The curtain on Triptych came down on a non-Bank Holiday Sunday night with a service from Detroit wizard Theo Parrish. Not the biggest crowd you’ve ever seen but from the moment the Parrish Priest hit the turntables around 1 you could see they meant business. A motley crew of Parrish obsessives, shandy-drinking Houseboys, sleazy grope monkeys, party casualties and some old heads in obscure Detroit t-shirts all started getting down to Parrish’s mindbending selection of jazz, disco, funk, techno, hip hop and house. Late on during a particularly intriguing jazzy funky section as Parrish’s hands fluttered around the EQ building drama and grinning merrily as the crowd went politely bananas a guy beside me asked me if I knew what record he was playing. I couldn’t quite place anything (apart from the hefty selection of Parrish’s own productions) in the set- it was like that Billy Connolly sketch about someone saying a comedian’s performance was hilarious despite being unable to recall any of the jokes.
This was a serious trip into a music lovers mind and the majority of the crowd seemed happy to allow for fuckups that would have ruined most other big name guest sets. About an hour into the set a mystery power failure knocked out the mixer- this was resolved within five minutes where the crowd decided to create their own erratic little Sound Signature drum loops by stamping their feet and a couple of particularly lubricated fans struck up a halfhearted chorus of “Young Hearts, Run Free” (they looked like they’d been out on the town since Candi Staton’s gig at the Bongo on Friday). The music returned and off we went again through spacey UR-ey techno before a trademark tempo drop into some beautiful jazzy/discoey numbers. Parrish was rummaging around under the decks at one stage when the record he was playing just ran out. Ironic cheers but no real animosity as a sheepish Parrish blithely popped up from behind the decks and just put the track back on. Other DJ’s would have been pilloried for this little faux-pas but you get the feeling that no-one was that upset. There were a number of mixing disasters but again you got the sense that none of this really mattered all that much.
Parrish is a DJ in the old style, playing a range of tracks and tempos to bring people on a journey. You do suspect that some punters did feel a bit let down by the lack of showstopping tricks on display as the crowd thinned from 3am. The final hour was a complete masterclass in building expectation using music that you doesn’t scream “dancefloor” with a load of spacey jazz music and a couple of Parrish favourites (people were actually singing along to drum loops at this stage!!) before a beautiful 15 minute version of what sounded like an Erykah Badu track followed by a sweet soulful a capella at the end. Most other DJ’s end with a bang, Parrish’s stubborn allegiance to his sound made for an extended and emotional goodbye both to Parrish and to a festival that has brought such luminaries as David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Kenny Dixon and Parrish to Scotland for the last year and this was an apposite if low-key end to proceedings.
As I walked home I was reminded of a party in Dublin years ago at which myself and a pal of mine were DJing. Early on we were playing a Moodymann record. We were approached by a woman who stormed up to us and roared “Play us something we can fucking come up on”. This struck us as both tragic and hilarious at the time and it’s become a sort of in-joke whenever we hear a DJ rapidly change tempo after losing the floor. Parrish’s selections mightn’t be to everyone’s taste, the music might be too “deep”, too reverential, too connected to an obscure and personal musical history, the mixing might be offhand and varied in quality but the man knows how to play the shit out of his record collection. He’s playing these records because he loves them and that was more than enough to make the evening memorable.