TBT: Leon Vynehall residency with Medlar

3AM, and the first rays of a premature dawn illuminates the Oslo skyline just above the horizon. It’s the start of a new season where short nights and long days make the city come alive with the new life of fauna and a rested people as they emerge from a winter hibernation embracing the first tentative signs of spring. The air always feels more electric this time of year, a tangible sense of optimism and congeniality in the faces of the people and their attitude to everything. This combined with an unusually sunny Saturday in April, brought out a good crowd for the first of three Leon Vynehall residencies at Jæger during a reserved 2017 schedule for the artist and DJ. Leon Vynehall and Medlar (his guest DJ for this one-off event) are savouring the last drops of a drink with the same affability as the punters I’ve bumped into during the course of a night, but theirs is a feeling of contentment, rather than excitement, as they “decompress” in the cold crisp air of the city. They’re reflecting on the night favourably, a night that saw them take a responsive, whooping crowd from Disco to Acid to House, back to back, and all night in the club’s cosy basement, replete with over-compensating Funktion one system in the cabin-like interior of Jæger’s basement.

It’s Leon Vynehall’s third visit in as many years, and in lieu of the immediacy of a headlining set, where a mere hour and a half barely accommodates a sufficient introduction, Leon Vynehall’s set was honest, diverse and painted a more rounded picture of the artistic personality. The UK DJ and producer looked very much at home in this residency with Medlar as companion, a DJ who Vynehall has played alongside much in the past and shares many of the eclectic traits of Vynehall. The pair certainly captured the spirit of a residency standing side by side in the booth, engaging with the audience around them. Refraining from the big room House standards, the two DJs found a remarkable form, each goading the next through a short selection of three or five tracks, where they’d launch the set into a new obscure direction through phases of the night.

There was a focussed determination from both DJs who seemed to feign from the obvious, lurking instead in the cozy corners of Disco, EBM and House for the duration of their four hours in the booth. When Medlar arrived at Adesse Versions’ “Don’t stop the Acid” it felt awkward and wrong, a track too big for the context and the DJ knew it too, quickly reverting back to something bordering on the limits of a Hi NRG disco track, but with a tinge of darkness.

Leon Vynehall had found a very engaging groove with Medlar, bringing a hew of light to the darker sonic palette Medlar played in. An energetic and dynamic to-and-fro ensued, creating an atmosphere of a narrative rather than a functional set. They played perfectly to Jæger’s strong points, keeping the heads locked in and the dancers entertained, without becoming formulaic, and it certainly seemed they had the intimate pulsating crowd riding the wave of the night, even winning a few people over from the courtyard floor, where resident MC Kaman and Luke Jaywalker, played contemporary kitsch-pop classics to a crowd of perpetual 20-somethings.

Saturdays at Jæger is an incredibly hard booking for a night not only known to indulge, but purposefully focus on guilty pleasures, and where many acclaimed international bookings might have lost their footing in the waves of obtuse requests from clueless punters, Leon Vynehall and Medlar thrived. Their acute sensibilities as DJs had the nebulous ability of finding those tracks that could intrigue and indulge at the same time without too many indecisive stylistic changes. Even when Leon Vynehall reached the outer edges of dance music with Chicago’s “I’m a man” it disarmed a willing audience without dissuading any, and just felt right for that time and place. It was fluid and although Leon Vynehall can’t presume to know the crowd at Jæger completely with only two previous visits to the clubs, you sensed an inherent knack that not too many local residents could even presume.

In Oslo, a city where the nightlife is crippled by early closing hours, excruciating beer prices and unbelievably strict licensing laws, a resident DJ is a thankless, queer job, where obscure eccentricities and awareness do you well. Leon Vynehall’s experience, certainly shone through here as played up to the challenge and he and Medlar really made it their own, living up to the claim of a residency. It was a night that firmly inducted Leon Vynehall to status of resident at Jæger and I will be curious to see how Vynehall develops as he grows more comfortable here and acclimates to this temporary residency. This Friday sees him back in our booth for the second instalment of his residency series and with a new night and a new audience beckoning as he returns on Friday.


*Leon Vynehall resumes his residency this Friday

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