Babalou is a strange venue. Situated in the crypt of Brixton's St. Matthew's church, it should at least be, on paper, be an interesting and unique place to boogie the night away. It nearly is. In reality, however, it comes across as a little false, with an interior decorated like a Souk bar akin to many of the Po Na Na venues that proliferated across the country during the '90s and early '00s. The crowd, though, seemed to be willing to forgive these admittedly minor details. Comprised of a mix of older prog heads and youngish, fashion-conscious types, most of the people there for the first hour or so headed straight to the dance floor, forgoing Babalou's many dark recesses to warm their legs up for the night ahead.
Following a solid warm-up set from Twisted Audio founder and president Warren Moody, Howells took to the decks at around 1 AM, instantly changing and charging the atmosphere. From his very first record, people who previously looked to have been dancing without paying much attention to what was actually being played perked up noticeably, with grins of anticipation quickly taking control of their faces. By now, the dance floor at least was nicely busy, with bodies happily jostling to the bouncy 4/4 rhythms and shimmering layers of atmosphere Howells was providing.
Unfortunately, another flaw in the club's design meant that the booth faced away from the largest part of the dance floor, a space that also suffered from relatively poor sound throughout the night. This meant that most people were crammed into a much smaller space directly in front of the booth where both the sound and the view were hugely improved. This in no way diminished my enjoyment of the night, however, as the tunes were superb, the mixing flawless and the crowd extremely friendly. It did, though, suggest that Howells doesn't really command the same profile as he did five or so years ago.
By around 5 AM, the crowd had noticeably thinned, and the music progressed from tech house to rolling, breakdown intensive techno. But, for me, it was coats-o-clock after a highly enjoyable night that, with a few more people and a more purpose-built venue, could have been truly superb.