The best of 2011: clubbing

Time Out's clubbing editor picks out her highlights of London's party scene in 2011

Clubbing in 2011 was bigger and more daring than ever. Alexandra Palace was turned into a rave playground with monster parties featuring some of the world’s biggest dance DJs while Deadmau5 and friends threw a mini-festival in Victoria Park and, in alternative nightlife, Secret Cinema broke all records with nearly 60 events this year. In east London, no venue was left unturned, and we partied in photography studios, air raid bunkers, shop windows, launderettes and rooftop gardens. It’s been a victory year for electronic music too, with dubstep and house producers shining at the Mercurys and in 2011’s Grammy nominations.

The best of 2011...

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    © Ashes 57

    Boiler Room

    Unit 5 Farrell Court, Elephant Rd, London SE17 1LB

    Though it started life in a warehouse in east London last year, this intimate, forward-thinking guestlist-only club-sesh-cum-online-radio platform exploded in 2011 and has put the focus firmly back on DJs rather than producers. Everyone from techno big guns Carl Craig, Dubfire and Richie Hawtin to the world’s biggest party DJs like Diplo and Seth Troxler, and the cream of the UK underground, have appeared before its wobbly webcam, spinning DJ sets for thousands of viewers at home via internet streaming service Ustream. And if you miss its regular Tuesday evening live slot, you can catch up with the action via video podcasts on their website. Its reputation was sealed in October, when it was selected for Radiohead’s remix album launch, with Thom Yorke stepping up to the decks.

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    Revolutions in Sound

    The next step on Red Bull Music Academy’s path to world domination, October’s Revolutions in Sound was a mind-blowing repurposing of one of the capital’s most iconic structures, the London Eye. The Eye’s 30 pods were lit to dazzling effect and filled with the country’s most exciting and pioneering DJs, producers and performers for an intimate audience of just 12 people as it completed a revolution in the sky. Name acts including Skream and Benga, Don Letts, David Rodigan, Andrew Weatherall, Professor Green and Kano each hosted a capsule, and the party continued at Fabric after the wheel had finished turning. From below in the ‘silent disco’ area, the experience wasn’t so groundbreaking – you could only tune in to four of the live feeds on your headphones – but as a sonically enhanced spectacle, this exceeded all expectations.

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    Jackmaster Jackmaster - © Shaun Bloodworth

    Numbers and Hessle Audio

    Two of the most important UK-based record labels of the year; their physical output and respective Rinse FM shows are where you can hear the future of electronic music, while their parties are how you can feel it in action. Glasgow/London imprint Numbers are responsible for bringing international attention to talents like Rustie and Hudson Mohawke (now both signed to Warp), and their most prominent resident, Jackmaster, this year released a compilation for the esteemed Fabric mix series. Tickets to their most recent party in London – presented by on-point promotions team Black Atlantic in early December – were rarer than truffles. Meanwhile, Hessle Audio – run by Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound – launched its first compilation ‘116 & Rising’ with an excellent party at XOYO in May before taking their unique crossbreed of house, techno, jungle, IDM and dubstep on tour to Europe.

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    Two other associates of the bulging Rinse FM family are Elijah and Skilliam, better known together as Butterz. While grime-popsters like Tinie Tempah and Dizzee Rascal scale the charts and undertake arena tours, the Butterz duo have mined the grime underground for the best new talent: namely, the DJs focusing on instrumental grime spun from behind the decks rather than MCs flaunting their rapid-fire flows from the front of the stage. They’ve thrown club nights and showcases at Fabric, East Village, Cable and during the Found series at Hidden in London this year, played alongside DJs like Terror Danjah, Royal-T and Swindle. They have underlined their curatorial nous with an official compilation for the Rinse series, released in November, and still continue to treat electronic fans hungry for new music to monthly blasts of free mp3s and exclusive downloads from rising new grime talent.

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    FWD>> 10th Birthday

    The club that embraced and defined dubstep – thus changing dance music forever – celebrated a decade of club nights and furthering the cause of underground music with a massive secret warehouse party in east London in August. The party marked 10 years of pioneering music with DJ sets from some of their most notable and regular residents and guests, each adopting a year and the music best associated with it – for example Zinc and his jungle set, designed to embody clubbing in 2001, Skream representing the beginnings of dubstep domination in 2006 or Oneman, who demonstrated the renaissance of garage so popular in 2010 and into this year. Their usual residency at Plastic People in Shoreditch, which has been going strong since 2005, has suffered from some upheaval this year due to venue refurbishments and there have been rumours that it will jump ship to a new venue further out in Dalston. So perhaps the end of a decade for FWD>> signifies the beginning of a new adventure too.

    More FWD>> events

... and the worst of 2011

  • Proud2

    Peninsula Square, London, SE10 ODY

    It was never going to be the most credible clubbing venture when the Proud Group – owners of hen party favourite Proud Cabaret and student staple Proud Camden – took over Matter, the venue that Fabric built from scratch. We gave it a chance, we abided the eye-wateringly tacky décor, the gilded lions lining the staircases, the dodgy murals, the nu-rave polka dot second room, but they just haven’t made the most of their pristine, world-class soundsystem, opting instead for commercial club nights. Imagine how Mulletover fans felt in October, when the edgy warehouse-hoppers sold out their Halloween bash only to announce Proud2 as the venue. Still, perhaps that’s all set to change: debauched after-party linchpins Circo Loco are heading there for their infamous New Year’s Day bash this year, while legendary grime night Eskimo Dance is programmed in for January.