware of the connotations.

6:48am: A warm baseline can be heard at last, but it's still pretty tough.

7:02am: Tenaglia gets back on the mic with: "let me take you on a journey", which he continues to loop throughout the next couple of tracks, to great effect. Good use of the DJM2000.

7:13am: I get talking to Tenaglia. Not much had changed for a couple of hours. Although Tenaglia will never have seen a cricket match in his life, I felt it was high time he took the new ball. "Have you got the Reverend Chris Korda – Save The Planet: Kill Yourself?," I asked. 137bpm evangelistic techno from 1993. That would have fucking yorked them. Middle-stump out of the ground.

"Oh man! I haven't played that for a very long time," he said with a wicked grin on his face. He looked at his laptop and came back over, looking genuinely saddened. "Sorry man, I haven't got it! It's on my other laptop…. I'm having data migration issues." Yes, Danny Tenaglia did actually use the phrase, "data migration issues".

8:45am (in the real world): Channel 4. Frasier (Repeat) (Subtitles) (Widescreen) Frasier is quite sheepish about something, but not quite as sheepish as Niles is about something else. Roz tells Frasier to not be so sheepish and that everything will be fine in the end. Niles remains sheepish throughout.

8:45am (back on the dancefloor at Egg): Danny Tenaglia plays Music Is The Answer and everyone goes mental.

8.58am: Lil Mo – Ying Yang Reach. Good to hear that one again.

9:00am: He's back on the mic: "We got a bit of time left…. whadda you guys want? Classics? Techno? Tribal?". It turned out to be tribal, which was a masterstroke. The next hour was the best part of the set in my opinion.

9:10am: Tenaglia's in the crowd, which currently stands at 50-100 loyalists, but was rammed to capacity at peak-time. He signs autographs and poses for photos – I always admire him for doing that.

10:45am: The marathon is over. He concludes with a slowed-down version of Crystal Waters – Gypsy Woman.

It was a great ending – he certainly hasn't lost the ability to have a bit of fun and play pretty much anything. There was an hour of tribal, then some ye-olde gay vocal house, and bits of disco here and there.

There was also a lot of hard techno which I didn't enjoy quite so much. The techy stuff he plays that's structured a bit more like house seems to work better, like this that he used to absolutely cane:

But four straight hours of it starts to sound a bit cold, certainly to a house crowd, and after all, it is still in the house sphere that the name Danny Tenaglia resonates most strongly. His tribal hour was every bit as driving as what he was doing for his first four hours, but it just had a bit more low-end warmth, and that's what made it.

What you still get from him though, irrespective of the sound he's playing, is the absolutely psychotic intensity when he gets on a roll. If you like the sound he's happened on, you can shut your eyes and dance for literally hours on end; and a seven or eight-hour set doesn't seem long enough. It's just so consuming.

And then there's the other extreme of Danny Tenaglia the performer – the complete daftness and irreverence that comes into play when he's sick of banging it out. Although there was no flashlight, no dancing or general histrionics in the DJ booth, and no moments of complete and utter lunacy like I once saw on the Space Terrace when, having just tooled out hours of the most intense filthy tribal you could imagine, he played Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive, followed by Derek And The Dominoes – Leyla; it was nevertheless a good set, and he looks like he still might have the madness in the locker.

The die-hards that stayed until the end will most certainly keep the faith. Let's hope he comes back soon.

Mike Boorman