Beyond The Club: Family rave DJs – Baker & Beale
Say Kids, What Time is It?
It’s official: Raving and parenting are actually an exceptional blend of life roles and goals. Previously considered a scary oxymoron, and only ever attempted when a family member is up for a marathon babysitting sesh, the two now come hand in hand thanks to family raves.
One of the biggest clubland trends this decade; ‘family raves’ tap into a growing generation of ravers who are now parents. Not only do they refuse to hang up their raving boots, but they want to introduce the pleasures of a good old skank on the dancefloor to their kids. They’re not just having it large to any old DJs either; events such as Big Fish Little Fish, the most prominent and longest running family rave events in the UK (who created this phenomenon and recently sold out London institution Fabric) are famed for regularly booking iconic and cult DJs. Names such as Basement Jaxx, Tom Middleton, 2 Bad Mice, London Elektricity, Nookie and Mark Archer have all graced the BFLF decks.
Two hours later we were covered in paint, off our rockers on Haribo and it was a massive buzz
Their in house DJs Iain Baker and Dylan Beale know how to smash it, too. Like the best resident DJs, they’re often better than the guests because they know the crowd; they know exactly what to draw, when to draw it and how to mix it in… For a crowd predominantly made of nought to eight year olds.
But if you’re wondering what tracks will make a five year old throw their shoe, demand a rewind or suddenly start having aspirations to join a horn crew when they grow up, think again; Baker & Beale’s golden rule isn’t to play for the kids… It’s to play for the mums. Like most things in family life, if mum’s happy, everyone’s happy. This now applies to raving too. Find out more on one of the most beautifully bizarre and totally wholesome new clubbing experiences this century.
Take us back. How did you become residents at family raves?
Baker: I’ve been working with them since the very first one. Before then I had a long career DJing and I’d got to the point where I was doing little jobs. Partly because I had a family but also I was doing a lot of indie nights and had run down the path of just becoming what’s known as a shuffle DJ. You’re an iPod playing on shuffle. A bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of something else. It’s not very fulfilling. When I was invited to play at Big Fish Little Fish I wasn’t sure what to expect but, as soon as I played, it all made sense and made me want to be a DJ again.
You were re-inspired!
Baker: Completely. Before then I’d play some dub, then some Eagles, then some Killers. You can do it without mixing and all those things you learn as a DJ evaporate. But at Big Fish Little Fish you’re forced to be a club DJ again and it is totally inspiring.
How about you Dylan?
Beale: I hadn’t DJ’d for years either. I used to DJ a lot a long time ago, I still had my decks and vinyl in the shed. Iain invited me to come and play at an event in Hobbledown on a boiling hot summer’s day in Epsom. I couldn’t get my head around what we were supposed to play and who the audience were. Two hours later we were covered in paint, off our rockers on Haribo and it was a massive buzz. It made me realise what I missed.
You were half of jungle act Rude & Deadly, right?
Beale: That’s right. Shortly afterwards I ended up working in video games, writing music and creating sound FX. That took over from DJing and producing jungle and drum & bass. But I was hooked after my first Big Fish Little Fish experience. Watching people having a blast on the dancefloor is great but watching them enjoy it with their kids is another level. The key thing we’ve learnt is to not play for the kids. If the parents are dancing, the kids will too.
Baker: They enjoy it vicariously through them. We almost bypass the kids; we’re letting them decipher it themselves through understanding the body language and energy of their parents.
These kids are starting to understand the dynamics of the music and can feel the tune moving
Beale: The founder Hannah is really smart. She aims the events to kids from nought to eight. After that age they start to be a little embarrassed by their parents but before then they’re happy as Larry to dance with mum and dad
So how about warming up for bigger guest DJs. Do you hold back a little?
Baker: Not really. But we don’t tend to worry about this because we do things a little bit differently. I know every DJ says that but genuinely we’ve got a different ways of looking at things. We know what we play is going to be different because of experience and how we approach things.
Beale: We play with so many different DJs. Basement Jaxx, for example, have a very different set to us. We’re also conscious of what Hannah has set out for her brand. What she’s created absolutely works. It works because you’ve got two and a half hours to please everyone. You want people to leave going ‘wow they played ‘Chime’, they played ‘RIP Groove’, they played ‘Incredible.’’ Any of those genres. You can play anything from an ’88 classic to anything a brand new jump up VIP and they’ll be happy. The audiences are very important to be aware of, too; the Maltings in Farnham is very different to Vauxhall Fire. We played a full on techno set in Fire, which definitely wouldn’t have worked in The Maltings. I didn’t think it was going to work in Fire but it really did. We played 128BPM German and Detroit techno for two hours and they loved it.
Kids are amazing, they say funny things and do funny things. What’s the weirdest or funniest thing that’s been seen behind the decks?
Baker: The funniest thing is what we see almost every set. You never expect kids to get it on the same level, or the same plane, as their parents do. But there are moments when you see a group of kids around the DJ booth and they’re punching the air and whooping. You can see them reacting to key elements of the tune such as the drop or when the 303 kicks in or when the breaks take off. These kids are starting to understand the dynamics of the music and can feel the tune moving. This is stuff that takes seasoned clubbers a while to get, and these kids are four! You can see it passing over their face and they completely get it. That’s really interesting. For us it’s a cultural moment, like ‘hey this is a significant and important tune from 95’ now 30 years later a kid who was born in the middle of the 2010s suddenly for the first time in his life appreciates that.
I’ve got goosebumps from you telling me that!
Beale: Absolutely. Seeing a five-year-old having a Joey Beltram epiphany on the stage in Fire while his dad holds him on stage so he can stare at the decks with his mind blown is definitely ‘a moment’.
Baker: It’s beautiful and it happens a lot. They way we work well as a DJ team helps. We’re similar people but as DJs we come from different directions and meet in the middle. Dylan is a tech guy, he’s way better than I am. Technically he’s amazing. I’m the guy who reads the crowd. So with him looking down and me looking up we bring these moments out of people and hopefully the kids get it. We’ve got a really complementary combination and have an absolute ball doing it, too.
What’s been your favourite request?
Beale: A little kid ran up to us in Nottingham and his mum waved over. She asked if he could ask for his favourite tune. I said ‘yeah okay’ and really didn’t know what he was going to suggest. Then he asked, very sweetly, ‘have you got ‘Born Slippy’?’ We did… And they went nuts for it!
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