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Feature: Global On The Ground

The recent volcanic explosion in Iceland caused chaos for DJs across Europe, with the dust only just beginning to settle from a fortnight of cancellations, rescheduling and daunting overground journeys. Juno Plus scribe Tom Jones – himself stuck in Germany as a result of the flying ban – spoke to some DJs stranded abroad (and at home) about how they were affected, and discovered that every volcanic ash cloud has a silver lining…

When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano shot its load recently, it’s fair to say it caused a decent amount of disruption. Fair enough, it might have shut down European air space for a few days leaving tens of thousands of people stranded far from home, it may have cost the airline industry around £1.7bn (take that Michael O’Leary) and it might have even woken up a few Icelandic sheep as they took their afternoon naps, but when it started to affect clubbers’ weekends the world over, the feisty volcano really had gone too far. Halting gigs from Australia to Italy, clubbers were left uncertain as to which DJs had made it to their final destinations, which clubs were affected or even if the nights were still going ahead at all. Despite the problem being centred in northern Europe, its effects were truly global as DJs got stuck both on their way in and out of the continent.

Clive Henry, for example, got caught in Dubai as the volcanic ash grounded flights back into Europe. We traded emails with the Circo Loco man whilst he was still stranded to find out what he was up to.

Clive Henry:

Where have you been stranded? Dubai.

How long for? Since Wednesday April 14.

What gigs have you missed as a result? I missed Rebel Rave in Lille on Sat April 17 with Jamie Jones and Damian Lazarus.

What have you been doing? Trying to sort out getting home!

Have you been out much? Yeah I have been out a bit. I went to Rooftop for Djuma Sound System from Get Physical then 360 Bar on Jumeirah Beach. Also watched Barcelona get spanked by Inter Milan in the Champions League and went to Horizon Bar and Bartini in the Palms. Going to see Matt “Radio Slave” Edwards at the Rooftop tomorrow.

Which albums have kept you going? The Soul Clap EFunk WMC mix comp. And Chloe Harris’ Indie B- Sides mix tape.

How are you getting back? I’ll be getting a flight to Paris via Doha then a totally overpriced Eurostar to London on Sunday April 25.

Ethyl & Flori:

With their ever rising reputation, Ethyl & Flori set off for Austria to play their first ever international gig. It didn’t quite work out as they planned but it certainly sounded like they were having fun out there when we spoke to the strandees a few days into their extended trip.

Where have you been stranded? Vienna.

How long for? Five days so far.

What gigs have you missed as a result? Well fortunately the gig I missed was also cancelled due to unpronounceable volcanic activities or otherwise.  We’ve also stood in for similarly stranded DJs, replacing Steffi at a festival over here; so it has worked out pretty nicely.

What have you been doing? We’ve been well looked after by our Vienna connection from Praterei (who initially booked us) and have been gorging on local food and floozies.  The SNES has also played a significant part in our lives.  Donkey Kong 1 & 2 and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ have really tested our mettle and we’ve been to the oldest zoo in the world. On a musical musing, we’ve spent a couple of days in our good friend Felix’s studio among some vintage hardware and rare LPs.

Have you been out much? Every night!

Which albums have kept you going? The new Erykah Badu album, New Amerykah Part Two has kept the blood pressure down.

How are you getting back? The wonderful people at the orange airline are sorting out replacement flights now so we’ll be back in old Blighty in no time.

It seems that DJs filling in for one another whilst stuck in different corners of the globe became the way out for many clubs, DJs and promoters. After a long journey, Ewan Pearson made his European dates and even filled in for a friend. “By the miracle of the railway (9 hours there, 9 hours back tomorrow), I will be DJing at Cabaret in Zurich. Am also filling in for Will Saul at the Aus night at Panoramabar on Sunday morning from 9.”

There was plenty of filling in for people at home too where British DJs adhered to the spirit of the Blitz and took to the decks at clubs up and down the country. In London, Motor City Drum Ensemble cancelled his highly anticpated appearance at Plastic People, but local heroes Will Saul and Jamie Jones stepped in to fill the breach. GU cohort Anil Chawla told us about how his weekend got disturbed. “Well, I didn’t have any overseas stuff last weekend, but on the other side of that, I did get called into Ministry to play the gallery as Erik Cupper’s flight was cancelled. I’m supposed to be playing in Sharm next weekend too, so hopefully that goes ahead.”Matt Tolfrey also spoke to us about what he was up to over the weekend.

Matt Tolfrey:

Where have you been stranded? Funnily enough I got stranded in London all weekend.

How long for? TBC!

What gigs have you missed as a result? I missed a weekend in Italy because of the volcano.

What have you been doing? Luckily as Fabric was missing DJs I got to fill in there on Saturday.
Inxec and I filled in for MANDY and played room one from 5-8.30am.

Which albums have kept you going? We have just started ours so that has been keeping us going studio wise!

Further afield, we saw cancellations nearly everywhere. Last weekend, Hernan Cattaneo announced, “I’m very sorry to say that due to the cancellation of all flights at European airports, unfortunately,  I will not be able to make it to Singapore & Indonesia this weekend. We tried all options, but there is no way to get there for Friday or Saturday. I will try to go again as soon as possible.”

By Wednesday, things were looking up for the Argentine who posted this on his Facebook wall. “Yes, on my way to Australia!” James Zabiela couldn’t leave the UK “due to continued air travel conditions making travel impossible” whilst Joris Voorn couldn’t make it in for his date at Fabric. The Dutchman also missed gigs elsewhere over the weekend. “Flights to Tel Aviv yesterday and today have been cancelled. So sorry everyone, hope to be there some other time soon!”

Whilst I was myself stranded in Frankfurt, it did not go unnoticed that the city’s veteran techno don, Sven Vath was having no problems whatsoever. The jammy little German confirmed before the weekend that his gigs were definitely going ahead. “Just to let you that my gigs in Bella Italia on the coming weekend are not in danger of cancellation – I’m leaving South America and am on my way to Spain now.”

As the flight restrictions ease and DJs are once more jet-setting to and from venues around the globe, we can look back and be reminded once again, that the party will always go on. No amount of volcanic ash will ever stop the DJs from stepping into the club to do what they love – nor will they ever stop the fans from filling the clubs every weekend for a night of music, dancing and strobe lights. Volcanic ash? We’ve already got smoke machines – bring it on Eyjafjallajokull…

Words: Tom Jones