Like pantomime villains, clubland’s professionals endure a pretty bad public reputation. If DJs aren’t being accused of faking their sets, then their collective name is being dragged through the dirt, as former heroes behind the decks instead find themselves behind bars, their shameful, sleazy history coming back to bite them in karma-by-tabloid.
Meanwhile, promoters and venue owners? Well, they’re all money-grabbing gangsters, drug dealers and dodgy ex-cons, right? But as anyone who has worked or played in and around the nocturnal industries will know, the truth is that these lazy caricatures do a gross disservice to the majority, the good guys, the ones who have invested their lives into the sketchy uncertainties of a career in music in order to give you a stonking good night out whenever you feel like having it.
And in a beautifully random demonstration of the industry’s capacity for positive off-dancefloor action too, this weekend, a merry band of DJs, label managers, promoters, and staff from long-standing web magazine Resident Advisor will hop on their bikes and cycle over 300 miles for charity.
RA boss Nick Sabine, explains: “We’ve made a commitment as a company to doing one big thing a year that makes a positive difference in the lives of people in less fortunate positions than ourselves.”
So he asked RA staff to submit ideas for suitable challenges, and the one that emerged was a sponsored bike ride from their London HQ to Amsterdam, where the dance industry congregates in a post-Ibiza flurry of autumnal networking and parties each October, otherwise known as the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE).
“Firstly 12 RA staffers signed up to take part and we then opened it up to people in the industry we thought would enjoy the challenge,” says Nick. “We wanted a good cross-section represented so we invited DJs, club bookers, label managers, festival and club promoters from throughout Europe.”
And so it has come to pass that some of the biggest names in clubland are about to be seen clad in lycra and slogging it across the Channel through the (mercifully) low countries, to a nevertheless gruelling 80-miles-a-day schedule.
They need to arrive in time for the start of ADE and their various party/set/important business meeting appointments this coming Wednesday, and to raise their target of €100,000 for charity Bridges for Music in the process.
“Once we learned more about the charity’s ambition to build a music school in Langa – a township just outside Cape Town in South Africa – we felt it was a great project that we could help make happen,” says Nick.
“We expect the school will not only provide education and access to gear but also create a self-sustaining legacy and opportunities for future generations. All funds donated to the RA cycle will go directly to the school project. This, coupled with the fact that RA will be covering all the logistical costs for every rider, ensures that 100% of every donation will go directly towards building the school.”
So how are the team – by their own admission more used to shaking a leg in a darkened room than hitting the open road on two wheels – preparing for the challenge?
London venue-owner and Eastern Electrics man Rob Star has had an early setback: “I’m currently nursing a very bruised foot after scoring a last minute equaliser for Star of Bethnal Green F.C. at the weekend,” he tells us, “so overcoming that will be my biggest challenge. I literally couldn’t walk on Saturday night. I can’t see four days being that difficult though; once the pain kicks in we’ll be almost there! We have been warned of strong headwinds through Belgium and Holland, which might make me eat my words…”
Meanwhile Secretsundaze DJ/promoter Giles Smith has found himself embracing the world of cycling, having drunkenly agreed to join the ride when cornered by Nick at a dinner party.
“I still haven’t quite got my head around the fact I’ve agreed to cycle 500km in four days – a gruelling trip for someone that didn’t even own a bicycle until eight weeks ago, and only exercises shall we say ‘intermittently’”, he tells us, semi-nervously.
“I have now developed an unhealthy interest for bicycles and all the gear, though. I now have a stack of cycle brochures by my bed and have developed an obsession with the expensive cycle clothing brand Rapha. All this shopping has of course been a fantastic distraction from actually getting on with training.”
Giles is just one of the big-name DJs on the ride, with Chris Liebing, Midland, Jeremy Underground Paris, Matt Tolfrey, UNER, Esa Williams, Marcel Vogel and T.Williams all sweating in lycra over the coming days.
“And plenty of others have supported with donations,” says Nick, “including Sven Vath, Kerri Chandler, Seth Troxler, Heidi and Levon Vincent.”
Alongside the riders, key companies including SONOS, Native Instruments, ADE and the recently sold-off Pioneer DJ have offered great support to the cause.
“Matt Tolfrey is the least prepared,” reckons Rob Star. “I had to force him to do a second lap round Richmond Park the other day. I still don’t think he realises that it’s 80 miles a day - I’m sure he thinks that’s the total distance.
“And Giles Smith is the dark horse of the team,” Rob continues. “He was dragging me round Hyde Park a few weeks ago and has a keen turn of pace on him. He’s also the best dressed with his posh new Rapha gear.”
Of course, the plucky riders will need to conserve as much energy as they can, as at the end of it all lie four more demanding days – the full-throttle demands of ADE, which has grown to become one of the biggest events on the global electronic music calendar, attracting over a million party people to descend (by bike, or other means) upon the city each year.
For Nick, the reward will be hosting his own event, “it’s our last ever RA party at my favourite club in the world, Trouw,” he says. The former printworks-turned industrial disco space is due to close its doors at the end of the year, so it’s a final chance to dance in one of the most exciting and quirky clubs anywhere.
As the club industry continues to generate eye-popping cash for those at the top, and at very least an enviably fun way to earn a crust for others, it’s overwhelmingly positive to see the ADE cycle ride gang generating some serious cash for a good cause.
“We haven’t set out to make a statement,” says Nick, “but if it makes people realise the possibility to work together to affect positive change on the wider world, then that’s pleasing by-product.”
You can, of course still sponsor any of the riders, and we suggest you do right now here.
Words: Tom Kihl
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