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Dance Music History: Gatecrasher

When the lion really roared. A look at the seminal British club.

It's 10pm on a Saturday night in Sheffield. A medium sized city in South Yorkshire, UK, that it hosts one of the world's biggest weekly dance nights is testament to the scene's overwhelming dominance on British and European youth as was.

So the year is 2000. A decade after house music first arrived in England's cities and clubs, giving rise to illegal events and moral panics, clubs had become churches or, more aptly, cathedrals (such was the scale). None fit into this religious metaphor better than Gatecrasher, and the imposing arches of the main room at its home, The Republic.

Inside several thousand nocturnal enthusiasts would meet each weekend for an all-night (and often half of Sunday morning) trance and progressive house session. Their hosts regularly included heroic resident Scott Bond, international superstars like Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and Paul Van Dyk, along with techier sounds delivered via DJs like Parks & Wilson, The Chemical Brothers and (amazingly) Goldie.

Away from the now infamous sets that, on more than one occasion, resulted in no less than 2,000 people being turned away when dates sold out, one residing memory for many will be the crystal clear soundsystem. Regardless of where you were within the cavernous expanse of walkways, alcoves, endless dancefloors and balconies everything sounded perfect, making sure your ears didn't hurt, and your mind never wandered.

The old part of The Republic, Sheffield - Home to Gatecrasher

The new part of The Republic, which housed the iconic walkways, bridges and futuristic interior design of the club

Schematic plan of The Republic

And then there were those stairwells, home to restbiters, gurners, casualties, freaks and those over-heated, though not unwell enough to be placed in the often cursed, impossible to find chill out room. While walking around inside it's likely you'd run into the cast of Disney's Fantasia, cyber kid soldiers mid militant dance, and a load of lads from London taking part in the then infamous Lost Weekend up north.

Main Room at Gatecrasher

Venues like this could never work in a town Sheffield's size anymore. The clientele has waned. People's tastes have diversified. And, more importantly, the production focus in electronic music has shifted away from hands in the air breakdowns. To fill a floor like ‘Crasher you need sounds the size of a mountain, which are not so common. In the summer of 2007 the building that gave this institution a home burnt to the ground (see photo right), but the party had already passed its peak. They say it's better to die before getting too old, making this almost a case in point, disregarding the final days, and weak sister clubs that arrived later.


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