The antechamber that Anz and Riz are performing in has souped-up cars parked at the back. The walls are ringed with historical artefacts: pictures of DJ EZ pulling records at Sweet Harmony in 1999, framed jewel-cases of the very first Twice As Nice mix CDs, informative placards about a one-man 2-step alias machine named Mike Millrain. Two attendees are nervously casting glances at one another, having both shown up wearing a Todd Edwards-modelled shirt loudly proclaiming JESUS LOVES UK GARAGE.
As Riz completes his final spinback, an enormous rumble overtakes the next room. Jeremy Sylvester boots up his first tune, with MC PSG warming the levels. It turns out the back-to-back was only an entrée for the main event. A larger and older crowd assembles in front of the veterans, Gass Club geezers in bucket hats and girls in timeworn Rinse FM shirts. Sugababes' Mutya Buena is hugging the back wall.
Even with the best of intentions, the symbolism between these two visions of UK garage could hardly have been more stark. One is how most are conditioned to see the scene: trapped in amber, to be gazed at through an anthropological lens. Reverence for a golden stretch of good times that began with chocolate and ended with Champagne. Garage in a gallery setting.
The other is how garage survives today. Sylvester is wearing the expression of a lifer and playing with the well-honed technique of one. His style is punchier and chunkier, an extension of the barrelling deep tech sound that has been resiliently popular and infused with garage over time. By the evening, Ms. Dynamite, DJ Q, So Solid Crew, Todd Edwards and Mike Millrain will have all stepped up to play to loyal followers. This showcase is one of hundreds, if not thousands, they will have performed in their lifetime. It is any given Sunday since the mid-'90s.