Gilles Peterson at Phonox Brixton: Making Sunday’s great again

Last Sunday, Brixton’s Phonox welcomed Gilles Peterson for its growing Sunday session. The thoughtfully curated weekly event promises DJ’s that “celebrate the true diversity in global dance music and can dig a little deeper than your average.”

The eclectic DJ and Brownswood label owner seemed the perfect choice for this event which, being held on Sundays 5pm until 12, runs the risk of a bit of an identity crisis – is it a clubnight? Is it a gig? Do I need to do my hair properly and will there be any kind of cheese board on offer?

(No food I’m afraid, but bottomless Bloody Mary’s until 7pm, so you can stock up on celery.)

We entered at 8pm, bellies full of roast dinner and Saturday night hangover lurking in the background, anticipating a gentle shuffle to some beats and brass and some light conversation about the modern face of jazz.

At £10 a ticket, or £15 on the door, this was more than a casual jazz night at the pub, but the early entrance and school night curfew meant that I wasn’t expecting too much of a party vibe.

Thankfully, you can trust a London crowd of students, freelancers and school night deniers to throw themselves into the dancefloor and, as if I’d ever doubted, you can trust Gilles Peterson to keep the atmosphere just right for a 6 hour Sunday night set.

The packed-out venue stomped, samba’d and jazz-head-bobbled through an eclectic mix of world, jazz and shuffling 2-step, as well as disco classics, Detroit techno and even a bit of jungle. A real mixed bag of records, with a harmonica player in the booth, who accompanied most of the set and helped to bring the far-reaching musical styles together as a flowing performance.

This set worked because it had something for everyone. Funky beats and party classics got the crowd moving, but the more obscure sounds were never watered down. He got away with dropping Jungle is Massive and Luther Vandross because they were sandwiched between some non-linear jazz or an African drum solo. The jazz heads got their fix, the Shazzamers could make their new playlist, the party atmosphere continued and the set was inclusive to all.

The crowd was friendly, non-aggy and hilariously wasted for 8pm. The Sunday night time slot meant that the usual Saturday night stragglers that tend to appear in Phonox, were nowhere to be seen. If you’re out on a Sunday, you’re out for a reason – everyone who came, came to see Gilles Peterson.  The effect was a unified dancefloor and infectious energy.

It was a strange and wonderful nightclub bubble in a sleepy Sunday evening. Gilles provided the perfect blend of thoughtful new music and joyful party hits and I got home, unscathed, by 1am.

Gilles Peterson tows the club music/Jazz night line effortlessly, making for a Sunday night party that made perfect sense. I wonder how many other Phonox Sunday sessions would have such a great buzz about them.

If you’d like to find out, Matthew Herbert is playing there tonight. Expect a deep, eclectic mix of electronic sounds.


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