After seeing Steve Lawler for the first time at a Halloween party in 2005, I have seen the DJ play in a wide variety of venues, ranging from massive main rooms at The Guvernment and Circa, to the dark and cavernous confines of The Comfort Zone. His sound is as eclectic as it is powerful, giving the performer the ability to cater to any atmosphere. Whether inside clubs, outside at festivals, or during one of his legendary sunrise sets on the Skybar, the British artist never fails to have his finger on the pulse of what the crowd is hungry for.
When it was announced that Lawler would be playing at Maison Mercer, I heard more than a few grumblings within the dance music community that it was not an appropriate venue for someone sometimes referred to as The Prince of Darkness. Yet despite other’s protestations, when I heard the choice of venue, I saw an opportunity to see how a versatile performer could find the right mix of music for the environment.
As I arrived at Maison, it was impossible not to notice the difference in atmosphere from the last time I saw Lawler play at Coda, in spring 2016. While Coda is dark and intense, Maison has a glamourous vibe running throughout the people in attendance and the decor of the space. The crowd itself was dressed to impress, and primed for partying, which was reminiscent of some of the Lawler’s legendary parties at This is London. For the entirety of the evening, it felt as if things were right on the tipping point of a bunch of good looking people out to have a good time, versus full blown antics and shenanigans.
On the decks when I walked in was Vincent Caira b2b with Sam Haze. Having never heard either artist perform previously, I did not know what to expect, but was immediately impressed by the thumping progressive coming through the speakers. Their intro set paved the way for the headliner by raising the intensity in the room and the anticipation in the air.
One of my favourite parts about any Steve Lawler performance is watching the transition from the previous DJ. The Birmingham native has an undeniable stage presence rivalled by few in dance music, that is apparent from the moment he enters the DJ booth. Before he even begins to play it is hard to take your eyes off his swagger and aura of confidence while he lines up his first tune, and the moment he presses play his unmistakeable style overtakes the room.
His performance at Maison was no exception. As he began, that trademark blend of sex appeal and darkness thumped through the speakers uniting the crowd into a frenzy. On this particular night, Lawler returned to the tribal dominated sound that made him famous on his Dark Drums and Lights Out album series. Thunderous bass, layered with percussion, soul and the occasional vocal lent his set a Latin sounding flair. Time after time, his music would build to a powerful climax before unleashing the massive drums and powerful bass that pulsated throughout your body.
It was a quintessential Lawler performance, my only wish now, is that it was a little bit longer.
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