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Danny Howells -Room, Melbourne: 5.5.2006

Author: Persia Hill
Friday, 12 May 2006
Lately I've noticed that the stereotypical, jaded, veteran international DJ who thinks themselves better than their lowly fans are becoming a rare breed. After his show at Room on Friday night, I can connfirm that Danny Howells is certainly indicative of this trend. On the surface, you could be forgiven for assuming fame has gone to his head, having heard stories about Howells being the 'fashionista of the progressive scene'. With that one would expect a bit of snobbery in him. Add to this his long list of achievements: the fact that he is revered as a DJ, producer and re-mixer; his consistently high rankings in best DJ lists; and 14 formidable years of DJ experience. This man's status is so high that someone has actually made an action hero of him!

Last Friday I was satisfied to see none of this fame has affected the delivery of his sets or feelings towards his fans. During the entire 3.5 hours he maintained immense energy and spontaneity, revealing thatt obvious passion still resides in getting out there and DJ'ing.

I expected that there would be a significant crowd at Room when I arrived at 11.30pm. Room is known for putting the headlining DJ on quite late and that, combined with the dreadful weather outside, meant that the majority of people actually arrived after 12.00am. Management at Room obviously expected a quiet night as they had placed big burgundy walls around the sides of the dance floor. Perhaps it was to make the place seem more intimate but it actually really restricted the view of people sitting on seats behind them. Room seemed to get quite a significant amount of sales on the door as by 12.30am the place was packed.

Mark James played a fantastic set before Howells with heaps of driving progressive and trance. It was reminiscent of the quality sets he used to play years ago, and I find they don't seem to be delivered in the same manner these days. Perhaps I should look back to my first point.

The charismatic Howells was welcomed to the booth with an announcement from Mark James (someone who never seems to shy away from the microphone). The announcement was not really necessary though as it was obvious Howells had arrived by the thunderous applause and whistling that was reverberating throughout Room.

Listening to his latest 'Choice' cd, I knew Howells musical influences span many genres and I was expecting an interesting set. I was particularly fascinated and looking forward to learning why Howells has coined his style as "deepsexyfuturistictechfunkhouse."

That mouthy description is an apt summary of his style as Howells managed to blend a range of genres throughout his sensational and eclectic set. He commenced his rhythmic journey on a slower note, with some Miami'esque melodic house tracks and it continually intenstified thoughout the night with darker, rocking progressive, funked-up electro and ending with banging tech-trance.

Howells was more than happy to have hoards of people around him taking photographs; he even gave them a few zany looks and quirky grins, helping people to take some amusing snaps.

I have heard criticism that he played too predictably and not cutting edge enough, but he still managed to keep me enthralled and entertained. I found that to really appreciate the experience of Howells you need to take his set in its entirety. I may get in trouble for this, but he's a welcome change from DJs intent on always playing unreleased, unknown tracks. Like he did in his Miami cd, he played a number of classic and recently released tracks that have not necessarily had much air play. He still managed to break away from convention with a huge variation of track selection and styles and of course he threw in a few unknowns to keep the purveyors satisfied. As all of his sets tend to be, he played a little unpredictably and left of centre but, that made it all the more interesting.