It is wonderful to walk down a path towards a river and to hear the first sounds of amplified bass coming through the trees. How I have missed it. What used to be normal, now feels special: a live performance, off-line, with strangers. It’s the first time since the lockdown that I am attending a live show and it fills me with joy.
Girls That Mix, a trio consisting of a DJ, a saxophonist, and a percussionist, is welcoming the crowd with an array of pop and dance classics mixed with a sassy beat. Providing a taster for the night to come the three play a medley of dance classics such as ‘Destination Calabria’ (original by Alex Gaudino), ‘Sweet Lovin’’ (org. Sigala), and ‘Shined On Me’ (org. Praised Cats). It is energetic, joyful, and fun. They know how to build a party and it’s a promise of what we can expect from Symphonic Ibiza. More of that, please.
There is no arguing that Gisburne Park Estate provides a glorious backdrop with lush green vegetation and steep rock walls. It feels unusually luxurious for someone who normally spends her summer in mud-covered wellies in a festival field. The audience flows in, 444 to be precise, escorted by friendly hospitality staff to their hexagon-shaped spaces that allow up to 6 people. Sunglasses, sun hats, flowy summer clothes, smiling faces. Everyone is grateful to be here, under a blue sky, at their first live gig since lockdown.
At 8 o’clock sharp the stage is filled with musicians. The orchestra includes violins, a cello, a trumpet, saxophones, flutes, bass guitar, drums, and percussion, led by musical wizard Steve Etherington on the piano. No time is wasted and Etherington plunges us straight into a powerful rendition of ‘Right Here, Right Now’ (org. Fatboy Slim). Launched in 2018 and gaining recognition in Ibiza and the UK by performing during the Edinburgh Festival, it is clear that Symphonic Ibiza knows how to make people dance.
Symphonic Ibiza is, unlike groups such as Kaleidoscope Orchestra who perform Electronic Dance Music (EDM) solely with traditional instruments, a collaboration between the orchestra and DJ Andy Joyce, who is blasting out the tunes.
The fusion of EDM with an orchestra is, although not a new concept, refreshing and exciting. Having that deep raw saxophone play the melody over a heavy bass track would make anyone get out of their seat. The string instruments and flutes make the music sound older and at times add a mystical tone that reminds me of folk music. It shows how much there is to discover within all the layers of EDM tracks and it highlights the complexity of genres such as house and trance.
Just as I am about to yearn for some live vocals, singers Bethany and Jo are taking the stage, not a moment too early. These women have got some pipes on them. We fly from track to track such as ‘Silence’ (org. Delerium) and ‘Where Love Lives’ (org. Alison Limerick), warming the hearts of the avowed Old-School Ravers that are bouncing around in their self-contained hexagons.
To finish the first half of the evening Symphonic Ibiza plays a fitting tribute (‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Levels’) to the late Avicii, the world-famous and much-loved Swedish DJ who sadly passed away in April of 2018.
The sun sets behind the trees and turns the sky lilac and pink whilst the band takes a short break. A fire dancer and Girls That Mix entertain us in the meantime. I spot the group in front of me phishing their glowsticks out of their bags, not a moment too soon for the second half.
The second half kicks off with the unbeatable ‘Insomnia’ (org. Faithless) celebrating the darker side of EDM. Going through the night it becomes clear how diverse Balearic Beat is. Etherington and Joyce take us from soulful funky mixes such as ‘Lola’s Theme’ (org. The Shapeshifters) and ‘Everybody’s Free’ (org. Rozalla) through to the heavier trance tracks that belong to the night such as ‘Sandstorm’ (org. Darude) and ‘Born Slippy’ (org. Underworld).
The orchestra is enriching the DJ tracks, creating more depth and drama, and making the sound more rooted and emotive. Occasionally the volume of the DJ track overpowers the sound of the orchestra, making me wish I could hear the cello and saxophone better. I appreciate that the sound engineer has got their work cut out having to mix this elaborate and diverse collection of sounds into a well-balanced fusion that rocks our little socks off. Perhaps the pandemic is to blame for the fact that the crowd is so widely spaced out for the number of speakers. Or it is simply that at any performance the audience is supposed to be dancing right in the front of the stage, rubbing shoulders with strangers, with the energy bouncing between the artists and the audience. Whatever the reason is, it’s only a minor note on overall great experience.
As the evening comes to a close we are treated by old-time classics such as ‘Freed From Desire’ (org. Gala Rizzatto) and the encore ‘You’ve Got The Love’ (org. Candi Staton). With these ’80s and ’90’s classics, you can’t ask for a better crowd than a Northern one. It is a proper party with sequins, booze, glowsticks, and people having a great time on a midsummer night. Mission accomplished.
(I want to take my hat off to Gisburne Park Pop Up for making the effort to make these events possible. The organization works closely with the council to make sure their events are in line with the current restrictions. The hospitality staff worked tirelessly throughout the evening to provide table service, and the security made sure everyone complied with the social distance and hygiene rules.)
Girls that Mix: https://girlsthatmix.co.uk/