Waxin’ the Palace; Chatting to the Man Who Convinced Wiltshire Council to Have a Rave!

All the local mainstream are on it like a fly on a turd, and the negativity of keyboard warriors is flowing fast and furious. Who am I to steer off the bandwagon, yet you know we’ll handle the news Wax Palace obtained permission for a “rave festival” to happen near Erlestoke with a slightly different angle……

An angle much less based upon the fact your esteemed editor had a youth some indeterminable time yonder, where he gyrated in muddy fields with eyes like saucers, masticating the shit out of a Wrigley’s Doublemint, and more on the notion, I hope, that while we have a great music scene in these backwaters, there is little to tickle our younger resident’s tastebuds. This then, is great news, surely?

But is raving still a progressive thing, or does it dabble largely in retrospection? And what exactly will this Wax Palace provide in the way of entertainment? Harry, one of the organisers, a man who unbelievably convinced Wiltshire Council, conservative at the best of times, to grant them permission to hold what’s best described, to avoid media confusion, as a “rave festival;” can he sell ice to Eskimos, or what?! In a short chat with him, I suspected he could.

He giggled at the question, “we’d do our best, that’s for sure! It’s been a bit of a task, but we got it through, and they seemed very with it, during the hearing.” Throughout Harry projected himself as level-headed, reliably assured of the achievement of Kaleidoscope, the name of the event.

The first myth from the Gazette’s report to dispel is that these guys are bundling down from Yorkshire to ruin our peaceful community, when Harry explained the company is only registered there, and he lives close to Erlestoke himself. “The group who first run it were students in Leeds,” he explained, “but we’re very much Wiltshire born and bred.” Herewith the reason for bringing it to Devizes.

Promoting this today is neither here nor there, they’ve a solid base and early bird tickets have already sold out for the estimated 800 strong event. “This is our third edition of the festival,” he said with me interrupting about how to define it, “it is very much a festival, but we hope it has the apogee of a rave, though licenced, as the articles have focused on. It started as one night event, next time it was two, now we’ve got the full weekend, and our largest line-up yet.”

To spoil my queries of disambiguation, musically, Kaleidoscope will offer the whole range of rave subgenres, from house and disco to techno to drum & bass; “you name it will be there!” But this only got me pondering the setup, if it would, as legendary pay-raves like Universe’s Tribal Gatherings once attempted, to host each subgenre in a different tent. Because much as this appeased the then evolution of the diversity, it tended to clash into one immense noise when central! “We don’t have genre-split tents,” Harry clarified, “they’re split more-so by their set design. We’ve got three stages, one indoors, another outdoor, in which we’re shaping out an old school bus for the DJ’s, which should be really fun.”

Harry jested jealously at me rapping about raves of yore like Universe, “we missed that golden era, but we very much like to be inspired by the ethos.” This is great, though I’m trying to avoid an Uncle Albert moment where I preach on memory lane, but it does bring to question how niche is the market, does Harry think rave is either coming back, or it never really lost its appeal?

“I think it is coming back, commercially, perhaps it did lose a bit of what it was meant to be. In the last few years, I’ve heard people referring to their club nights as raves. I think the term rave now covers something broader and less political than it did, originally.” Harry hopes it does come back, encouraged to bring back those original values.

Though I’d suggest, rave was apolitical, it wasn’t until government interjected with the Justice Bill post-Castlemorton which both forced it underground and for ravers to think politically. Originally it was solely a celebration of life, and to party, and that really was our only objective. Which neatly covers another misconception; we raved everywhere and anywhere, if it meant standing in a muddy field, or if it meant going clubbing, location was irrelevant, so long as we could blow off steam and dance!

And herein lies my pitch at why I think this is a fantastic addition to our local events, because if you’re the first to complain about this, I sure hope you’re not the same one whinging about acts of anti-social behaviour in youth culture. If Wax Palace can provide a safe haven for young to go and enjoy themselves, it’s surely a positive.

Wiltshire Council were keen to label this a festival rather than a rave, as rave connotes to some to be an illegal, uncontrolled gathering. I say, this is the name of the genre, and doesn’t relate to illegal gatherings at all. After the Justice Bill the scene became anarchistic in frustration to the restrictions, but it never began like this. There was a sense of one big family, a tribal movement, and it was all about smiles. This, I feel is an important point to reduce this common misconception, and something Harry was also keen to express. “We’ve worked really hard to build a real sense of community,” he explained.

Today, of course, the original ravers have come of age, and organisations like Raver Tots have marketed retrospection in the form of taking your kids to a rave, but throughout our chat I got the feeling the ethos of Wax Palace was much more progressive, about introducing “rave; the next generation,” and that’s good to hear. “We like the idea through the way we organise events and our approach will introduce the idea of raving to a market who are only just coming to an age where they’re able to go to clubs. So, it’s nice to think we have the chance in shaping that impression they have. For a lot of people, this could be their first music festival, and for it to be local and described as a rave would be really exciting; exactly what I’d wish I’d have had in my village when I was 18.”

Tickets are here, Kaleidoscope takes place from 2nd-5th September.

Avoid negativity of misconceptions bought about by a bygone era, well organised and safe pay raves have happened since day dot, and providing youth with entertainment is paramount to building bridges; Wax Place, I salute you!


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Trowbridge DJ and Producer, Neonian Releases Debut EP

A figure appears through the labyrinth of florescent drapes, strobing with ultra-violet lights. She’s void of expression, hypnotised in her individual realm she perpetually gyrates, wearing a black figure-hugging bodysuit, highly decorated in costume jewellery constructed from glowsticks. It’s not the image families would conceive of when thinking of Longleat, rather a cheeky posse of rhesus macaque monkeys ripping the rubber insulation off their Volvo.

Yet the Wiltshire raver of yore will note, and reminisce, to trek to Swindon’s Brunel Rooms would be to face happy hardcore, jungle or house, whereas there was a tribal movement of tranced techno-heads, a conglomerate of Wilts and Somerset rural ravers in the basement of the Warminster manor, and it took on a wildlife of its own; the UFO Club at the Berkley Suite. Memories of it flood what’s left of my neurons, I’m halfway into Trowbridge DJ and Producer, Neonian’s debut EP Vaxxor, released this coming Friday (5th March.)

Not before the opening title track, that is, which detonates a more breakbeat house prose at you, something for the peaky middle of a set by Plump DJs in a glasshouse club off Brighton beach in the latter nineties. There’s a lot going on here, for a four track EP, and it’s having all subgenres large.

Released through Weatnu Records, there’s parts of Vaxxor where I thought a more conventional and contemporary danceable beat might rear its head, but it doesn’t, it solidly rides a wave of classic electronic dance music with a penchant for the techno-trance feel, hence my memories of the UFO Club. That said, Vaxxor, as a tune contains definite traces of punky chemical beats, akin the Prodigy or Chemical Brothers, yet rather than a gimmicky vocal or sample element for possible mass-appeal, Neonian seems aware pop has detracted from this trend of recent, ergo its concentration is on perusing a consistent beat and sonic hi-hats.

This leaves you semi-prepared for the more trance-techno sound of the following tune, Glow. For this it is thumbs up as the most poignantly danceable, in the four-by-four psytrance fashion akin to Goa trance. Hypnotic Jerk takes elements of this, and slides into a downbeat “hypnotic cocoon teetering on the edge of normality.” Imagine Nightmares on Wax if triphop hadn’t been invented.  We’re in the chillout tent, Eat Static are playing a Sunday morning set, that’s where it is; yeah, I’m with you, mate, got a flyer I can roach?!

All these four tracks were recorded during the lockdowns, and together are a glorious testament to the psych-subgenres of the UK underground dance scene. But if you’ve any misgivings to the variety of the melting pot, I’ll confirm Neonian blends and crafts it with distinct precision. To affirm he’s clearly nodding to his influences, the testament comes to a finale like a returning migratory bird to its nest. Proof to the Tower finishes this short journey off with something, though layered with aforementioned influences, strips the sound back the subgenres’ combined roots.

Proof to the Tower drips with elegant attributes of post-punk electronica, aligning New Order, Depeche Mode and even the stiffer originators, Kraftwerk and The Art of Noise. The EP is getting radio plays from BBC Radio Wiltshire, Kinetic7Radio (Bleeps & Beats show), Radio TFSC and Radio Wigwam, and I’m far from surprised.

Neonian is the work of Ian Sawyer, who has previously released a few singles, a mini LP ‘Treasure’ and provided remixes for Frannie B, NNYz?, Sergeant Thunderhoof and James Harriman. “I make music, for myself,” Ian explains, “I can’t really describe it but it’s mainly made with synthesisers, loops and samples. Influences include New Order, Boards Of Canada, Coil, Pye Corner Audio, Factory Floor, and Russ Abbot.” Unsure about citing that last one, though Vaxxor certainly has an atmosphere!

Nonetheless these tributes to the pioneers of electronica and nineties trance, techno and breakbeats are often viewed as rather soulless, this does what it says on the tin while retaining something fresh to boot. Clearly, four tracks with Neonian aren’t enough, I’d like to hear a fully-mixed electronic concept album, perhaps, to be fully sucked into its deep and hypnotic grooves.

Excuse me for being so fussy, but some uplifting sections, with gimmicky elements such as female vocals would be advantageous. Not solely for my own palate, rather in hope it’ll attract the attention of a wider audience. As, like William Orbit did when he got the phone call from Madonna, I think while Vaxxor is damn cool with florescent socks on, Neonian, I feel has yet to achieve his magnum opus, but when he does, judging by this EP, you’ll want to standing in the middle of it, making boxes and reaching for the stars.

Available on all Digital Platforms March 5th 2021; ‘Vaxxor’ is now available to Pre-Order on Bandcamp via the following link.  You get to download the track ‘Glow’ now and the rest of the EP when it is released on March 5th.


Swindon Sound System Mid Life Krisis Live Streams

If you’re missing a tubthumping club night, you could clear your laminate flooring of breakables, blag your kid’s colour-changing lightbulb, overcharge yourself for a Bacardi Breezer from your own fridge, and belch up kebab behind your sofa.

All these things are optional to simulate the full lockdown nightclub in your own home. But, even creating a cardboard cut-out queue for the downstairs bog, or hiring a doggie tuxedo so your pet can double-up as the bouncer, extreme measures in extreme times will doubtfully replicate the genuine clubbing experience; sad but true.

However, if props don’t make the neon grade, the music can. Swindon-based tri-county sound system, Mid Life Krisis, abbreviated to MiLK, announce an online schedule for live DJ feeds and multi-genre events. “We will be putting on events post Covid for the people of Swindon and beyond,” they say.

There’s an interesting line-up ahead, prompted to me by Pewsey acoustic performer Cutsmith, who is on this Sunday (28th Feb.) Yet most are hard floor, afro/tribal house, trance, techno and drum n bass DJ sessions, freely shared onto a Facebook group, here. Join the group, throw your hands in the air, scream oh yeah, just don’t set your own roof on fire, it’s only going to increase your insurance direct debits, mo-fo.

Your exhaust cannot drop off en-route, girlfriend needs not to spend umpteen hours sorting her hair, and there’s no over-vocal knob jockey giving you all that in the carpark to distract you. No excuse for unattendance; no dress-code either, get funky in your jimmy-jams, if you like, you know I will. Shit, I’m like the Arthur Dent of Mixmag!

Now, I’m also gonna start adding these posters to our event calendar, which despite being about as tech-savvy as Captain Caveman, I’ve taken the time when nought is really happening to redesign it, to be more user-friendly.

All needs doing is directing buggers to the thing, as we’re listing global online and streamed events, and until a time when Bojo the Clown finally stops mugging us off and announces a release date, it’s not worth adding real live events for me to have to go delete them again.

That said, I find difficulties in keeping up to scratch with what’s on in the online sense, partly because I’m fucking lazy, but mostly because they pop up sporadically and unexpectedly.

Else they’re mainstream acts begging via a price-tagged ticket. I can appreciate this, it’s a rock and hard place, and we all need to get some pocket money, but from a punter’s POV, charging to watch their own laptop screen in hope they get a good speed for their feed, can be asking a bit much and one now favours a PayPal tip jar system.

Such is the nature of the beast, where a performer or DJ could be slumped in front of Netflix one minute and suddenly decide they fancy going live. Thankful then, we should be, to these Facebook groups hosting streams, in order to create some kind of structure.

The positive, for what it’s worth, is boundaries have been ripped down. Without travel issues, online, your performance has the potential to reach a global audience, and hopefully attract newbies to your released material. Who knows, pre-lockdown you played to a handful of buddies at your local watering hole, but afterwards tribes from Timbuctoo might rock up at your show. Okay, I’ll give you, they might not, but potentially, the world is your oyster. Just a shame its shell is clamped shut.


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