Daniel Avery live in Hackney: the glorious return of clubbing… in a church

May 29, Hackney Church: Across two specifically designed shows, the techno wizard proves the transportative nature of dance music can thrive even in socially distanced environments

The pandemic has been particularly cruel to both fans and creators of dance music. While last summer welcomed back socially distanced gigs from pop acts and guitar bands, the country’s nightclubs have remained shuttered throughout. “Let us dance” demanded a petition signed by Thom Yorke, Caribou, Massive Attack, Four Tet and many more, urging the government to recognise the UK’s dance music industry in the same way as the live music and performing arts sectors.

Following a two-day clubbing pilot event in Liverpool last month, a pair of shows from  Daniel Avery at Hackney Church marks the first real example of dance music adapting to the COVID era.

And Avery is an ideal candidate to bring it back. A nimble, dexterous DJ who has turned his hand to everything from pounding techno to dark industrial noise and blissed out ambient across a decade-plus career, he can thrive in a range of atmospheres and surroundings. Tonight, he performs a specifically composed piece called ‘Together In Static’, which will also be released as an album on June 24. A day before its release, he’ll return to Hackney Church for a livestreamed version of tonight’s gig.

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Daniel Avery performs live at Hackney Church
Credit: Lawrence Jones/ First Light Media

Fans are seated in bubbles of two, three or four (the shows were originally set to place in January before being scuppered by another lockdown) and it takes a while to shake off the unnatural feel of sitting in formations. Initially, it feels a bit like settling in to watch an orchestra rather than a techno wizard. Across the hour-long set, however, the crowd loosen up with Avery, as he travels from an ambient beginning through a gorgeously patient build-up, slowly adding meatier textures before the show explodes into an avalanche of bass.

Before the DJ’s set starts, a voice through the speakers tells the crowd that they are welcome to stand up and have a dance, but only if they remain directly in front of their allotted seat. It might sound sterile and a little depressing, but the second the crowd do tentatively rise to their feet as the set picks up the pace around the halfway mark, these inhibitions – helped by the slowly rising wall of noise from behind the decks – melt away. Suddenly, a room (half) full of people shut their eyes, block out the outside world, and let the thumping, euphoric dance music take over their entire body, just like they always used to.

Daniel Avery performs live at Hackney Church
Credit: Lawrence Jones/ First Light Media

Thrown in as a thank you to his fans, the new material is broken up by a smattering of older songs, culminating in a rampaging run-through of his techno masterpiece ‘Drone Logic’. At this point, any awareness of the unnatural nature of the show’s surroundings is completely forgotten, and the transportative nature of dance music is shown at its best.

If sweating up against hundreds of strangers is more your vibe, then you’ll have to wait a little longer to get your fill. But for the pure rush of surrendering yourself to the full-body experience of dance music, this is the kind of experience we’ve been waiting for, socially distanced or not.

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