In Dubai, outdoor partying takes place outside of summer, when temperatures average above 40 degrees Celsius. The theory is that by October the conditions are ideal for dancing at night, but the opening of Audio Tonic's Sunset Sessions Season took place amidst extreme humidity and temperatures in the mid 30s. The uncomfortable dampness in the air may have kept some people away, but by the early evening 360º was reasonably full of well-dressed expats. The event had actually started around the middle of the day; going out for brunch is very popular among expats in Dubai, and the idea of the Sunset Sessions is that a boozy afternoon leads to an evening of partying.
Julian Jinx warmed up the terrace dance floor with accessible house. The music that Defected has pushed down the years is perhaps the best way of placing the sounds that seem to work in Dubai. The weather is good, the people there like to dress up, and so music based on vocals, melodies and percussion feels natural. With this in mind, Bicep's more recent shift towards tougher 4/4 styles may have been an odd fit, but Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar smartly tailored their sound to their surroundings. Pépé Bradock's remix of "Sunshine People," Robert Hood's remix of "Debbie's Groove" and Bicep's own "Vision Of Love" typified their approach. You could tell the pair were trawling their collection for approachable sounds, but when they did dip into more techno-orientated material the crowd were willing to go with them.
Around the 11 PM the club's downstairs level opened for Breakin' Even, a monthly Audio Tonic offshoot that focuses on breaks. It seemed like an odd style to push, given the genre's global decline in recent years, and in truth I heard more UK garage and electro down there than anything else. Dom Butler of Stanton Warriors was the night's headliner, and did a decent job of maintaining the party's energy, aided by the club's impressive Funktion One rig.
In the broader context of the global dance scene, it's unlikely Dubai will be considered a clubbing destination any time soon. But given the social, cultural and religious conditions in the city, Audio Tonic seem to be wringing the most out of what they have to work with.