Glasgow’s O2 Academy once again hosts the UK’s fantastical travelling grime and garage night: Foreverland, as they traverse the UK on their Magical Circus tour.
The night promised to be an effervescent and colourful party set to a soundtrack of classic UK garage. Although I do not yearn nostalgically for the late nineties, I can understand how the theme of fantasy and immaturity is synonymous with the music and fond memories of that era. Many clubbers reminisce on this movement as part of their youth and they came in droves to relive the past and witness pioneers of the movement – Artful Dodger – lay down their classic sound.
The night was headlined by “Artful Dodger”, a garage duo consisting DJ Dave Lowe and MC Alistair. Although the act is called Artful Dodger neither DJ Dave Lowe or MC Alistair are responsible for the work of Mark Hill or Peter Devereux, the original line-up of the name and the UKG pioneers everyone came to see. Hill and Devereux helped define the UK garage sound of the late nineties with hit singles such as Moving Too Fast with Romina Johnston and Craig David’s massive comeback hit Re-Rewind. The duo was perhaps at their most iconic in the music video for Moving Too Fast in which they spent the entire video playing a bongo and a keyboard behind some incredibly nineties dance sequences. However, the multitude of dancers and acrobatic performances at Foreverland were not quite enough to distract from the fact that the main event were some commercialised impersonators profiting off Artful Dodger’s name with misleading promotion.
To entice youthful clubbers Foreverland advertised their night as an indulgent and immersive club night with a psychedelic carnival aesthetic, likely an attempt to emulate that of Elrow or The Kelburn Garden party. However the production did not manage to come off as quite so unique or extravagant. The advertised “adult playground” came to fruition as essentially some inflatables and wacky but sparing decorations.
Although Artful Dodger were only one aspect of the night, the other performers – Taim, Bassic and Bitr8 – seemed to follow suit with the same watered-down London sound. The whole event was artfully deceptive, and though I don’t think many people recognized the phony headline act I doubt they got what they expected. Many “uggies” didn’t manage to find an “oi”. When the crowd was prompted to put their phone lights in the air, the response was lacklustre, and when the MC Alistar clambered on the rail and stood over the crowd, no one was particularly enthused. The touting of this event as an authentic homage to a genre which was so integral to the history of UK dance music attracted a crowd which expected and deserved more. Glasgow offers many pop centric club nights, most of which are made palatable with cheap drinks and student deals. Foreverland’s most egregious offence is that they offer a similar soundtrack of generically remixed songs you hear on Radio One every day, but due to the scamming of beloved musicians, they can charge an inflated entry price and £4.75 for a much needed vodka and coke. Foreverland promised its audience a space where they could “venture to a place where you never have to grow up”. The night itself unfortunately failed to cultivate said blissful fantasy, and instead revealed the somewhat diluted and desperate reality of current club promotion.
I was not impossible to have a good time at Foreverland; the displays from acrobats, dancers and stilt walking performers gave the event energy and pulled the otherwise sparse and disenchanted crowd together during their few appearances. I couldn’t help but think their exuberance was a little out of place though, given the other underwhelming elements of the night, and as their inclusion failed to justify the cost of the event or compensate for the event’s endorsing and promoting parasitical impersonators and touting their night as a homage to the UK garage scene in such a richly cultured UK nightlife hub as Glasgow. The dancers, excessive confetti and generally indulgent decor began to feel a lot like smoke and mirrors.