There's a classic episode of Seinfeld where Jerry, after being wrongly mistaken as George's boyfriend by a woman who'd eavesdropped on their conversation defiantly says, "We're not gay!" before quickly adding, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
Is it just me or has there been something of a pandemic sweeping through dance music circles of late, whereby the set of every top progressive jock seems to want to say, "No, I'm not a prog DJ!" shortly followed by "Not that there's anything wrong with that".
Is there anything wrong with being gay? Of course not. And is there anything wrong with being a progressive DJ? Again, of course not.
Hence as we made our way to Spice! at Tokyo's Spacelab Yellow I began wondering whether tonight's guest, Hernan Cattaneo - proud owner of two Renaissance Masters compilations and a DJ who I think we can safely apply the term 'progressive' to - had also been hit by the problem of neither being in the closet nor out of the closet, but somewhere in between and embarrassingly fumbling with the key.
A big Friday night in Tokyo with Jeff Mills opening his 3-week residency across town meant that by the time the trail of taxis from Womb (including one with the RA crew) arrived at Spacelab Yellow, Hernan was just about to start his fifth hour on the decks.
A packed main floor greeted us with the music deep and druggy. And by the looks of the smiling sea of faces on the floor, EVERYTHING and everyone seemed to be very much RIGHT with that. Having already swung through some quintessentially prog tunes earlier on in the night, including his remix of Bedrock's "Santiago" and Osamu M's remix of Guy Gerber's "Stoppage Time", the mood was set for the brakes to come off as a grinning Hernan greeted me with, "This club is unbelievable! I've been playing for 4 hours and haven't gone over 126 [BPMs]...and nobody has left the floor".
As we settled in (for what would eventually sum up to an additional 4.5 hours), Hernan began mixing it up in much the same way he has been doing for his entire DJ career - and with the same floor-filling results.
Pryda's "Aftermath" predictably blew everyone's heads off, while the bootleg of "Hale Bopp" further reinforced the idea, that, yes, we were in fact listening to a straight up prog set. Having seen both Sasha and John Digweed several times this year, and at times found their sets a little disjointed and illogical in places, I have to say it was quite refreshing that at no time during Hernan's set did I feel he was going to throw in an obligatory Kompakt tune or suddenly whack on some uber-trendy Minimal.
Instead his set drifted through electro, techno (no, not Minimal but more like classic early nineties Hardfloor), tech-house, deep house, techy 4/4 prog and progressive breaks interspersed by some classic prog moments like Bedrock's mix of Way Out West's "The Fall" and other more recent big tracks like Osamu M's remix of Elastic Reality's "Cassa de X" and Chab's "Closer To Me".
Towards the end things got funky with Deep Dish's "Sacramento" while Sasha's remix of Depeche Mode's "Precious" saw Hernan singing along to the looped chorus for a good 2 or 3 minutes when the lights finally came on to several hundred people still glued to the dance floor. It was another big, loooong 8.5 hour set from Hernan and one which was most definitely and overtly 'out' not 'in'.
Regardless of what you think of prog, tonight Hernan Cattaneo proved there is still a place for it on dance floors, and that, when done well, it can still excite, impress and move audiences, even if no longer regarded as a fashionable sound.
Hernan Cattaneo - a really really good progressive house DJ. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Special thanks to Koji Tsubouchi, Yuko Ichikawa and the staff at Spacelab Yellow.