Several cities have a special place in the heart of the heart of electronic music lover; Düsseldorf, Sheffield, Berlin, but none has more resonance than Basildon.

This new town in Essex was the birthplace of the world’s biggest electronic band DEPECHE MODE, as well as YAZOO and a host of related acts. Given this remarkable musical legacy, it is surprising that Basildon has done little to celebrate its most famous sons. That is, until now…

Deb Danahay was at the heart of this thriving music scene during these Synth Britannia years. She was a close friend of DEPECHE MODE and co-ran their fan club in the early days. Deb has stayed living in the Basildon area and always maintained her enthusiasm for the scene.

In 2011 she put on her first live event – A Very Special Weekend in Bas – and was overwhelmed at the response of DM fans who travelled from far and wide to celebrate in the hometown of their idols. Buoyed by the success of this inaugural event, Deb planned something altogether more ambitious for BAS II.

BAS II, whilst retaining its primary focus as a gathering for Devotees, grew to become a fully-fledged two-day festival of electronic music featuring some the best new talent alongside heritage synth acts. Inside the venue at Basildon’s Bowers Club, it was clear that the same attention to detail had gone into everything from the professional lighting and visuals. MODOVAR delivered a polished performance showcasing material from their debut album, ‘The Sea Of Unspoken Words’, which is due for release soon.

Frontman Christopher Beecham’s impressive vocal range has shades of Andy Bell and Alison Moyet, and their closing number, fittingly a cover of YAZOO’s ‘Situation’, had the crowd on its feet.

Local hero ROBERT MARLOW was welcomed warmly and the audience were greatly appreciative when he dug out his Vince Clarke produced cult classics, ‘The Face Of Dorian Gray’ and ‘Calling All Destroyers’.

Next up was TENEK, who delivered a blistering set including recent single ‘What Do You Want’, and crowd pleasers from their two albums ‘Stateless’ and ‘On The Wire’. Their set culminated with a roof-raising rendition of ‘No Time For Fighting’,which delighted diehard fans and newcomers alike.

The final live act of the evening was BLANCMANGE, who played a well received set of material from recent album ‘Blanc Burn’ alongside their earlier hits and album cuts. Neil Arthur’s superbly down-to-earth deameanor would put him in good stead as a stand-up comedian.

Closing the Friday night was a DJ set by none other than The Electricity Club, who played to the DM faithful and were joined on the decks by the fabulous Sarah Blackwood of DUBSTAR and CLIENT fame.

Sarah had a very special surprise for the crowd when she sang a cover version of DM’s ‘A Question Of Time’, followed by an exquisite rendition of DUBSTAR’s ‘Not So Manic Now’ and finally CLIENT’s ‘The Price Of Love’. The surprise was returned at the end of the evening when Deb Danahay led a crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday to Sarah”!

BAS II aside, as a visitor to Basildon you’d be hard pressed to find any clue as to its rich musical heritage. However, at the James Hornsby School, where a young Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher studied all those years ago (and subsequently played their very first gig as DEPECHE MODE), a plaque in the school hall commemorates their achievements.

This was the venue for Saturday afternoon’s proceedings at BAS II, where visitors were treated to an exhibition of memorabilia from the early days of DM and YAZOO, featuring press cuttings, gold discs and personal photo albums of those closest to the bands.

There was also a chance for the live bands of the weekend to meet & greet those present, all in an affable atmosphere over a cup of tea. For those who had over indulged on the Friday night, this friendly afternoon get-together provided the perfect therapy!

Two bands provided the live entertainment; first up were PROTÉGÉ REIGN, who showcased their neo-TENEK brand of electro.

Bringing the afternoon to a close was SINESTAR, who delivered a punchy set featuring live drums and guitar alongside the ubiquitous synths. Their set culminated with the anthemic ‘I Am The Rain’ from their recent EP, which received an enthusiastic reception and became one of the talking points of the weekend.

On the Saturday night it was back to the Bowers Club for a DM-themed line-up featuring no fewer than six bands. The opening act was BA5IC, featuring Martin Gore’s nephew. ELECTRO KILL MACHINE, SHINY DARKNESS and SPACEBUOY followed in close succession, each delivering crowd-pleasing synthpop sets with the DM sound very much part of their template. SPACEBUOY’s performance in particular was noted for the sea of their trademark day-glo orange in the venue as their fanbase ventured their way to the front of the stage.

Meanwhile, DJ Atmo provided an enjoyable set of cult synth tunes for the cognoscenti which included YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s ‘Neue Tanz’ and SECTION 25’s seminal ‘Looking From A Hilltop’. The penultimate act of the night was STRANGERS, who were featured on TEC back in February. Their sonic template was somewhat different from the other bands featured, and as such they provided a welcome diversion. They were another band being talked about as their filmic qualities shone through.

The final act of the night was, appropriately, the DEPECHE MODE tribute band SPEAK & SPELL. They provided a fitting climax to the weekend with their faithful renditions of the DM back catalogue, from ‘Photographic’ right through to 2009’s ‘Wrong’. There was great attention to detail; for example ‘Martin Gore’ aka Joe Beaumont fronting a couple of songs; the obligatory hand waving during ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ and even a cry of “See you next time!” at the end of the set.

Frontman Paul Christian Wood makes a convincing Dave Gahan, and with the general euphoria of the weekend, it felt just like the real thing! At the end of SPEAK & SPELL’s set, the newly-crowned ‘Queen of Basildon’ Deb Danahay was presented with a bouquet for all her hard work in organising BAS II. The DM tunes continued on the dancefloor into the early hours courtesy of DJ Dan Martin from Barcelona for an aftershow party that was greatly appreciated by The Masses.

Deb’s energy and enthusiasm for the BAS II project was infectious from the outset, and together with the whole of the BAS team, their tireless efforts resulted in a memorable weekend for all concerned.

So what made BAS II so special? Was it the live acts? The DJ sets? The school exhibition? Maybe, but the whole event was greater than the sum of its parts. It was a chance for DEPECHE MODE fans – as well as the wider synth community – to meet up and celebrate the genre together. Many new friendships were made, and numerous people have since commented on the event’s positive atmosphere. There was no negativity; no aggression; just The Masses coming together for a black celebration. Long live BAS!

The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Bas Productions

The Electricity Club and Sarah Blackwood DJ Setlist

CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment
LANA DEL REY Video Games (Nikonn remix)
SIMPLE MINDS Theme For Great Cities
CRYSTAL CASTLES Suffocation (Health remix)
YAZOO State Farm (Madhouse remix)
HURTS Wonderful Life (Freemasons remix)
MIRRORS Falls By Another Name
FAD GADGET Life On The Line
SLOK New Cage
DEPECHE MODE Photographic (Rex The Dog Dubb mix)
DEPECHE MODE Route 66 (Beatmasters remix)
SARAH BLACKWOOD A Question Of Time (Live vocal)
OMD vs THE TING TINGS That’s Not Gay
MARSHEAUX Dream Of A Disco
DEPECHE MODE Personal Jesus (Pump mix)
YAZOO Nobody’s Diary
SARAH BLACKWOOD Not So Manic Now (Live vocal)
VISAGE Fade To Grey (Rusty Egan Soundfly remix)
ALISON MOYET Whispering Your Name
ERASURE Who Needs Love Like That?
DEPECHE MODE Behind The Wheel (Vince Clarke remix)
DEPECHE MODE Nothing (Headcleanr Rock Mix)
SARAH BLACKWOOD The Price Of Love (Live vocal)

Text by Steve Gray
Photos by Richard Price, Steve Gray and Chi Ming Lai
11th May 2012