What a wonderful weekend we’ve just had! When news first appeared that Solarstone would be heading to Australia in May to play two open to close sets – one in Sydney, the other in Melbourne – we resolved to go to both. I’ve been a big fan of Solarstone’s for as long as I can remember and each time I hear him play, I seem to like his music more and more. I still have sad memories of the night in Sydney nearly five years ago when his three-hour set was cruelly cut short after just one sensational hour, when the police had to close the club due to a stabbing. I’ve seen him play in London, Sydney, Miami, the Netherlands and Ibiza and he’s never disappointed me.

IMG_3115First up was Voodoo on Friday at Sydney’s Home nightclub, a regular outing for us, but this time we got there just after the doors opened, rather than around midnight. We would have been there earlier still, if Sydney’s dreadful public transport hadn’t chosen this night to throw a spanner into our carefully timed plans. But it was still early and the dancefloor was unsurprisingly sparsely populated. I noticed that the room seems bigger when it’s packed and you have to take time squeezing past people on your way to your favourite spot.

As expected, the music started progressively and built slowly towards the unmistakeable “pure trance” sound that Solarstone is best known for. This approach, of being your own warm-up DJ, is essential to successful open-to-close sets, but not many DJs are as well suited to it as Solarstone. The music was always melodic and danceable, but restrained at first, so that we didn’t expend all our dancing energies too quickly. But as midnight approached, the tempo accelerated and the energy palpably rose.

The production values at Home for Voodoo nights have long been of the highest standard – sound, visuals, lights and lasers. This night was no exception, although I did hear some complaints that the volume was too loud. As a veteran wearer of custom-fitted ear plugs, I have to say that I didn’t notice particularly. And the quality of the music certainly deserved the highest standard of production.

The music was a wonderful journey, taking in many of Solarstone’s own productions and remixes as well as tunes matching the true spirit of pure trance and a sprinkling of classics. With six hours’ worth of notes on my phone, there’s just too many to list here, but a selection of the music we heard follows here: Solarstone feat. Clare Stagg – Requiem, Synergy – Hello Strings, BT feat. Jes – Every Other Way (Josh Gabriel Remix), Gai Barone – Mr Slade (Solarstone Pure Mix), David Bowie – Space Oddity (Solarstone Tribute Mix), The Thrillseekers – Just Because, Ferry Tayle – Lozza, Aly & Fila with Solarstone – Fireisland (Aly & Fila Uplifting Mix), Paul van Dyk – Nothing But You, Aly & Fila & Aruna – The Other Shore (Solarstone Pure Mix), Ludovico Einaudi – Two Trees (John O’Callaghan Remix), Ciaran McAuley – Maria, Solarstone – Nothing But Chemistry Here, Solarstone & Basil O’Glue – Infatuation. He finished the set with Solarstone – Seven Cities and we hurried home to get some sleep before the next day’s flight down to Melbourne.

We’ve had so many great nights at Voodoo and, for me, this was right up there with the absolute best – perhaps not surprisingly, given how much I love Solarstone and his pure trance sound. The big question now was how would Melbourne match up?

Of course, Melbourne has the advantage of a more sensible approach to night-life curfews and, as a result, the night was scheduled to last a full 8 hours, until 6am (the flyer above was created before the extra two hours were added). Getting off the plane we headed straight to a restaurant in Hawthorn to refuel before joining the line to get in as soon as possible.

The venue, Room 680, is a complete contrast to Home. Whereas Home is a multi-level space with a modern feel, dedicated to a multi-sense experience, Room 680 is best described as old school. A relatively low ceiling, a huge mass of mirror balls, seats around the edges, a podium in the centre and even a cage, combined with a beer-soaked carpet at the back where the bar is. Smoke was constantly pumped out of a machine at the front left and the production was more modest in scale than you get at Home, though still impressive. The sound was not as crystal clear, either, but there were sweet spots that we gravitated towards, as well as areas where the reverberation of the bass drowned out a lot of the midrange. The overall feel was very much more intimate and underground.

IMG_3121Early on in the set we got a chance to chat very briefly to Rich, otherwise known as Solarstone, who told us that he was going to play a very different set to the previous night. And he wasn’t wrong. Although there was a core of tracks that he played both nights, they were played at different times of the night and, consequently, it felt completely different to the night before.

Every so often you have a night out that you know you will remember for a very long time. When you just know that in years to come you will still remember how good it was and reminisce with the friends you shared it with. When you know that some friends who couldn’t make it will be devastated to hear about what they missed. Well, this was one of those nights in my book. There’s no point in trying to remember when I’ve heard a better set – if I have done, it was a very very long time ago. Despite the occasional reverb-ing bass and the fact that as the night wore on, the toll on my legs from all the dancing was beginning to tell, I just couldn’t stop dancing.

So many great tunes, tumbling over each other: Solarstone & Gai Barone – Fata Morgana, Age Of Love – The Age Of Love (Solarstone Edit), Silvermine – Flying (Solarstone Pure Mix), Solarstone & Clare Stagg – The Spell, Solarstone & Clare Stagg –  Jewel, Solarstone – Spectrum, Solarstone – Like A Waterfall, Paul van Dyk feat. Plumb – I Don’t Deserve You (Giuseppe Ottaviani Remix), Factor B –  Sacrosanct, Orkidea – Unity (Solarstone Pure Mix), Sied van Riel & Standerwick – In A Perfect World (Solarstone Pure Mix), Young Parisians – U Write The Rules, Holden & Thompson – Nothing (93 Returning Remix), Peter Steele – Mantra, Solarstone feat. Elizabeth Fields – Speak In Sympathy (Jussi Polet Remix), Solarstone – 4ever, Driftmoon – Howl At The Moon (Solarstone Retouch), London Grammar –  Wasting My Young Years (Solarstone Pure Mix), Will Atkinson –  Subconscious, Betsie Larkin with Solarstone – Breathe You In (Solarstone Pure Mix) and even Dogzilla –  Without You.

As the night wore on towards the 6am close, the crowd was thinning out a little and it was a lot less crowded at the back, but those who remained more than made up for it with their energy and enthusiasm, and Solarstone himself seemed to be really enjoying himself, jumping around and punching the air as the big tunes dropped. Of course, all great nights have to end eventually, and just after 6am, Rich signalled that he was just too tired to continue and gave us one last tune: Giuseppe Ottaviani – Crossing Lights.

We had to hurry out at this point and jump into an Uber to get us to the airport on time. There was no time to say thanks to Rich for two such amazing nights. Sydney had been really good, but Melbourne, for me, was on another level. When trance music is this good, there’s no better feeling than dancing and jumping around. By the end, my feet were sore and every muscle in my legs were telling me to sit down, but I kept on going. What an incredible night!

Through the wonders of the internet, you can relive the Melbourne set on Soundcloud and here are the links:

Part 1

Part 2