For the man who put the word "journey" into DJ-ing, it only seems appropriate that it took me three-and-a-half hours across the bump-laden panoramic, sweeping green vales of Northern Irelands Sperrin Mountains to arrive at the final destination in his Irish epilogue: Kellys Portrush.
The game plan was simple: Road test Sasha. Could this set—or atmosphere—be radically different to what had happened the night before? After the failure in Sligo to adequately deliver past that famed epic intro, my mind and body were seeking more.
I rolled up to the club at 9:30 PM as a final burst of crimson sunlight was spilling the last of her iridescent rays onto the swollen teal waters of the Atlantic beneath. It's slightly surreal entering a club while there are still traces of light in the sky, but in Northern Ireland it's an imperative. You need to get in early and make the most of the night before 2:30 AM hits.
Luckily, there was a lot to look at inside as well. With an investment of £1.5 million, Kellys is a futuristic affair. In place of a low ceiling, there's an elevated roof and LED banners streaming "Invol2ver" and "Sasha." The new design is not without its detractors, though. One punter tells me that while "it's really modern" he misses "the heat and dripping sweat that used to be in this venue." Others, meanwhile, are happy to marvel at the new technologies, including a side room that houses a Watergate-style LED roof and Mr. Whippy Ice Cream van as a DJ booth.
In the new set-up in the main room, though, the DJ is central to the floor. And it's where Stephen Porter warmed things up with a deep tribal set. (The Irish connection dropped tonight is Saalim's "Time Flies," a track rumoured to be picked up by 20:20 Vision.) Porter took the crowd to a certain point before pulling back just in time for Sasha's intro at 10:30 PM. On this night, Sasha ditched the epic intro and replaced it with a tougher sound, playing a Gaiser remix that got hands in the air and whistles and chants resonating. "Sasha attracts a lot of chin-strokers. But tonight is rocking," someone told me. "I'm gay for Sasha!!!" yelled another.
The number of people hanging directly beneath the booth beckoning to Sasha was overwhelming by this point. But he unwaveringly controlled the floor with lingering moments of sound that stretched out and created an otherworldly perspective. The floor reacted to each melodic wave that inevitably took the sound down—and then euphorically up again—as emotive breakdowns and pulsing percussion played out over spaced-out ambient tracks. Eventually, he let go and began to bounce about the booth. By the end, I was doing the same on the floor.
This night wasn't the intimate gig that Sligo provided. It was about Sasha in his element. Yes, there were tracks that I had heard the previous night (The Humate re-edit, The Doves remix closer) but he read the crowd, and altered the direction required by the differing sound systems and floor sizes. The last time I saw Sasha play at Kellys, the connection was missing. Tonight, the crowd stubbornly stood on the floor at the end of the gig chanting "one more choon, one more choon."