If Carlsberg did silent discos……
If Carlsberg made silent discos…. Paul Oakenfold would be spinning!
I’ll take you back to last year. I read in an article explaining that Paul Oakenfold was ‘To play and record a live album on Everest’. That’s pretty cool, but I never thought they would pull it off. Later on, I stumble across the BBC article with headline ‘Oakenfold hosts Everest party’.
Slightly envious of the mountain guides and those who went through the altitude training to climb to Everest’s base camp. Hell, I’m jealous of the mules that carried Paul’s MCX8000 and speakers up there, who probably stuck around for the show. It was one of those moments in my life where you just wished you were there for an hour. 15 mins. A moment. I just wanted to be there and take in the beauty of the occasion. Alas, like most of the news we read, it had already happened and was a figment of the past. Since then, I’ve parked it far in the back of my mind with the realisation and acceptance that nothing near its magnitude may happen again. Skip forward to early August, and Mr Oakenfolds name starts to wander back into the music articles on sites that my beloved internet cookies like to shove in front of me. ‘Paul Oakenfold to play exclusive set at Stonehenge’. Ok, this is mega but it says exclusive, so there’s me again resorting to the fact that I’m nowhere near special enough to be a part of this momentous occasion.
Now. I’m sitting at my desk early last week and going through the actions of not being fired (basically doing my job) and my phone rings. The voice at the other end has asked me if I’m free on Thursday. Naturally challenging the question (incase I get lumbered with a job I don’t wanna do!) I ask what for. Stonehenge. Paul Oakenfold is playing. OK, breathe Marcus. I accept, with a poker voice to contain my excitement.
Thursday comes around, and I’m under strict instruction to get myself there for the late afternoon. I jump in the car, and head all the way down the M3 and I’m greeted with this sight:
So I get to the carpark, and I’m buzzing. No idea whats going to happen, how it’s going to happen and who else is going to be there. I lock the car, and there are people everywhere. I didn’t know if they were here for the 5000 year old monument or for the exclusive party at the feet of these giant stones. I walk toward the visitors centre, a beautiful new building peddling Cornish pasties and coffee, not a single sign or person indicating what I was there for. So naturally, I wandered into the cafe, our designated rendezvous point.
‘I’m here for the event tonight?’ The lady in the cafe has literally *NO IDEA* what I’m talking about. For a brief moment, I wander if this was an elaborate prank to get me out of the office. It’s not my birthday and I try desperately to think back what I’ve done to deserve a 180 mile round trip for no reason. At this moment, a bloke, in full camo – one of those types with the trousers tucked into socks like a drill sergeant – walkie talkie in hand and he says to me with a cheeky, west country twang: ‘You’re in for a good night, wait over there and I’ll come and fetch you in an hour’. Ok so the event probably exists, but still could be a farce. I gravitate to some picnic benches with some familiar faces, Denon DJ people, no less so I head over and thank them for my invite and begin asking about the nights programme. They have no idea. Once again no light is shed and I’m in the dark. At least I’ve got an artisan Cornish pasty and a £3 latte.
We spoke about how the event could unfold. How would they set all the gear up for a performance on a site so remote? How would it look? We were informed there was only a 35 minute window to set all the equipment up – a military airdrop of a stage from a Chinook Helicopter? Or was it built on wheels like a trailer and dragged in? We had no idea. A couple of other people joined us in the waiting area, both presumably industry, one with a clipboard and another in ‘trendy casual’ getup. The latter of the two asks the clipboard holder if Carl Cox was coming. Intrigued we ask “Surely Carl Cox would be in Ibiza?” The clipboard person said they could neither confirm nor deny this query, maybe there was a b2b set on the cards… Only time would tell…
We are ushered by camo man to a couple of black-on-black coaches. No one has a clue whats going on, apart from anticipating the awesome! So the coach makes the 1.5 mile trip over to the ‘Henge. As we crest a hill and arrive to the coach turning spot, there she was. Stonehenge. Lit up, DJ booth at its base. About a dozen crew (if that) placing the final touches and doing final checks. We bound like puppies off the coach. Only slowed down by the people handing out glow sticks and silent disco headphones. I’m walking down the gravel and put the headphones on. Sumptuous beats already flying through the airwaves. This gravel path is running out, and theres a rope barrier at around 100 metres from the monument itself. Im told – no – invited to step over, and enjoy the night. Oh my god didn’t I just.
I make a bee-line for the DJ booth. (DJ habit I guess!) and Paul Oakenfold is there in the sunset, with Stonehenge a backdrop to his projected DJ booth less than 10 metres at his rear. He’s spinning balearic tunes that are making me sob. What a perfect moment. The crowd totalled no more than fifty. And I represented 2% of the entire audience. Intimate doesn’t even cut it as I wander freely around the stones, DJ booth and the entire space as I please. As the sun set on this ancient site, Paul Oakenfold plays Nessun Dorma – this entire event is getting more surreal, minute by minute, track by track. Balearic beats begin to grow and progress as the natural light disappears and the illuminations on the stones start to become vivid. It’s at this moment I see another familiar face – House Legend Mr Carl Cox! I approach him and we bro-hug like buddies, both in sheer disbelief at this landmark occasion. He tells me about visiting Stonehenge over a dozen years ago, and he said it was a dream back then to throw a full on party here. “I think the druids have had a party here, seems like they’ve already taken the roof off” I joke. “yeah this is absolutely mental. With the sun setting, the projections and the music, its magical. Just magical”. We bask in the dusky sunset and take in the whole thing.
Paul Oakenfold’s set is growing in force, the stones now changing colours and visually morphing with the music. Darkness is now upon us, with just the stones, the stars and the glow of Paul in his red ski jacket at the controls of the Denon DJ Prime setup, in full glory. Carl Cox popped into the DJ booth for what I believed would be a chat and a hi-five for putting on a great event. I was wrong. Carl Cox donned a pair of headphones, and they began a 90 minute back to back DJ set. I use the opportunity to just stand in the very centre of the ‘Henge basking in all of its glory listening to the set. Heaven. As the last song was announced, the 50-strong audience gathered at the front of the DJ booth, a raised platform with wild projections running on it throughout; Paul Oakenfold and organisers expressed thanks to us for partaking in such a monumental event and for English Heritage for having us. Curators worked closely with Paul and his team to ensure the site is preserved, for 5000 more years. I’m just so grateful to be part of this history.
Time for Tech – lighting was absurd, with dozens of high-end moving head lights shooting beams into the sky, SGM floods taking care of the rich stone-washing, and three huge projectors casting animations on the DJ booth and stones behind. Paul Oakenfold’s rider is Denon Prime, being SC5000 and X1800 Prime units. You could watch how Paul used the multi touch screens of these media players, able to flick and scan through his library on the four players. There’s a greater connection with silent disco headphones to the DJ and the mix itself; you can hear both the subtlety and vivid-ness of effects and mixing, with the X1800 prime mixer performing this duty effortlessly.
Music now faded, just comments on the awesomeness breaking out around Stonehenge. I spot more familiar faces! No other than Balearic beat master Danny Rampling and esteemed actor – director Andy Serkis, famous for his role in Lord Of The Rings as Gollum and other blockbusters such as Star Wars and King Kong. We made our way back to the coach, with Paul Oakenfold and Carl Cox shaking hands and thanking us all personally for being a part of a truly fantastic evening. I’m back to reality now, wondering if any Thursday night in my life will be as good as this one….