Ben UFO @ The Bongo Club, Friday 30 Sep

Live Review by Max Meres | 07 Oct 2016

A sold out Bongo Club, a top-tier imported sound system, a 5am license, and Ben UFO. Even on paper these symbolise all the right ingredients for an incredible night. Kicking off the venue’s 20 year anniversary celebrations, the Substance team have set the bar high by calling in the services of one of the world’s most highly regarded selectors for a four-hour long set.

Just after half 12, we’re greeted by pounding, 909-driven 4/4 from resident Gavin Richardson. Ben UFO – aka Ben Thomson – is due on within the next 30 minutes, and a shared sense of crowd anticipation laces the dancefloor alongside the relentless acidic techno. Space is sparse at the front of the room come 1am, when Thomson then takes the helm for the remainder of the night.

Cowbells and pulsing 303 bass-lines signify the sounds of Fango’s latest release Rectum, making for a gracious transition to slower BPMs. On a similarly industrial wavelength, Randomer’s clunking Woodwork immediately puts the sound system through its paces. The result? A full body-meets-drum machine sensory takeover which can’t be achieved anywhere else but in a club environment.

Prior to the gig, rumours circulated of Ben pioneering ‘that’ new Denis Sulta song. And sure enough come the euphoric synth build-ups, a briefly lit-up dancefloor, and complimentary 808 drums. Testament to his abilities as a DJ, this transition between heavyweight, breakbeat techno and emotive tracks seems blissfully unobtrusive. As a DJ, Ben UFO is known to play down his stage presence. However when faced with a dark, jam-packed Bongo Club in the palm of his hand, a confident and powerful persona begins to emerge.

Clearly driven by the impressive range of the sound system, Thomson mixes unreleased rarities such as the latter with the famed Hessle Audio release Slope, by Joe. Circa 4am, the breezy guitar chords and drawn-out vocals of Midland’s Final Credits make for an abundance of smiling faces and a cheerful atmosphere, which continues thanks to a mix of Four Tet’s Kool FM over a variant of Chicago great Mike Dunn’s God Made Me Phunky.

Drawing to a close, Thomson mixes Floating Points’s beatless, synthy wonder Argent?, aptly culminating the night in feelings of total elation. This is played out in its entirety, before he launches into an onslaught of chaotic jungle and compelling dubstep for the last 20 minutes of the night. This seems appropriate, due to both Thomson's well-known love for the genres and the venue’s acclaimed history for bringing both to the capital over the years. Throughout the four hours of his set, Thomson manages what few DJs can – to bring about feelings of total unrivalled unity through music.