Coffins, Vagisil and, of course, a lot of Hard House. The Tidy Weekender had returned. Announced just a few weeks before Christmas, it took much longer to sell out than the organisers had hoped for; but just a fortnight before the event, the old Tidy faithful gathered together and eventually took up every last place.
I arrived at around half four on the Friday afternoon, and was shocked to see, contrary to previous weekenders, a huge lack of police presence. Previously you would have seen every single car stopped and searched with a dog, on sort of a drugs amnesty basis – anything they find, they take, you get cautioned and let into the event. This year they weren’t doing searches on the way in, but if you got caught inside the event, you were kicked out and arrested.
Within minutes of walking onto site, some intoxicated random hugged my legs in some curious form of compliment to my trousers. I was most certainly back on Tidy ground.
Unlike previous years, there was no booklet attached to the lanyards listing set times, site map or medic numbers. Instead we had just one, double-sided page of adverts, and a separate booklet, with all the aforementioned information. I’m not sure whose idea this was, but it wasn’t a good one.
After unpacking, setting up decks, and pouring the first drinks of the weekend, the waiting for the Tidy Boys opening set began.
Friday night eventually arrives and with the theme of “Twisted Circus”, there were many amazingly inventive costumes. Hard House followers have always been renowned for their imaginative costumes and outfits, and it was good to see this side of the weekender being as strong as Tidy’s heyday. With clowns, animals and general twisted ideas galore, my own imagination failed me and I chose a leopard print romper suit; surely they had leopards in the circus?
As the opening set to the weekender began, we were confronted with the words “Hard House Is Dead”, filling the backdrop of Arena One’s stage, which lead me to the question, is Hard House dead? Luckily for me I got to chat to Hard Dance legend Technikal, to get his thoughts on this question.
“Hard House isn’t dead. It’s no more dead than any other genre. I get asked ‘is Hard House dead?’ all the time, and I don’t care, I still do it! Who says it’s dead anyway? I can guarantee you if some musical lawyer comes along and proclaims Hard House dead, I’m gonna make a tune on that day, just to fuck him up!”
But why are people, including myself, saying this is a dying genre? “Hard House as a whole genre has shrunk into a nucleus of what it was, but that hasn’t taken away from the passion that people have about it. There is nothing quite like the Hard House crowd, they’re always very clued up. It’s always better to play to ten people who know their stuff, than to a thousand people who don’t have a clue.”
Nobody had to worry about playing to so few people this weekender though. The main arena was packed out at 10pm on a Friday night, watching two coffins getting carried onto the stage. Who has inside them? Lo and behold, Amadeus Mozart and Andy Pickles, our favourite Tidy Boys. It was a pretty impressive charade, and all night saw fire breathers, contortionists and other circus-themed entertainment. All weekend it was clear a lot of time and effort was put into choosing the acts, and it didn’t go unnoticed.
The best time I had of the whole weekend, was on Saturday morning. After a healthy four hour kip, I got dressed and marched down to the after party, which promised Vinylgroover, Brisk, Billy Bunter and Slipmatt. There is nothing like waking up, having a Berocca and going in search of Happy Hardcore, although a few of the promised DJs obviously got a bit sidetracked, and left Billy Bunter to play for much longer than his scheduled hour, eventually handing over the decks to Slipmatt for the last thirty minutes. This was a truly incredible couple of hours, and it seemed so civilised to take a fifteen minute break to wolf down a full English breakfast, before carrying on dancing. Only at a weekender.
Saturday evening’s theme was dirty, which saw me wearing a home-made garment with a nice bit of hardcore gay porn printed onto it. I was quite impressed with my effort, but it seemed to fall to the wayside when I saw a girl in a gimp mask and giant nappy, and a couple of men dressed as Vagisil, in times like these, there is no point being disgusted, you have to just marvel at the ingenuity of it all.
Sadly I felt that Saturday came with masses of attitude from the clubbers. I witnessed many people getting into arguments and generally having uncalled for aggro, which lead me to only staying in the arenas for a few hours. After a horrible incident in the toilets between two groups of girls causing unnecessary grief, I decided the best place to be would be back at a chalet party, which is much of what Tidy’s about.
By Sunday, everyone is looking quite sorry for themselves. Girls have all abandoned the idea of makeup and no matter how much people wash, there is a definite smell lingering in the air. I got a ridiculously large amount of sleep for such an event, and I still gave up even trying to look half way decent. The sun, however, was back, after hiding all day Saturday, which lead to mass amounts of clubbers congregating on the grass for various different chalet parties. Walking around the site on Sunday had a nice buzz about it; I didn’t feel any of the hostility of the night before.
The perfect way to finish the Weekender was the mysteriously unnamed last set being played by the daddy of Hard House, Paul Glazby, even though it was always claimed that he was in Australia that particular weekend, including an apology in the Tidy booklet. A nice little twist to finish off the weekend, especially as that was Glazby’s last set before retirement.
With another legend of Hard House ending his career, will Hard House see another golden era? I put this question to Technikal, who replied with, “Hard House isn’t getting played enough in the mainstream to get kids to like it. In a way though, it’s kind of cool, because Hard House was never about being commercial. Music doesn’t sell at all in anyway like it used to and that is the central reason for the Hard House scene staying underground, I don’t think things are going to change for the better until something big happens, and I can’t see anything big on the horizon”
For me, this was the best Tidy Weekender I’d been to. For others, it was still an amazing weekend, but it still lacked something. I don’t think I ever experienced Hard House at its best. Being on twenty-two, and starting my clubbing career in 2005, I barely caught the tail end of such an explosive scene. Hard House will always be around, but scenes and genres grow and evolve all the time. Chasing the idea of something that was amazing ten years ago just isn’t sustainable. People have grown away from the scene, but that has only made way for a new generation of clubbers, and it’s time now to find out what makes them tick, the way Tidy Weekenders did for so many, for such a long time.
Photos Credit: Paul Hamlet - HyperXP.com