Tobacco Dock in London’s East End has seen a lot, from the British Empire at its industrial height to a dismal shopping centre a century later. What it hasn’t seen before, however, is the SIDEXSIDE day-rave, wherein its giant, ornately arched open spaces bustle for 10 hours, from midday onwards, with a writhing mass of smart, party-ready freaks.
Evening is descending. Sporadic rain dampens the smokers on the balconied walkways, the Car Park and Little Gallery have crowds jigging, respectively, to Seth Troxler vs Loco Dice and Joris Voorn vs Kölsch, the latter pair revelling in a tasty, retro acid streak. Crowds, however, are moving towards the Great Gallery. In there, having finished his own back-to-back set with Nic Fancuilli, one of dance music’s all-time greats, living legend Carl Cox, is battering a line of Pioneer CDJs as if his life depended on it. Perspiration flicks off his distinctive dome as he slowly squeezes out frequencies from the David Tort remix of his Nile Rodgers collab ‘Ooh Baby’ until the tension is unbearable. Then he drops its thick layers of drums. A crowd who’ve come from all over the UK and beyond barrel about and dance all the harder.
For nearly 30 years, Coxy has maintained a consistent presence as his contemporaries have fallen by the wayside. He moved easily through styles, from 80s Balearic beats to 90s hardcore junglism, until he eventually became one of the giants of 00s techno. He flicks the fader, leans back from the decks and throws his hands in the air, showing off his famous grin. It is tribal machine-drum armageddon. Thousands of bodies fill their lungs and roar.
But there are rumours. That Carl Cox is not just leaving hs weekly residency at Space but that he is finished with Ibiza. That Carl Cox is leaving the UK for good. Even that Carl Cox is quitting DJing. Can this ballistic evening in Tobacco Dock really be the start of a wind-down to retirement?