With the recent growth of the underground dance scene, it’s not unusual to find yourself spoilt for choice when looking to go out in Dublin City. That’s even more so the case on a bank holiday Sunday. Mano Le Tough was going up against Karenn (Blawan/Pariah), Chris Leibing and Jeff Mills in the bid to draw a crowd and ultimately throw a great party. While that’s no small task, Mano’s name attracts with it a certain amount of respect and appreciation from the Irish crowd and this was evident from the turnout on the night.
Opium Rooms, which, in a past life was a club called The Village known for chart music, drink deals and first year college students, has been revamped and rebranded with the intention of playing host to world renowned underground DJs. The likes of Detroit Swindle, Phil Hartnoll, Skream and Groove Armada have already made appearances. Definitely a cool venue, suited to the style of music Mano is so well known for playing. The main room’s high ceiling and relatively narrow width allows for an all-encompassing soundscape that really captivates its audience and this night was no different in that regard. The sheer anticipation of Mano taking to the stage had the crowd in a whirlwind of excitement as Lil’ Dave (the label manager of Maeve Records, a label run by Mano Le Tough, The Drifter and Baikal) wrapped up his energetic yet tame warm up set. It was clear from his tune selection that this man knew how to warm up for Mano.
Mano started as expected with a fantastic melodic breakdown, giving his crowd a moment to gather themselves in preparation for the incoming waves of percussion and low frequency vibrations. It’s during these lulls that Mano’s passion for his craft really shines through. It’s during these breaks that we get a glimpse into his deep love for beautiful sounds. The way in which he fuses heartfelt vocals, synthesized melodies and hard hitting drums always guarantees an emotional set.
To give you a taste of the rich quality of Mano’s tune selection, I’ve included this absolutely wonderful piece by Floating Points, ‘Nuits Sonores’.
Focused and in control, Mano brought us on a three hour journey that oscillated between tranquillity and euphoria. Full of long blends and perfectly timed EQ control, Mano’s mixing was just as flawless as his tune selection. It’s important to appreciate when a DJ can back up his production with technical skill behind a set of decks and Mano is no stranger to a pair of CDJs. Although he grew up in Dublin, it wasn’t until he moved to Berlin in 2009 that he got heavily involved in the scene. It was very clear to see that he learned his craft in probably the best city in the world to do so. There was a great sense of the influence of the Panorama Bar, in which Mano held his album launch in 2013, from the way in which he shaped his set.
It’s also very important for me to be able to see that a DJ is enjoying himself while he works and without doubt, Mano had fun. At times it felt as though the crowd were his puppets and he was our puppet master, gently tugging on our strings, giving us a moment to catch our breath, then ripping hard on them with melodies that cut through the entire mix. Aware of his crowd control, he’d take a step back to appreciate the crowd for their devotion to him with a couple of over the head claps before returning to his deck duties. Not once did he let a mix go out of control, a light handed flick of the jog-wheel, a disciplined touch of the pitch fader and then focus would shift back to the mixer with full confidence that the two tracks were perfectly aligned with one another.
As the night went on, the melodic breaks gave way to progressively heavier tracks and an increase in tempo. By 3am, the energy in the room temporarily ‘lifted the smoking ban’ and Mano’s people took full advantage of the opportunity to get a nicotine fix without missing a single beat of the magical journey they were witnessing. Nothing could accurately describe the euphoria as the night rolled on towards 4am. Mano toyed with his audience, leaving nothing but the highest frequency sounds in the mix, the crowd begging for more before he finally gave it to us.
To wrap up, Mano played a (presumably unreleased) remix of Moloko’s Sing It Back which used the original track’s vocal elements infused with dark dubby sounds and heavy percussion. To hear the crowd sing it back to him and to catch him grinning cheekily towards Lil’ Dave as they did so, was a perfect moment.
Kristian Beyer of Âme once said “Thanks to Mano Le Tough, I have no fears for the future of house music” and after witnessing him turn Opium Rooms into a haven for heartfelt, emotional music I can safely say I feel the very same.