10:30 p.m.: The doors open for what promises to be a bone-rattling extravaganza, headlined by three rising dubstep practitioners from the U.K.. Distorted warbles and paranoid tremors emanate from massive speakers alongside the back-lit, oblong stage, while the early-birds explore various exhibits strewn about the cavernous venue’s many rooms. Some people play chess on a picnic table that can move along tracks on the floor via an attached pedal mechanism; others lounge upon cushions within a huge gramophone.
11:00 p.m.: Wearing a face-covering gas mask and flailing his torso is Blue Daisy, whose tunes are dark and glitchy. He busily twiddles knobs and flips switches on his mixer to cue or alter modulated beats and melodies. Samples of Daft Punk or Dizzee Rascal occasionally creep in, but in a completely deconstructed form, fused with the artist’s own crazed creations. Crackling rhythms overlaid with infinitesimal snippets of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” close out an almost seamless set. The crowd is still rather sparse.
12:00 a.m.: “Manchester is in the fucking building.” Illum Sphere starts out sedate and atmospheric, with airy synth washes and smooth pulses of bass.
12:15 a.m.: I buy some Doritos from the bar and wander away from the stage for a while. When I return, the music has gotten more elaborate and the tempo has increased. Blue Daisy, now shirtless but with gas mask still in place, is acting as a hype man while Illum Sphere crafts his wonky grooves. The music feels very space-age—if there was a club in the moon base in 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is probably what they’d play.
12:50 a.m.: Illum Sphere apologizes for persistent equipment troubles. No one seems to know he had any.
1:00 a.m.: Brighton’s Slugabed has about four times as much equipment as the other artists. His low wobbles and heavy use of hip-hop styled vocals whip the dance floor, mostly full at this point, into a writhing frenzy.
1:30 a.m.: The party is finally in full swing, and is scheduled to continue until at least 3 a.m., but I’m too addled by fatigue and low frequencies to stay to the end. As I step outside, the streets of Gastown seem unusually quiet tonight.