My First Rave & The Best Set Ever
To provide a bit of detail to my background with this music, I decided to do a review of my favourite set of all time, which was also at the first rave I ever attended. Helter Skelter Energy ’96 at The Sanctuary took place on 10th August 1996, the week before my 18th birthday. A group of us got a minibus up there, which was late picking us up as the driver was held up on the way back from a job taking people to the Oasis concert at Knebworth which was the same weekend. We got there in good time, queued for what seemed like ages (standard at those big raves in my experience) and raved through the whole night until we were collected at 6am. Good times.
Even though hardcore had separated into drum n bass and happy hardcore by 1994, in 1996 larger events such as Dreamscape and Helter Skelter would still have a mix of both on their line ups, and rather than the have one style in the Rollers and one in the Sanctuary, they would alternate which meant people would be moving from one warehouse to another throughout the night.
As Hype was the main DJ I was wanted to hear, I remember getting into the Sanctuary in good time for the start of his set and standing around the edges of the dancefloor (with a few other Junglists who had the same idea) while DJ Dougal finished up.
Before I get into the details of the set, I should say that I have played this tape to death and know it inside out. The mixing is as on point as you would expect from Hype, and MC GQ and MC MC sync with the tunes so perfectly that it almost sounds rehearsed. The selection is spot on for a peak time set in a large venue. It might sound a bit anthem heavy now, but most of these tracks were still on dubplate or brand new at the time. I was still finding my feet as far as being clued up on the latest tunes at this point, so I wasn’t overly familiar with brand new dubplates and stuff, and I’m mainly listening to hip hop at home so any rap sample I hear has me on high alert and this set really had me hunting down everything I heard in the weeks that followed.
The Shy FX remix of The Chopper was undoubtedly the biggest track of that night with most of the D&B DJs playing it, or if not drawing for Ray Keith’s own Dirty Chopper mix instead. It makes for a great intro track (and I imagine until they were familiar with it some might have struggled to mix it in!) and sure enough, Hype kicks off with it, adding to the tension by slowly pitching up a beep tone in time with the propellers on the track picking up speed. The “we’re now ready for take-off…” sample appears, and the crowd is itching to go and once it kicks in the whistles and horns are in full effect and GQ doesn’t hesitate to call for the rewind.
From there, the MCs are going back and forth as Hype brings in Quest. Another rewind. Special K’s Knowledge (Proper Talent) is up next and the Flavor Flav sample and horns from Craig Mack’s Flava In Ya Ear was (and still is) definitely a favourite of mine. Nice bassy jump-up without being too over the top. The remix of Adam F’s Circles appears. This had a limited release as a one-sided 12” on Section 5 and is quite pricey (it was also the one record from this set that eluded me the longest).
It works well in a set like this as it’s a bit more DJ friendly and not as lengthy and epic as the original, stripping it down to just the main samples. Trick Of Technology was building a buzz and appeared in a few other sets that night. This was Prisoners of Technology’s debut and ended up being a long-term favourite for Hype and Nicky Blackmarket in particular. A real “impact” tune, and again it was the hip hop samples that initially grabbed my attention, this time taken from Channel Live’s verse on KRS One’s Free Mumia. Hype gets the mix of the “check check check..” part of Circles switching with the “trick of tech…” vocal nicely. Valley Of The Shadows was a Hype staple since it dropped so I imagine he was pleased with the ‘96 remix giving it a new lease of life. Instantly recognisable and double dropped (before that was a proper thing) into distortion and pulled up for the rewind once again.
Here’s where things get a bit strange if you’re listening to the tape. You hear the now familiar Zinc mix of the Fugees’ Ready or Not coming in, only for it to fade out, and then fade back in as it’s ending. Now, this would’ve been one of the first plays of this track – certainly the first time a lot of people in the rave had heard it – and I know Hype and Zinc ran into problems with Sony for that initial 12” release, but I’ve never heard of a dubplate being cut out of a tape pack due to sample issues? Maybe Hype anticipated the difficulties and didn’t want to draw too much attention to it. Maybe it’s just that the DAT needed changing over. Who knows.
At the time it was a bit of a pisser as it was a highlight of the night and then when the tape pack finally dropped it wasn’t on there, which made me wonder if I had imagined it. I finally got the Not Ready 12” a few months later and obviously, it went onto sell thousands and be bootlegged several times over but this is a great example of actually having to go outside and experience the music first hand to hear certain things, rather than scrolling through YouTube or an mp3 store and forming opinions remotely.
Back to the set, and the energy levels remain at high. Aphrodite’s Style from The Darkside (with its sample from Erick Sermon’s Bom Digi) followed by back to back future classics from Ram in Recharge and Night Flight before Hype’s 2nd Special K track, which reworks Blahzay Blahzay’s ’95 hip hop anthem Danger into a monstrous jump-up banger of the same name.
As a general rule, most D&B DJs were all about the mix and blend and didn’t drop tunes from the top mid-set but the impact of Hype scratching in Pulp Fiction at the last snare before the bassline drops is immense. He was probably mindful of it being slower than the rest of his selection, but it still goes down a treat. This is followed with another Metalheadz tune – Adam F’s Metropolis – and the set closes out with a new mix of Dred Bass (What the Time Dred on Second Movement).
So, there it is, great selection, mixing, MCs doing their thing, recording levels good enough to capture the crowd noise but not over-powering the music, and proper vibes in the venue at the time. I’m so thankful it was captured on tape! It’s 50 minutes that had a big impact on me and has a lot to answer for.
thanks to Rave Archive UK for the audio
- The Terrorist – The Chopper (Shy FX Ebony remix) [Dread]
- Shimon & Andy C – Quest [Ram]
- Special K – Knowledge [Proper Talent]
- Adam F – Circles (remix) [Section 5]
- Prisoners Of Technology – The Trick Of Technology [Fresh Kutt]
- Origin Unknown – Valley Of The Shadows (Awake ’96 remix) [Ram]
- The Fugees – Ready Or Not (DJ Zinc Remix) [white label]
- Aphrodite – Style From The Darkside [Aphrodite]
- Shimon & Andy C – Recharge [Ram]
- Shimon & Andy C – Night Flight [Ram]
- Special K – Danger [Trouble On Vinyl]
- Alex Reece – Pulp Fiction [Metalheadz]
- Adam F – Metropolis [Metalheadz]
- Dred Bass – What The Time Dred [Second Movement]