After selling out every show for the past three years, Newcastle’s biggest and best event, Exhale, is throwing a huge, two-storey party on 9 February to mark their 5th birthday at the city’s musical mecca: World Headquarters.
One of the party’s pioneers, Jonny Dodd, tells me that the basic philosophy has been the same over the last half a decade. ‘We aim to bring an eclectic mix of classic House, Trance, Garage and Ibiza anthems to every night’, he says.
With all those genres, there’s a whole lot of scope, and Exhale’s hardcore fans affectionately place the music under the umbrella term, ‘90s Ibiza Trance’. The skilled hands behind the decks usually start off with tracks at a lower BPM (that’s beat per minute for those unfamiliar with DJ chat), and work their way up through the night to a cathartic explosion of more intense Trance classics.
"We aim to bring an eclectic mix of classic House, Trance, Garage and Ibiza anthems to every night"
Once you’ve attended a few Exhales, you become pretty familiar with the way things work: when you first arrive, you can expect to hear vocal-based, noughties bangers like ‘Fade’ by Solu Music (a crowdpleaser and absolute gem despite the tacky video), and LMC’s ‘Take Me To The Clouds Above’, which blends a Whitney Houston sample with U2’s ‘With or Without You’ (an unlikely pairing, but it actually works).
Closer to 4am, the raving will be well underway with a heavier dose of instrumental Trance, including favourites ‘Lizard’ by Mauro Picotto and Tiësto’s ‘Adagio For Strings’.
While some songs are nearly always played (Faithless’s ‘Insomnia’ being one that makes a regular appearance), Jonny and the team are constantly on the hunt for new music, researching before each show by listening to old mixes and iconic festival and radio sets. ‘There’s 30 year’s worth of classics out there’, says Jonny, ‘so we always seem to finish a show and think, “wow, we didn’t even play that”’.
There’ll be a lot of ground covered at the 5th birthday party, as access to two floors means double the amount of music. Downstairs will be the same as always, with residents Luke Scott and Bubba (Stuart Nurse) playing B2B for five solid hours, and upstairs there’ll be two internationally recognised maestros spinning their favourite records. All-round UK House legend Pete Heller, well-known for his track ‘Big Love’, and Newcastle’s very own Richard Tulip will be bringing something brand new to the Exhale experience.
And even though there’ll be special guests, tickets are still an absolute steal, having started at just a fiver, and now on sale for £8. ‘Going out is so expensive these days,’ says Jonny, ‘we’ve always wanted to counter that by offering a cheap weekend destination’. Thanks to its low prices, Exhale is incredibly popular with students and 18-year-old locals, as well as a bunch of 30–40-year-olds who were there in the glory days of British raves, and are nostalgic for the powerful tones of DJ Taucher’s ‘Ayla’ and Robert Miles’ ‘Children’.
If you’re trying Exhale out for the first time on 9 February, you’ll naturally be familiar with a lot of the music, but Jonny’s picked out three essential tracks you should definitely accustom yourself with in time. ‘I’d go for Double 99 – “RIPGroove (Original Mix)” for Garage, Junior Jack – “See You Dancin (Original Mix)” for House, and York – “On the Beach (CRW Mix) for a flavour of Ibiza”'.
Will Exhale still be keeping 90s House alive and kicking in 5 more years? Most likely, as Jonny tells me that an expansion is possibly on the cards. ‘We’d love to try it out in other cities,’ he says. ‘When you look at the amazing national success of SoulJam, it’s tempting to give it a go’.
If you want over 10 hours of music to get you in the mood, check out the ultimate Exhale playlist that I’ve put together on Spotify.
Tickets for Exhale Newcastle: 5 Years of Exhale are currently on sale, so grab them now before they sell out.