A big highlight for many of us this year was getting stuck back into our favourite pastime - clubbing. After a year and a half of our dancefloors being shut, 2021 saw them reopen again throughout the UK. Though for many it was a slow start, by the end of this year we all found ourselves well and truly back in the swing of things. To celebrate the triumphant return of live music, festivals and clubbing we caught up with DJs and artists to reflect on the dancefloor moments that defined their 2021 — from nerves of anticipation to emotional reunions.
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"I don’t think I expected to feel as much terror as I did when I first walked into the club after lockdown. [The first] was The White Hotel’s 54-hour opening weekend, I got there an hour or two before my set and spent that time stuck to the walls thinking about '[COVID] particles' every time someone spoke to me or hugged me [laughs]. I climbed up into the cage at 6:30AM to start, and I was ready for a rushy, sort of nervous buzz, but this really strange and quiet wave of calmness washed over me instead.
"Booted off with an Acen track I’d been scheming on playing at the first party back for about 16 months, and I couldn’t stop smiling. So happy and content whizzing through tunes and stealing moments to chat with pals who popped up in the booth. Towards the end, I played ‘Unravel In The Designated Zone’ and looked up when I heard people singing the whirly synth melody back to me. I realised that making the track, releasing the track, even starting my label — everything had been done in complete solitude. For the first time, at that moment it dawned on me that it really did exist outside the walls of my little flat. Wild."
My favourite clubbing moment was the Jamie XX, Four Tet and Skrillex b3b at MOTH club. I was sitting in the park with an extreme hangover this day, while my friend Serena (aka Peach) and her friends were skateboarding, with no voice or dignity left in my body - after a multiple-day sesh. While I was sitting there minding my business, a few strangers told me Skrillex was playing at a small venue, but it was sold out and I wouldn't be able to get in. Clearly, they didn't know I was the original thot and this was definitely not my first rodeo, I am the guest list finesse god.
It was around 9:PM when we pulled up to the venue in an uber. I walked up to the security with no hesitation and told them I was on the guestlist and slid by, then we were on to the guest list person, I was like: "Hi, I'm Chippy' I should be on the list (not on the list at all), she responded, "can't find you." I said: "I should be on there [Ahadadream] put me on there." I had a quick one min back and forth with her, eventually, she gave up and said: "Just go in." As I walked in I saw my friend Chloé [Robinson] and DJ ADHD and immediately got escorted into VIP. The night went on with an epic B3b with Four Tet, Skrillex and Jamie XX - banger after banger, I was dancing on every raised platform I could find. I somehow found myself on the decks playing b2b with Skrillex and - long story short - an after-party at Skrillex's house. And that was just the beginning.
"Most memorable moment for me was definitely going b2b with Special Request for Four Tet Curates at The Warehouse Project. We played the Depot at prime time and I can't remember the last time I got so nervous before a set, but what an incredible experience it was! Special shouts to Special Request who made the whole experience so much less nerve-racking and taught me to just enjoy myself in these moments.”
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“Oh this is such a hard question! I've been lucky enough to play some amazing shows this year: The Warehouse Project, Gala, All Points East, FLY Open Air, my all night long show at Steel Yard, We Out Here... there’s so many. But I think the main thing that has stood out for me is how everyone has just been so excited to be back on a dancefloor! From a DJs point of view, you can really feel the buzz, and I didn’t realise how much I missed that feeling.”
“Without a doubt, playing at Phonox (one of my favourite spaces in London) on the re-opening weekend was a night I will never forget. The energy in the room was unbelievable. My set was full of pent-up energy and relief to be back in the booth, it was one of my favourite sets ever and I’ve loved hearing people’s stories from that night too. Even watching back videos now, I still get goosebumps. Closing with Kylie’s ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ was one of those euphoric feel-good moments. That night was perfect. I was so grateful to be back doing what I love.”
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"My first time back in the club after lockdown was seeing Eris Drew and Club Fitness at my fave venue in London — Corsica Studios, at the Gala after-party on July 31. I couldn't have chosen a better party to go back to. Both of their sets were amazing and made me realise how much I had missed clubbing. It was the first time Eris and I had met and it felt really special. I was so inspired that I went back home and finished a tune to open my Brainchild Festival set with soon after. It was also the first time I had seen Club Fitness play and I was totally blown away, definitley one of my favourite DJs at the moment!"
"I didn’t have to think long about my favourite club moment, Keep Hush Festival back in August was definitely a highlight of the year. Myself and Yanis (Dr Dubplate) had both played Hidden in Manchester the night before, we were both 'angin. I remember us both being sat in Burger King in Tottenham looking at each other like ‘how are we gonna do this?’. As soon as we got to the venue, the vibe changed - the sun was shining and the venue was heaving. We were blessed that day with weather, stage and set time. Every single tune we dropped had a roaring crowd, everyone together pure rowdy from start to finish. I have to thank the Keep Hush crew for putting us on that day, the chemistry with Yanis and the crowd was unreal."
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“For sure one of my most memorable clubbing moments of 2021 has to be my first show this year (and my first gig after a crazy year and a half) in August 2021 at Serbia's Love Fest. I even got to play three times at the festival: I closed the Main Stage on day one, then played a very special b2b with Seth Troxler at the Pool Stage afterparty the following afternoon and, as if that wasn't already enough emotions being that again my first gig after that long, I also filled in for an act that dropped out on the main stage! Absolutely fantastic. Pure emotions. Those few days were really, really special for me. Another memorable clubbing moment this year that's absolutely worth the mention would be my own party at Bret in Amsterdam, on ADE Sunday - I played there 14 hours straight, what a journey, but man, what a vibe! Pure magic.”
“Sharing the 'Rare, Forever' live show for the first time at We Out Here Festival earlier in August was a particular highlight for me. An attentive and open-minded festival crowd is a joy to play for, but even more so after a two-year hiatus performing live. Lots of hard work goes on behind the scenes putting together a live show, though the memory of exhaustive rehearsals and pre-production quickly dissipates when you've played your last song and are rewarded by an appreciative audience.”
"My highlight from this year would undoubtedly be my all night long show at Village Underground. Having not played out since before the lockdown and this being one of my first shows back it was quite the ride. Having connected with so many new listeners on my NTS show through lockdown, this was the first time we were all in the same room together. It was such a rush being able to play all night long and I could feel the energy from the first record I played. It was electric and not just a clubbing highlight of 2021, but a highlight of my life that I'll never forget."
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"I resurrected my night 'Glory To Sound' and it was the first party we've done since 2019 and we sold it out. Line-up was Nooriyah, Dar Disku, Moving Still, Disco Tehran, Mehmooni, and myself on warm-up duties. It was one of the most fun nights I've ever had because all the music was so good, and the crowd was amazing. It was really diverse, but with a strong Middle Eastern contingent because of the line-up, and they really know how to dance and get involved with the music. There were dance circles, and chanting and clapping and it was all so energetic and uplifting.
"My favourite moment of 2021 was watching Simo Cell DJ at Dekmantel Selectors. It was a really inspiring set, I saw him go from the beginning with space in front of the stage to completely packed and everyone really locked into his set. He travelled to so many places with his tunes and everyone was there with me. It was really refreshing to see such an open-minded and engaged audience. It was also really nice to see Simo smiling when he was playing tunes he liked. Kit, Ploy and Mad Miran were having a blast. Everyone was happy. It was too good."
"Mine would definitely have to be the moment we opened the doors for our debut Body Movements Festival after two reschedules and a horrendous two years for the clubbing community, my eyes welled up when I heard 'doors open' across the radio, we'd actually made it. 4000 queers graced the streets and venues of Hackney Wick and brought so many of those in our community back together since dancing was forced to end"
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“So this year I decided to make the move to Berlin, and the club culture here has taken my heart. The unique architecture, being in more queer spaces and its extended hours for extra fun! It’s been so nice raving, even only for those couple of months as we’re back to the winter shut-in - and I’ve already made some memories. But for me, it was playing the Mala Junta takeover at Berghain. For 12 hours it was non-stop sexy vibes and something that this iconic institution really needs for its future! Massive love to the Mala Junta family for inviting me along, also a special mention to the last party we did at Æden!”