Lars Sandberg, aka DJ Funk D’Void, is a big man. He’s an underground house hero who routinely plays the best clubs in the world. And he’s a big man: his bulging forearms are riven with imposing tattoos and his grizzled Scottish accent (probably) makes babies cry at 40 paces. He’s also a big sissy: we saw this fully grown man burst into tears at the end of his six-hour set at club night Audio Tonic last October; he then proceeded to tell his 9,961 Facebook followers that it was his ‘best gig in 20 years’.
‘Indeed,’ nods Audio Tonic founder Mike Bufton, reliving the memory. ‘He tells me it was the combination of heat, exhaustion, emotion and the high energy in the venue that pushed him over the edge – in a good way, of course.’
Audio Tonic is without doubt the most consistent club night in the region. The five resident DJs – Mr Mr, Vas Floyd, Raxon, JC and Julian Jinx – deliver 10 hours of non-stop house tunes every Friday at picturesque venue 360°, and have done so since 2006 when Mike first launched the night, creating a musical niche that takes in deep, progressive, melodic and tech house aspects. It’s an award-winning recipe – the event scooped the Best House Night gong at the 2011 Time Out Dubai Nightlife Awards, and Mr Mr was named Best DJ in 2010.
At the electronic heart of Audio Tonic lies a group of fans so consistent and dedicated to the deep house cause that they’ll frequently spend every Friday camped in front of the Funktion 1 speakers at 360°, readily sparking the dancefloor destruction. Fans are one thing, but does Mike ever wonder about their sanity? ‘Often, yes,’ he laughs. ‘But they’re hardened partygoers who can most definitely take the pace. I hold great respect and admiration for our regulars who are there week in, week out, especially the ones who have made it their life. I don’t think there is any venue in Dubai that can boast fans who live and breathe the venue and event. It moves me, to be honest.’
Then again, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Audio Tonic has elicited such dewy-eyed devotion. Few venues in the world can boast as stunning a backdrop, while only Ibiza’s sunset strip can compare when it comes to watching day turn into night. Yet while the weekly club nights gain the plaudits, the twice-weekly radio shows on Thursday and Friday nights define the brand to thousands of listeners across the UAE (and across the world, thanks to the live online hook-up at www.myradio1.ae). Audio Tonic first launched as a weekly radio show in 2006, and expanded to take in the live Friday broadcasts six months later. But what kind of challenges does radio bring? ‘It’s hard to maintain consistency with the music,’ admits Mike. ‘As a DJ you now have to search harder, longer and deeper to find the gems. I go through thousands of tracks every week to find the balance to remain true to the sound of Audio Tonic.’
And let’s not forget that Friday’s show is broadcast live in its entirety from 360°, which involves its own unique problems. ‘One DJ accidentally started to bring in a track with swearing in it. Luckily I recognised it, and just before the magic word blared out he’d brought in a new track. It was actually a really good mix…’
Finally, there are the things over which the organisers have absolutely no control – like the headline DJ crying at the climax of his set. But with so much passion and consistency contained in each broadcast and every 10-hour marathon party, that’s sometimes to be expected.
Audio Tonic celebrates its fifth birthday on May 12 with a show on Radio 1, 104.1FM, midnight-2am. The club night runs at 360° every Friday until June. For info, search for Audio Tonic on Facebook
Three more local radio shows that deserve your attention
Dubai veteran Marty Metcalfe helms this new show dedicated to all things soulful, taking in funk, house, hip hop and even drum’n’bass.
Tuesdays 7pm-10pm. Radio 4 (104.8FM), www.channel4fm.com
The Late Lounge
Zahra Soar plays trip-hop, chill-out and ambient – she’s even been known to delve into the Warp catalogue.
Daily 10pm-1am. Abu Dhabi Classic FM, (87.9FM), www.adradio.ae/abudhabiclassicfm
Cutting-edge hip hop and R&B, with a strong accent on local talent.
Saturdays 4-7pm, Radio 1 (104.1FM), www.myradio1.ae