A dance party boiled down to its essentials sounds simple. Great sound, a nice setting, lovely people, and stellar music. In reality, there's a huge amount of hard work, trial and error and luck that bring those components together to make dancefloor magic. Dean Meredith and Ben Shenton's (AKA Mind Fair) Rotation Garden Party is one of a few events in England that has taken the ethos laid down by David Mancuso and ran with it to make it work for their friends, and friends of friends. A party with the correct core principles that has grown organically into something of a destination festival for those in the know. We had a quick chat with Dean about where the Rotation party came from and where it's going this year.
Test Pressing: Can you tell us how the Rotation party was born? What inspired you?
Dean Meredith: The rotation sound system was born in 2013. We wanted to host a party for our friends that had something a bit special away from the usual club nights in these parts. We loved the idea of something with a nice audio setup, especially Mancuso's ethos of less is more. Our first party was in our local town of Stafford in a cafe bar. At the time, we had 2 Klipsch Scalas, a valve amp, a pair of Technics, a Bozak CMA 10 2 dl and a Revox A77 reel to reel. It was a fun evening! We then managed to source a pair of Klipschorns and planned our first Rotation Garden Party. It was a success but not without its moments - tropical storms closed the village where we had the party! Then we decided to up our system and source another pair of Klipschorns, which wasn't easy as most were in the US. But we managed to find a pair in Romania. Then we did another party in Manchester that was, shall we say, 'interesting.' Not a great turnout, so a bit of a disappointment after all the hard work setting up.
The early years were trying times but the party grew and now we have a lovely gathering of souls that come every year. And it's still growing, which is nice after all the blood, sweat and tears!
It's an understatement to say that audio quality is important to you. How much of a learning curve has the experience been?
My older brother is a hifi enthusiast so I have had years of growing up with it and know the all-important basics like setting up a turntable, system matching and acoustics. Still, there's always something new to learn, especially when you are basically taking a domestic Hifi system into a public environment. It can be overwhelming but at the same time, there's a bug you get as you tweak little bits along the way, trying different amps, carts, and components. It's a bit geeky, but the end result is worth it. Hearing records you know and love on the system can be emotional because you really do hear the recording in all its glory, warts and all. There's no hiding place for a bad production, but when you get a well-recorded piece of music channeled through, it can blow your mind. No joke, it's something you just don't get with club sound systems because it's about pushing the decibels, which just switches your ears and senses off after a while. Not saying there aren't some great club sound systems out there, but it's just a different listening experience.
Nerd time. What's on the "audio menu' (as Mancuso would say) this year?
So… 4 x Klipschorns,1 x JBL twin 15" with compression driver & Horn, 2 x REL subs, Chord amplification, Bozak custom Isonoe mixer with Isonoe external power supply, Graham Slee MC phono preamps, Technics SL1210's with Rega RB300 tonearms, Hana MC carts, Pioneer CDJ 2000s with IFi Dacs, Chord cabling.
Who are your crowd?
Well, it's pretty mixed. They come from all over the country and we are starting to get people from abroad making the journey now, which is great. There are music heads, party people, families, old and young. People want something more intimate than the big festival experience and a bit different from the norm. We don't have loads of guest DJs so when you hear a guest, they get a nice long slot to take you on a journey, which is important, I think.
Can you give us some magical musical moments from the party's history? Who was playing and what was the song?
Kelvin Andrews playing Paul Simon's '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover'. It was at the end of the night and sounded incredible on the system. Colleen Murphy playing the DFA mix of 'Dare' by the Gorillaz - it's a pretty heavy track and the synth ending is immense. Nancy Noise played a great party and here was a particular Afro record that sent everyone wild. Every guest we have had their special moments. There are many from our party people and dancers too. Last year Phil Mison was amazing, and everyone needed a dance for sure. Really looking forward to this year with Mark Seven, David Barbarossa, Chicken Lips (me and my old partner in crime Andy Meecham back to back), Jayne Winstanley, Jolyon Green (Lowlife), Andy Taylor (We Are the Sunset), Rob J & Stuart Robinson (Wrekin Havoc) and Orbs of Light playing live. We also have a fantastic site and a Grand yurt to house the sound system in. I can't wait!
The Rotation Garden Party runs from July 22nd to the 24th this year. You can get tickets and more information from their website.