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Coalesce - A decade of dance

by hardyshrub 

Posted: 23 September 2004
Word Count: 718
Summary: An article reviewing the last ten years of underground dance events as organised by London's legendary party promoters, Coalesce.

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COALESCE – A decade of dance

Over the last ten years, London has seen many club nights both large and small, arrive onto the scene only to disappear the following year or month...or worse! The reasons for this can be attributed to many things: over – expectation, lack of attention to detail, or just plain greed.
Often the success stories are due to some major financial backing or investment, but sometimes, just sometimes it is down to delivering the goods.
In the early nineties House music was on the rise and rapidly being adopted as the music of choice for many club nights. However, the transition from underground vibe to commercial clubbing was, for many, not a welcome one. Clubs lacked the intimacy and atmosphere found on the underground. In turn, the underground was often seen as the dark and rather grubby, grass–roots of dance music. There had to be a middle ground – somewhere that combined the glamour of up - market clubbing and the quality of underground music. As if by magic in 1993 Coalesce was born. Initially an underground party for 250 likeminded partygoers, it featured dazzling décor and quality DJs playing “proper” music free from the watered-down, chart-targeted nonsense that often passed for House music in clubs. Coalesce also revived that special feeling of exclusivity. Not everyone could come. You had to find it first! This explained the lack of any “attitude” at Coalesce, indeed more often than not; the atmosphere exuded was that of a huge extended family meeting up for an uninhibited knees-up! In fact it would be difficult to pigeonhole the Coalesce crowd. Young professionals rub shoulders with artists and musicians. Doctors and lawyers chat with engineers and builders at the bar. What you do doesn’t seem to be important. It’s what you are that matters. As a result the pervading ambience is of relaxed friendliness.
Throughout the mid and late nineties Coalesce threw spectacular parties in warehouses and film studios for 1000+ people at a time. Mixmag named them as “The Undisputed Kings of the Underground” and national newspapers began to “namedrop” Coalesce when celebrities started showing up at some of their events. Coalesce, however, stuck to their task of delivering cutting edge dance music from the cream of the underground and gave very little respect to big names, big reputations and even bigger egos. This obviously meant that Coalesce would never receive the kind of press attention that the more mundane super clubs and over-hyped industry favourites could command.
Despite being labelled an underground collective, Coalesce made regular forays into the club market with residencies at the now legendary Club UK as well as long stints at Crash club, Club Innocence and The Glasshouse in London, and their biggest party to date, Sensory Circus, was a licensed event for 2000 people at London’s Royal Victoria Docks incorporating three arenas, live bands, 3D projections and funfair rides. Coalesce have also worked extensively abroad – the Matrix club in Berlin, the Melkweg in Amsterdam, Es Paradis in Ibiza and the Fundiscao in Rio de Janeiro – and in their secondary role as an agency, have provided DJs for events across the world.
Every experienced promoter knows that in order to survive, evolution is paramount. In fact there is a saying amongst underground promoters: “you are only as good as your last party.”
Coalesce have re-invented themselves many times over the last decade. Corporate events are regularly given the Coalesce makeover and Coalesce’s own parties have become more groovy, intimate affairs often aboard a boat cruising down the River Thames, or in a beautiful brickwork arch filled with inflatable UV creatures.
As the dance music phenomenon continues into the 21st century, House nights continue to appear at clubs the world over. Everywhere, the majority of club nights follow a tried and tested formula of booking Name DJs providing Pop-Trance and House-by-Numbers to a young crowd who have had very little exposure to anything else. It is this tired and tedious routine that has seen many journalists ready to ring the death Nell on club culture. Luckily for those that know, there is, and always has been, a healthy, happy alternative where music matters and people are important. Labours of Love are seldom rewarded financially but at Coalesce, Love is in the air.

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