There was a time when to procure a ticket to an Eton Messy event within three days of its happening, one would have to sell a pound of flesh, a small child, or even worse: negotiate with sellers on the Buy/Sell Tickets (Notts Uni) page, touting the much coveted tickets at extortionate prices. This was not, however, the case for the DJ collective’s visit to Stealth on Friday night, where, an hour before the event, only the first and second of four ticket releases had sold out, and it felt that the capacity of Room 1 did not rise above three-quarters full.
Club music is a fickle, fast changing scene. Two years ago, anybody who was “on it” about what was cool to be seen skanking to on the d-floor was about house; the deeper, the better – added cred if it featured a heavily filtered RnB classic sung over the top. If you weren’t entirely sure about how to keep the lads happy at pres, just chuck on Majestic Casual and let them do the work. So when Bristol student Adam Englefield came along with Eton Messy, a DJ collective that combined house grooves with garage, big drops and a sprinkling of classic tunes, and even offered hour-long “Messy Mixes” as free downloads, they were incredibly popular. They were smooth, they were current, they were cool.
Now, in 2015, the dance music landscape has changed. The snapbackers have moved onto grime, 90s sports gear is considered acceptable attire, house music is no longer reserved for a hipster and his mate Mandy and everybody has Bieber Fever. Electronic Dance Music has gone mainstream and the variety of club nights is greater and farther-reaching than ever before (even Student Clubber promotes a house and RnB night). So where does that leave Eton Messy?
The clue is in the headliner: Jax Jones. The DJ had a UK Number One in January 2014 for his collaboration with Duke Dumont on “I Got U”, a track that was instrumental in bringing house music to the mainstream, showing that a repetitive beat could still be melodic, catchy and shift units. Eton Messy knows that the house scene has grown and it has embraced it, and it will continue to deliver feel-good, accessible tunes, with basslines that make you want to dance while still keeping the guilty out of their pleasures.
The focus in the music was on delivering big drop after big drop, keeping the audience engaged and mobile. At a time when it is becoming more popular to keep the audience waiting for the bass to kick in, these DJs ignored the trends – they just want to keep your feet moving. Eton Messy provides the perfect middle ground for clubbers by providing something for everyone, whether your album of the year is 25 or Garden of Delete. This was demonstrated when, at one point, Jax Jones played a deep house mix of Uptown Funk, causing some revellers to film the triumphant scene to broadcast to their Snapchat followers while another group grumbled and used it as an excuse to migrate to the smoking area.
The night felt like one of transition for the Eton Messy brand. The crowd was highly mixed, the venue wasn’t full and the songs, though always smoothly transitioned, were hit and miss. The room was hard to read, which can’t have made things easy for the DJ, and the atmosphere could, at times, feel self-conscious. As nightlife continues to constantly mutate, so does the collective’s place in the world. They’re no longer delivering a type of music that can’t be found elsewhere, though they’re still doing it better than most. They were once, after all, at the forefront. Though not as innovative as an Eton Messy night used to be, Friday night at least asserted one thing: they know how to bring the fun.