Party promoters Hotbox have been steamrolling as of late, with mammoth events throughout 2018 and into the New Year. After inviting some of the scene’s biggest stars in the shape of Claptone, Sonny Fodera, Fisher and Camelphat, the brand are firmly cementing their place in London’s busy rave circuit. Continuing to up their game with each event, Hotbox landed their biggest gig to date at Tobacco Dock.
Titled LOST! In The Dock, Hotbox enlisted 5 room hosts across the venue, including Franky Rizardo’s Flow, The Following by Disciples, MK’s Area 10 label, a Relentless branded disco room and HotBed in the VIP room.
Once used to receive and store tobacco from overseas, this unique industrial playground has now become the venue of choice for LWE events, who hold exclusive music rights to the space for 8 events a year. Comprising of 3 main areas, The Great Gallery, The Car Park and The Terrace (aka The Gallery) housed 10,000 ravers between them along with a VIP room and pop up disco room in the centre of the venue.
Top marks for staff here, always helpful and friendly and most importantly well organised, with entry taking a matter of minutes. Plenty of staff to cover the bars kept queue times to a minimum and raving times to a maximum!
Run via a token system which are proven to reduce waiting times, drink prices were fairly standard given the location and event – although had increased since our last visit in only December last year. Multiple bars within the space were available to spread the queues and save you walking half a mile to the nearest pint. Priced at £1 a token, drinks were on sale for :
Beer : £5.50
Cider : £6
Spirit & mixer : £6.50
Wine : £6.50
Water : £3
Previous events have seen heat issues in the parts of the venue, however a few fan installations kept the majority of the space at a comfortable temperature, even at peak times. The Car Park however did gain quite some heat, but given the nature of the dark and dingy room, the heat was arguably part of the experience.
With house/tech house favouring a younger fan base, many fresh faces were among the crowd. However the addition of HotBed hosting the VIP room balanced out the age range & background with all walks of life partying together enjoying the electric atmosphere.
Production & Sound
The various pillars and beams located within The Great Gallery make it an ideal space for lighting options. A share of well placed spot lights, lasers and strobes combined with a new installation of triangular LED panels behind the decks created a thrilling visual experience. Down into the depths of The Car Park saw a real gritty, outlandish contrast – with minimal natural light setting a pitch black viewing experience at times, whilst squared light boxes shooting rays of colour along the length of the space completed the scene.
Receiving another makeover since it’s fairly recent change to The Gallery (which saw the space more than double in size), the new Terrace room received it’s debut outing. Stripping back the curtains and camo netting, beaming light was shone through the room’s glass ceiling giving a real day party atmosphere.
Across the three rooms saw some quality sound on offer, with the car park taking our pick of the bunch. The L- Acoustics system boomed through the concrete space in full force, with the tucked away underground arena having little-to-no restrictions. The Great Gallery too offered a high fidelity sound experience, however some cornered areas were quieter than others.
UK duo PAX have exploded into the limelight in recent years, with a plethora of releases on some of the industry’s most respected labels including elrow, Sola, Toolroom and ABODE. With a number one summer hit “Electric Feel” and numerous other top 10s, they were certainly on our to-do list for the day.
Heading into our favourite room of Tobacco Dock, we emerged into the rave abyss of the car park. Blue lighting was pulsing through thick smoke, whilst a darker side of tech house pumped through the underground space. Jesse Perez’s “Sheneneh” set to be released on DFTD was just what the rave crowd wanted, with the track’s breakbeat tones and thunderous bassline complementing the 90s rave-esque setting perfectly.
After the set’s pace continued to build, the snappy vocals of Leonardo Gonnelli’s – “She Likes It” left the atmosphere at an all time high. “Thank you, thank you and fuck you!” sang out of the speakers before a thumping tech house drop tore through the car park, fuelling the crowd with energy for the rest of the day. A clean cut performance from PAX, demonstrating their versatility as artists.
Next on our agenda was Bristol native, Eli Brown. Known for his sound’s relentless speed and intoxicating track selection, the DJ/producer is quickly becoming one of tech house’s most in-demand acts.
Getting things going with a bang, Max Chapman’s forthcoming release on Sola “Formanto” oozed it’s euphoric build up into the venue’s main room, leaving the crowd’s hands in the air with cheers all around. Not stopping there, Eli kept the room glued to the dance floor bringing in a remix of Ninetoes’ iconic hit “Finder”. The instantly recognisable build up raised the spirits of the room before merging into a deep tech house groove – top notch selections from Eli Brown.
Keeping the tempo high and the beats rolling, German DJ/Producer Claptone took to the decks in the Great Gallery. The famous masked man had just the tools to ignite the crowd with a second wind as we drew closer to the end of an action-packed day. Martin Ikin’s “99” rippled through the room’s speakers in emphatic fashion, before “Promised Land” by Kinnerman sent the crowd into a frenzy. The track’s energetic build up and instantly recognisable beat have been a favoured selection of Claptone’s during many of his sets.
Partial to a bit of production himself, the masked man’s very own vocal anthem “The Drums” featured as we entered the tail end of the performance. This matched with an eruption of Co2 cannons had us all two-stepping our way into the closing 2 hours from Area 10 boss; MK.
DJ, producer, remixer and undeniably iconic figure in the house music scene. Marc Kinchen has championed his chopped up, classic dub and piano-laden sound in all corners of the dance music world, with over 500 titles receiving the signature MK twist. With plenty of experience behind him, the Great Gallery room host knew exactly how to make an entrance.
Teasing the packed out crowd with snippets of tracks like “Back & Forth” and his remixes of “Cycles” and “Painkiller” had everyone on their toes, trying to guess what would come next. Before fading the room to almost silence, Back & Forth’s uplifting vocal chorus belted through the sound system and with it an army of lasers fired into the crowd, filling the room with colour.
The artist’s impressive discography became a theme of the performance, with “Piece Of Me”, “17” (In The Air Dub) and his remix of Dua Lipa’s “Electricity” leaving our vocal chords needing a rest to recover. A show-stopping finale from the Area 10 head honcho.
A landmark event for Hotbox as their on-trend music policy continues to make some serious noise. Further consideration to sound levels in some areas of the venue would be great to see for future events at Tobacco Dock, and hopefully a lock on drink prices! Nevertheless, stand out performances from MK, Claptone and many others along with small but effective touches of extra production made all the difference in making LOST! in the DOCK one to remember. 8.5/10
Words: Ben Lovejoy & Neil Ritchie
Images: Shotaway, Luke Dyson & First Light Media