I feel like London has been crying out for years for a consistently decent dance venue. The rise in popularity for parties put on in warehouses and one off venues has been a result of a number of factors, most explained superbly by Alan Miller here. Essentially it’s problems like sky high rents, shit licensing laws and various London councils and their representative police departments cracking down on the wrong demographics and just generally being cunts. It’s left London nightlife in tatters, with Fabric being the only ‘superclub’ consistently doing business come rain or shine, with old favourites like The End, Matter, Cable and SE1 all falling on their swords for whatever reason down the years.
This is why I have to say I was excited at the prospect of The Hydra as a new venue. Created by Ajay Jayaram (who coincidentally also used to work for The End) and Dolan Bergin in 2012, they have been smashing the shit out of the London winter months over the years with jaw dropping line ups of the best established and up and coming techno and house. I myself had been to a fair few in the past and was always impressed was the atmosphere. They always managed to keep the feeling of unhinged fun that warehouse parties have whilst keeping things organised enough to not piss you off, which really is all any punter wants at a rave. The only question I was asking myself was could they replicate that atmosphere in their own venue?
To find out, I headed along to their Electric Minds x Kompakt night; which in line with previous Hydra’s had a well tasty line up, including Robag Wruhme, Michael Mayer and personal favourite Moodymann.
As you queue to get into the club you are faced with the usual gauntlet of bouncers posing as part time Navy Seals, shouting orders and frisking nervous looking punters with aplomb, and then upon entering a chirpy door attendant beams a smile and stamps your hand. So far, so standard.
Once inside though you really start to notice the difference between this and a lot of other venues. The building itself is really comfortable to be in, with tall, airy rooms and a well structured floorplan. The interior design is clean and minimal, with coherent colours and some bare brick walls dotted throughout.
Clearly they enjoy a warehouse party, and it really shows in the feel of the place, as you walk around you get the impression the club basically acts like a classic warehouse rave but clean and more organised. The bar never had a queue deeper than 2 people, and thankfully took credit card, with drinks being quite expensive but not as direspectful as other clubs. The venue never felt crowded in the busiest rooms even when the headline acts were on, and most importantly had a really good air conditioning system all throughout. I managed to dance like the fruitiest guy in the whole of London for one night only and people still didn’t wince when they hugged me.
I guess you could say all of these things are pretty arbitrary but I think for a venue they are really important. These days a lot of places just don’t give a shit about the little details and although you won’t notice it right away after a while you will end up just getting pissed off that you are sweating out in a massive queue to buy an overpriced drink with money you borrowed off a mate because they only take cash.
Ultimately though, a dance venue for most punters will be judged on one thing alone, and that’s the sound system. On their website The Hydra talk a lot about their system which if you are a sound nerd you can read about here. A lot of phrases get bandied about like ‘stereo imaging’, ‘infra bass’ and ‘push elastic bass with low end frequency extension’, which is great if you love science, but if you just like fruity dancing all you need to know is that it sounds absolutely stonking.
Using Funktion-One systems in both the Unit 1 Warehouse and The Black Studio rooms, the sound kept consistently punchy whether you stood at the front or the back. Not only that, for an act like Moodymann who played a fair few treble filled disco tunes, the sound at the higher end never got lost in the bass. And what lovely bass it was. For Robag Wruhme it really came into it’s own, with swarming, all encompassing waves of sound thrown out, and it felt at points like I was swimming around in the deep frequencies which gave me a warm feeling in my googly-wooglies. If that’s not a great use of science I don’t know what the fuck is.
Yet, for all it’s good points, The Hydra isn’t perfect. Yes it relies heavily on science to give you a fantastic feeling inside your emotions, but there are faults. Firstly, the £22 price tag per ticket is really steep, but I suppose these days everything is going that way. The queue for the cloakroom also needs to be looked at as it was a monster, as was the constant snaking queue to get to the smoking area, which was guarded by an angry bouncer covered in a bin bag barking at rain drenched punters all night. Overall though these are minor faults that didn’t really take away from what was a great experience.
It’s been a long time since I had a night like the one I had at Hydra. It felt like a throwback to the first time I went to the old haunts like Fabric or The End, except I wasn’t wearing a cap and wasn’t only there to see Andy C. That feeling of excitement that a venue can give a rave is something that I haven’t felt for a while though, and that’s what The Hydra is bringing back. I would recommend anyone to check out some of their huge line ups and go, you won’t be disappointed.
Photograph by Khris Cowley for Here & Now