Grown men really did cry. Established drum ‘n’ bass DJs grabbed their raving shoes and came down just to dance. Feeds melted with each fresh deluge of batshit-crazy video footage. Were you there? Of course you were.
Andy C’s three-month XOYO residency can comfortably claim to be the drum ‘n’ bass event of 2017, because it's also the drum ‘n’ bass event of the decade. As each of the thirteen parties bludgeoned Old Street’s low-slung bunker into a beautiful delirium, the totemic DJ’s decision to take it “back to the underground” in an intimate, bassbin-stacked environment looked smarter by the week. By the end, it had become something else altogether: an “I was there” moment for a reunited tribe.
For a time, it seemed the Andy C juggernaut was headed in only one stratospheric direction: bigger venues, longer sets, all-night solo specials and superclub residencies – and all pushing the high-octane, big-room Ram Records sound. Similarly, the days of Andy lining up on a club flyer alongside Grooverider or Ed Rush had disappeared a decade ago, following the rise of all-powerful label-only nights (Hospitality, Shogun, Ram) and the sidelining of traditional promoter-curated parties.
And then, suddenly, here he was, digging deep in the crates for old-skool jungle rarities and handpicking the kind of line-ups that only existed when today’s young Ram fans were in nursery. The liquid-funk special with Calibre and Marcus Intalex. The jungle detonation with Jumping Jack Frost. The hardknuckle dust-up with Dillinja and Audio. The grandmaster salute with Grooverider and Fabio. The jump-up frenzy with DJ Hazard. The genius of it all was in its beautiful simplicity. Andy C on a Friday night in London? In a 500 capacity sweatbox? With a slice of your favourite d’n’b sub-genres and guest appearances from every legend imaginable? No wonder ravers flew in from across the globe. Some even went 13 weeks in a row. “The venue has never seen anything like it,” said former XOYO manager Andy Peyton. Neither had we.
The impact and power of these parties should not be underestimated. In one glorious burst of old heads and newbies, classics and dubplates, dark and light, grace and thunder, the finest d’n’b DJ of them all resoundingly trumpeted this multiverse of a genre in all its stripes and shades, and reunited a long-splintered underground scene around him. If you had a ticket, congratulations: you became part of drum ‘n’ bass folklore.
The XOYO residency was for the whole tribe. For the OGs to roll back the years and roll out with Andy. For the old heads to come down and re-live it. For the youngsters to hear the tunes that built the genre. But mostly, it was for the bedroom DJs who would learn from the best to ever do it. Andy C played old-skool jungle, darkside tech-step, sunshine liquid-funk, tearout dancefloor bangers and 25-year-old anthems – sometimes all within the same five minutes. He sculpted mind-blowing new mixes for all his signature dancefloor riddims of yesteryear. He spent weeks crate-digging and experimenting in preparation for each instalment, finding the rarest gems and concocting thrilling new blends. He really, properly, went to town on it.
For three months solid at XOYO, Andy reminded everyone that he is not only the club ultimate club DJ, but the original bedroom DJ too. His opening salvo at XOYO during ‘Week 6’ (when surprise guest Sub Focus turned up to remind everyone what a bullet-tough club DJ he is too) was Dillinja’s industrial slammer ‘How Dare You’, spliced electrifyingly with Ed Rush and Optical’s classic Ram Trilogy ‘Pacman’ remix – both 15-year-old tunes that could have been heard on any d’n’b bedroom DJ’s mixtape circa 2004.
Experiencing excellence is addictive – and never more so when you fully understand the mechanics. Watch early footage of American football prodigy OJ Simpson dodging and sidestepping his way to immortality during now-legendary college games, and you’ll get some idea. The others are dressed the same, but they’re moving in slow motion. It’s the same with Andy C: a bedroom DJ from Essex like any other – apart from the fact he’s superhuman.
Make no mistake: to the untrained eye and ear, drum ‘n’ bass parties can sometimes resemble a cross between a mosh pit and an angered protest. But this is an art form 25 years in the making, and Andy C is a drum ‘n’ bass artist like no other. Technically exceptional, magnetically energetic, there is simply no one else with more genuine affection for the craft of the dancefloor: the history, the present, the future; the ravers, the producers, the DJs; the ceaseless dedication to finding the best mixes imaginable. Nobody does it better.
Were you there? Of course you were.
Ewen Cook is Mixmag's Drum 'n' Bass Editor, follow him on Twitter