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After almost three months in Europe, we were back in Sydney and our first outing was to the Chinese Laundry to see the great John 00 Fleming play an open-to-close six hour set in the Cave. His set last year had been amazing and I was really looking forward to seeing if he could repeat the magic.

The Cave – the backroom in the Chinese Laundry – is not everyone’s cup of tea as a venue for dancing, but it is right up J00F’s street (to mix metaphors!). The low ceilings give the room the feel of a shoebox in dimensions and the unassuming DJ booth, stuck in one corner mean that the music takes precedence and there is virtually no “production” to speak of. And it can get very hot in there too. But these factors all combine to give it the underground vibe that suits Fleming’s style. Improvements to the air-conditioning have helped somewhat with the heat factor, but the room can still get very crowded and, on this occasion, I felt it was far too packed – making it uncomfortable and difficult to dance at times.

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But with John 00 Fleming playing, you can be sure of a friendly and knowledgable crowd – even if it took the security guys a couple of hours to realise that trouble was unlikely. Their biggest problem was trying (without success, I think) to track down the unmistakable aroma of cannabis that that occasionally drifted their way.

The set began at a leisurely, progressive pace, but it was a lovely groove that engaged people quickly – especially when the familiar notes of Andain – Beautiful Things filled the room. It was getting harder to dance without regularly being jostled, so we edged closer to the front and found a bit more room, but less air. If the music hadn’t been so good, I think we might have given up on the night. Airwave – A Touch Of Grace was another awesome tune that J00F dropped around this time.

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There’s no doubt that the part of the set I enjoyed most was between about 01:00 and 02:30 – this was J00F at his tranciest, where the melodies flood over the beats and make you want the night to last forever. Again, the familiar notes of Faithless – Salva Mea drew a great reaction from the packed dance floor. As the night wore on, getting closer to the end, the beats drove us on and, although I was definitely tiring, it was only the concern not to miss the last bus home that forced us to call it a night and make our way out.

This was a really good set, but probably not as good as last year’s triumph. The Cave was a lot busier this year, however, and for all its dingey underground charms, I do think that a different venue, perhaps somewhere like the Civic Underground, would make for a much better night overall. Whether Fleming can be convinced of this, however, seems unlikely. And I guess he might also be unwilling to disrupt the relationship that he now has with the Chinese Laundry promoters.

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