- Few DJs whip London's dance music community into a frenzy quite like Ricardo Villalobos. The Chilean only stops by fabric a few times a year, but each visit brings with it renewed hype. Arriving last Saturday in time to hear Binh open with some surprisingly dark and ruthless electronics, there was already a palpable sense of anticipation tangled up in Room One's sweaty, intense throng.
It was my first time at fabric since the club's license came under review in December. Those news stories prompted online petitions, Facebook think-pieces, and a general feeling that, if the club wasn't necessarily under immediate threat, things were going to change quite drastically in the months following. It was surprising to discover, then, little noticeable difference in fabric's atmosphere, security or door policy. The usual cast of characters were all well and present: the techno tourists, the trendy North Londoners and an endless supply of lurkers, scenesters and booth-botherers. As Roman Flügel replaced Binh and bleepy, slightly dull techno filled the room, I wandered off to see what else was happening.
Over in Room Two Portable was in good voice, though the soundsystem felt muddy and strained compared to Room One's peerless Martin Audio set-up. After the briefest of sojourns to Room Three, where Thugfucker were rolling it out to a small crowd, I returned to the main room, now in the grips of Craig Richards' warm-up special. By now the dancefloor was heaving and hot-tempered, prompting crowd surges for every clumsy hop down from the stage. As clichéd at it sounds, by the time Villalobos took over the controls at 6:30 AM it felt more like an over-stuffed rock gig than a club night.
One of the secrets to being a great DJ is to play music that everyone loves, but nobody knows. Ricardo Villalobos is someone who's built a career around this formula. His blend of gritty, golden-era tech house and exotic South American flair has an everyman appeal. At the same time, he manages to remain largely elusive to trainspotters. That said, there were a few old favourites: Kenny Larkin's remix of Kevin Saunderson's "Future," Housemaster Boyz' recent repress and his own much-loved "Dexter." Yet for the bulk of his four-hour stint, he rifled through percussion-led bangers of unknown origins. Add to that the host of intangible qualities Villalobos brings—charisma, creative mixing, a constant sense of drama—and it's easy to see why his fabric dates have become a tradition for so many.