Forward Motion: 28 January 2023 @ LDN East

On Saturday, I went to the launch of a new party called Forward Motion, with one of my closest friends. Some of you who have followed me for a while, will have read a couple of my party and music-related pieces such as Low Frequency Love: 4AM Freedom, but I know that this isn’t the subject matter most of you are here for, so thanks in advance for indulging me! Here’s a party review that none of you asked me to write (you’re welcome):

Founded by Kai Cant and Steven Cee, Forward Motion is a new, strictly over-25s day party, promising to be the party that London needs. Like most of the people we met there on Saturday, my friend Alicia and I have been to Kai and Steven’s previous parties (Abode and Audiowhore respectively) a lot over the past ten years, so we were excited to see what Forward Motion was all about.

We arrived at an industrial estate outside Canning Town, on a cold, grey January afternoon. I hadn’t been to LDN East before, though had seen it getting a lot of use from parties like Eastenderz, DanceOnArrival and Paravibe. I liked the off-grid feel as we stepped out of our taxi into what felt like the middle of nowhere. The only people around were clearly also heading to the same place, and as we followed them along the street the sound of bass, buzzing with anticipation, travelled up through the ground to meet us; is there any better feeling?

Once we got in, we took a look around to get a sense of the place – iron containers shaking around us as we walked up onto the balcony, so that we were listening to the music, the aggressive resonance of a few tonnes of corrugated metal, and the pleasant hum of our own skulls, all at the same time. Lovely stuff. On the dancefloor itself, the sound was much bigger and cleaner than you’d expect for what is essentially a carpark. The planets and clouds suspended from the steel beams high above the crowd gave it an otherworldly feel, taking the dystopian-factory vibes of the venue and transforming it into something ethereal, spiritual. Yes: this was somewhere we wanted to dance for ten hours straight.

What is it that London needs, then? I have previously been pretty vocal about my commitment to the constantly evolving world of London club culture. I have found myself getting frustrated when it is only club closures and negativity being focussed on in the press; a lot of the fresh and exciting new music, new venues and interesting new labels seem to get largely ignored in favour of ‘it isn’t how it used to be’ articles by jaded ex-ravers. But. Having said that. In the past year or so, I have started to find myself having the same conversation over and over again every time I go out, feeling increasingly that I need to explain and defend my age and the fact I have a family at home, to a string of 18 and 19-year-olds who spend more time capturing the party on their phone than actually getting fully into it on the floor. Being a few girls surrounded by hundreds of guys has also started to get a bit annoying.

The crowd at Forward Motion was utterly blissful. Not only was the average age of a ticket-holder 34, but the split of male to female was almost 50/50 and wow could you feel it. My fear that Forward Motion would be indulging a largely redundant nostalgia evaporated within minutes, as I realised that of course an older crowd is really just a huge group of people that has spent years and years getting really good at Having the Most Fun Ever. This was a room full of people who knew how to have a good time.

Alongside the crowd and the venue, the main reason for the magic was a string of sets that were all, one after the other, write-home-about-it special. If I recounted in detail every noteworthy moment of the day, from Remi Rose and Jnr Windross’s ability to warm up the room so expertly, to Artikal’s legendary ability to shut a party down, this piece would be several thousand words long.

Instead I wanted to single out a couple of examples of why every single DJ on Saturday was another level of amazing. Boon took us from 4.30-6pm, a transitional set that moved from the lighter and more soulful end of the party towards the deeper sounds of later evening. We often think of our favourite DJs as the people who play the music we love. And sure, sometimes we might analyse it further than that and consider the shape and rhythm of a set, and how a DJ takes us up and down a beautiful mountain, with some space and time at the top to enjoy the view.

But a truly amazing DJ is somebody who can drop a track that you think you don’t like, and make it suddenly make sense to you. Boon did this with Julio Bashmore’s Battle for Middle You. I went out on Saturday as somebody who doesn’t like Julio Bashmore and I left that party knowing that I will love this track forever. I used to see it come up on polls as one of the best house tracks of all time and I used to think Huh? Am I missing something? I thought it was functional at best. I was wrong. When Boon brought it into his set on Saturday, I suddenly understood it, and will do forever – that is the mark of an amazing DJ.

I also wanted to take a moment for Cozzy D, whose set was nothing short of life-changing. The levels and textures that he managed smoothly to cram into a single hour were absolute mastery. He took us from a spacious, moody opening, through that Jamie Jones Vault Remix of Percolator, all the way to a supremely joyful, hands-in-the-air singalong of Angie Stone’s Wish I Didn’t Miss You (…the Pound Boys Stoneface Bootleg remix….I think). What I really loved about Cozzy D’s set though, was that he was clearly having a whale of a time and everybody on the dancefloor could feel that energy. It was also such a breath of fresh air to see his whole crew behind and beside the booth dancing their hearts out, barely a phone in sight, grooving with the crowd, everybody leaning into the unifying, soul-connecting power of music at its absolute best. What. A. Set.

I would go further than Kai and Steven’s promise with Forward Motion – for me, this was the party that I didn’t even realise London needed. Even Forward Motion’s slogan The Future’s in the Past is so apt: by reconnecting with the roots and soul of a good party, by going back to how raving felt before thousands of iPhones got in the way, before DJs were playing for an Instagram drop, we were able to connect to how brilliantly we can build our own future. It’s Monday now, and this is the first time in well over 5 years that the afterglow of a party has felt like a fresh and precious new discovery. It reminds me of discovering Plastic People or The End for the first time, or the first time I went to Ibiza.

I was worried that this party would feel too much like looking back into the past, but it was all forward momentum, forward motion. If you saw me dancing with a grin on my face for hours on end, you’ll know just how much I loved it. One single feather-weight negative, is that my knees and neck are pretty sore today, but I guess that’s what happens when you hit 34. If anyone knows of a good physio, HMU. Lol.

Thanks Forward Motion. Looking forward to the next one!

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