Saturday, July 04, 2015

Off Sonar 2015

It was the first time that we met and I'll never forget the moment that you stepped into the room and took my breath away. Barcelona has been my guide and inspiration for a while and finally the dream had come true. Arriving at the airport I was greeted by my friend who I would be sharing a hotel room with for the duration of the stay near La Ramblas. She was holding a pint of Estrella and a cigarette, which quickly became the staple diet for the holiday. We travelled on the Aerobus Express to Plaça Universitat, checked into the City Park Pelayo Hotel and then headed towards Plaça Reil Square. Once there we located some friends and decided to check out one of the local clubs.

This turned into a baptism of fire, music played, voices sang and the celebration had well and truly started. The following day we explored La Ramblas, there is a rich cultural heritage in Barcelona and it almost felt an injustice that I would be spending the majority of time at Off Sonar parties. After we visited La Boqueria, Barcelona's main food market, we made our way to Port Vell and relaxed on the beach for the afternoon. That evening it seemed that everyone in Leeds was at Mono Cult, the intimate space of BeCool lacked Mint Club's iconic ceiling but the music was quality. The special guest from Amsterdam had everyone talking and people were still buzzing that morning. The taxi situation afterwards was really frustrating but eventually made it back to La Ramblas.

That afternoon it was the [a:rpia:r] Showcase at Poble Espanyol Picnic Area, these Romanians know how to entertain and I was excited to experience my first open air event in Barcelona. I had barely seen the girl I was staying with since Mono Cult and unfortunately she didn't have a ticket for this event. She had met some friends from home and attended an event with them instead. I really enjoyed the [a:rpia:r] Showcase and spent the afternoon basking in the glorious sunshine with friends. I was introduced to several people that I hadn't spoken to before and planned to meet them at Marco Carola and Paco Osuna's event at Club 4 afterwards. This turned out to be the event of the week, Paco Osuna acknowledged the special connection created between everyone and I'd agree with that statement. The music was incredible and I'm definitely booking a flight to Ibiza to catch them both at the Music On closing party in September.

We didn't want the night to end but after being propositioned on La Ramblas, headed back to my friends to relax around the pool. The other guests weren't impressed and when the police arrived I decided to head back to my hotel. My friend was there and I tried not to wake her up but completely failed. Later in the afternoon we compared stories, she had managed to spend the day in the company of my ex and her sister. I'm beginning to regret outlining my plans to my ex at the start of the year because she has attended several of the events. Wouldn't mind but it creates an awkward situation. Especially when attending events with her sister who appears to be the cure and the cause. After eating we met some friends and headed to Plaza Mayor de El Poble Espanyol. IR BCN presented a special event hosted by Ricardo Villalobos, that featured Mathew Jonson and Sonja Moonear. El Poble Espanyol is an open-air museum and the stage was surrounded by several replica buildings characteristic of the region. The event proved to be a popular choice with my friends because there were several groups in attendance, including my ex who scurried by with her sister faster than a white rabbit. Rumours circulated about an after party at Vetro but unfortunately this one was over capacity. I spent the majority of the night travelling around the city in taxis before eventually staying with some friends!

That morning we caught a taxi back to the hotel to get changed, grabbed some items for the afternoon and headed to the Next Wave + Local Gathering x Fact Music Pool Series. The poolside atmosphere was relaxed, the line-up featuring several artists from the Romanian scene to take us on a musical journey. Next Wave's special guest for the event was tINI, who enchanted the crowd with her dynamic, carefully layered sound. Barcelona is routinely named the pickpocket capital of the universe and unfortunately I encountered this twice today. First whilst tINI was playing; I heard a friend complaining that a local had his hand in her bag and this led to a confrontation. Nothing was taken, but later that night at Bloc one of our girls had several items taken from her handbag. I confronted one of the guys believed to be responsible but it was too late. Despite this the night was quality, the sound system at the venue was incredible and Capriati played all night long.

Having seen so much in the last few days, I thought that we might have experienced the best of Barcelona but Elrow Sunday raised the bar even higher. The production was out of this world, quite literally, as there were alien beings, animals and various other characters walking through the crowd. After queuing to enter the event, we were provided with a complimentary drink and made our way onto the terrace. There were decorations everywhere, a band playing brass instruments accompanied by an accordion player and even the game of twister! The music was quality too and this felt like a party, everyone there had a smile etched across their face or a camera phone held in the air to capture a memory. What a way to end Off Week in Barcelona! I went back to my friends apartment afterwards, this was a low-key gathering until another group arrived. Suddenly it became a one-man show, there were three of them but the others said after twelve hours of energy they couldn't handle any more. Haven't laughed so much in ages, they shared so many stories about their afternoon and echoing around the apartment could be heard a tagline that made absolutely no sense - dónde! I've had an amazing week, met so many people and shared an experience that will stay with me forever. We will meet again soon Barcelona!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I get up when I want except on Saturdays when I'm usually travelling around the country. This time last year I put my trousers on, had a cup of tea and made my way to Manchester. I was staying with my then partner and her sister last year but she's cut me off and made out it never happened and that we were nothing. It's nothing less than I deserve because I woke up with her sister lying in my bed. This was a while later, things had changed by that point, sharing a bed with her sister was accepted in the early days but towards the end there were clowns to the left, jokers to the right and there I was getting stuck into both of them.

I hadn't made sleeping arrangements this year, instead I travelled to Heaton Park anticipating a chaotic weekend. Stepped off the train all alone at dawn, straight onto a coach for the next few hours. I arrived in Manchester around midday; feeling ready for what I believed to be the final stage of the journey. The tram didn't take me the distance, instead there were problems on the line and everyone bundled out onto the tracks. I quickly booked an Uber and asked some people close to the station whether they would be interested in a lift to the festival. This proved to be a great decision as the group were really friendly and we ended up spending the day together. We spent the early stages at the Warehouse Project stage and in the Resident Advisor tent. Later we tried to catch as many of the artists as possible and during Jamie XX's performance in the Now Wave tent I noticed my ex in the crowd. Maybe she recognised me but she treats me like a stranger and that feels so rough!

Our Saturday ended watching Richie Hawtin; afterwards there were further travel complications and instead of heading to an after party we went back to the girls apartment. The following morning I was alone again, unfortunately the group had work commitments and after saying goodbye I headed back into town. After having breakfast, I travelled back to Heaton Park to meet up with friends who were performing on the Africa Stage. They were in great spirits and I really enjoyed the energy during their performance. When they finished we occupied the bar before losing each other and then regrouping to listen to Hot Since 82. Heading towards the Kaluki tent I received a text message from my ex's sister who's also at the festival. A previous ex, who's sister even has the same name! She had lost her friends and once I found her we headed back towards Piccadilly. I made sure she got home before walking towards the coach station. I probably should have booked the following day as annual leave but too late for that now! The coach was packed and I ended up adopting some children and talking to two sisters from Clapham. There's definitely a pattern emerging here and once back in London I was invited back to their house. When I woke up for work I couldn't find a pen to write them a note to show my appreciation for letting me sleep on their sofa. I also wanted to apologies for waking up their housemates as I might have fallen down the stairs. Another great weekend in Manchester, proving that there's no rest for the wicked. Same again next year?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Back To Basics: New Years Eve

Now that the curtain has come down on 2014, before the dust begins to settle and the events calendar begins to take shape for the next few months. Following more influential venue closures; Plastic People and Trouw being the latest venerable institutions to bring the curtain down, there’s time to reflect on another roller coaster year for Back to Basics. The UK’s longest running club night being no stranger to venue closure, having seen the Garage close without warning last November. The search for another building continues, which we're told will consist of a music academy for emerging talent and clubbers can expect at least two music rooms. Whilst Basics seeks its new full time venue, they've enjoyed some memorable nights around Leeds since September, with Wire emerging as a popular choice. The venue hosted the recent ‘Back to Basics Gets Wired’ parties. On December 31st, Basics returned to the venue for a special New Year’s party with One Records label manager Adam Shelton.

Arriving at the venue, we filtered into the queue and were greeted by Dave Beer who assured us that he would have everyone inside before the countdown. Once inside we were soon down the front with James Holroyd warming things up at the start of the night. As Denney stepped up to the decks, Dave Beer appeared, taking the role of Master of Ceremonies and advising the crowd that if they can’t understand him, it was because he’s from Yorkshire. His words were greeted with a huge cheer and as the countdown approached the party really got started. Steve Lawler - House Record being the track that started the year, the new release from Hot Creations providing old school house with a modern twist. Denney has an upcoming Hot Creations EP, with Low Frequency being played recently on Skream’s Radio 1 show. Adam Shelton was next on the decks, providing a track selection of raw underground music with a strong influence of acid house and techno. Really enjoyed hearing Willie Burns - Waste Your Time played at Wire. Shelton had said earlier in the week that Basics' has been a staple source of inspiration, being a meeting place for some of his best friends. Since moving to Leeds, this is something I've also discovered and the reason I travelled up from London earlier that evening.

Basics resident James Barnsley is another selector that keeps things real and underground. His music working the dance floor and sound system. Barnsley’s productions have received a great amount of support and Mystery taken from his latest release The Magician EP being another strong offering. The night concluded with a back-to-back set from Aden Konrad and Josh Plews, who were joined by Dave Beer to combine experience with exciting new talent. The Basics head honcho playing Syclops - Where's Jason’s K, which is a personal favourite through to recent releases from Hot Creations. It’s been an exciting year for Aden Konrad and Josh Plews, having gained recognition for pre-parties at Distrikt, they're now closing Back to Basics with their signature sound. The bass from Junior Jack - Thrill Me being a classic piece from early 2000’s house music. I've really enjoyed these underground sessions, the New Year’s party providing an incredible party atmosphere. Basics has developed quite a soft spot for Wire and will be returning there at the end of the month with successful DJ, producer and Dame Music label owner Bloody Mary. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

She's Electric

Well the morning was complete. There was tears as the music fade ― I tried to change the beat. She was the soundtrack to my summer and back then I didn't need any competition because I had everything. This blog should be overflowing with stories about our shared experiences but a dream you dream alone is only a dream. In the beginning there were complications but regardless of what had gone before this should have been a different outcome. So often we ended up talking over each other, not allowing ourselves to let down our guard and see things from the others’ perspective.

A few mistakes ago I travelled to Manchester where I was introduced to her younger sibling at a festival. I wanted to make a lasting impression and we became friends, but this eventually created a problem. I'm too protective and can't ignore a cry for help, especially when they're alone. Curiosity becomes a heavy load, will force you to be cold. I started this weekend attempting to win some prizes playing bingo. I had a few lines and came close to completing a full house game. The night continued afterwards and the following morning I slept through my alarm and missed the coach to Leeds. I had other ideas but decided to honour the original arrangement. Apollonia were incredible that night. She was amazing too but we were soon tearing apart the ties that bind. Is this the beginning of the end? The coach pulled away from the station and disappeared around the bend. I have tried to do what's right and didn't want to hurt anyone!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Basics All Stars

Back to Basics, the UK’s longest running club night, celebrated its 23rd birthday at the weekend. Reading commentary in the build up to the night, it’s clear that there’s a real sense of loyalty and respect with what the Leeds based institution has achieved. Basics remains a pioneer and continues to push boundaries to achieve the best clubbing experience with audio-visual entertainment. This year’s birthday celebration was held at Beaver Works, featuring a plethora of talent and the 3D visual installation from Haydn Robinson, Simon Fong Wah and Zeon Sam on the production that was popular at the previous event.

Basics All Stars were advised to dress for the red carpet, the theme for the event being superstars, movie stars and all stars. We arrived in costume and true to word the red carpets were out and we made our way inside the venue. Tinsel town had come to Leeds, Beaver Works being transformed to represent the glamour and extravagance of Hollywood. With four rooms of quality music we were in for a memorable night. The Bar Room reminded me of a drinks reception, guests gathering for a few glasses before being taken to their seats for the ceremony. Dave Beer and everyone involved behind the scenes had delivered in converting ideas into reality, something Basics has achieved for over two decades.

The Bar Room provided the early entertainment, Maurice Fulton proving that he’s one of the true originals with his enviable back catalogue. George Benson’s smooth sounding ‘Love X Love’ being a personal favourite in the opening stages. Heading into the Main Room for Crazy P (Live) and the 3D projection mapping that encased the DJ booth was incredible. The audio-visual experience passing my expectations with a blistering set from Crazy P which provided so many great moments. Andre Bratten ‘Trommer Og Bass’ being one of the highlights of the night. The extensive birthday line-up included so much top underground talent, mixing experience from veteran Ralph Lawson, with a new wave of talent eager to make an impression. Down in the Basement Room was Circo Loco regular Clive Henry, joined by residents Laura Jones, Burnski, Frenchy, Jon Woodall, Gavin Herlihy and James Barnsley. There was a great atmosphere and I really enjoyed listening to the DJs playing back-to-back and serving up some great track combinations. We then moved back to the Bar Room as head honcho Dave Beer was closing out his set to receive much-deserved acknowledgement from the crowd. Aden Konrad and Josh Plews followed, both making their debut at the venue and proving that Basics is still uncovering exciting new talent. After a turbulent year, Back to Basics proved why it has been around for so many years and provided a memorable night for everyone involved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bugged Out 20th Birthday

Carling British Cider is the official Cider of the Warehouse Project this season. The award winning Cider view the Warehouse Project as being at the cutting edge of clubbing and electronic music. Regarded as the 'spiritual home' by both fans and organisers - tickets to the return to Store Street have been like gold dust. It's refreshing then, that Carling are offering fans the chance of winning two guestlist places to every night at the iconic venue. I was announced as one of the winners, here's what happened when I travelled to Manchester ―

Located underneath Manchester's Piccadilly Station, the one-time air raid shelter was home to the Warehouse Project for five years before moving to Victoria Warehouse. This season the venue opens its doors for a one-year residency and I was excited to be returning thanks to Carling British Cider. Bugged Out! were the host returning to the Warehouse Project to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Arriving at Store Street, we made our way inside and after fighting through the crowd we ordered some Cider. After having a few drinks, I noticed that the tempo had gone up a level and displaying a blatant disregard to his set time; Erol Alkan played a 10pm like it was a close. Generating a huge response with Andre Bratten 'Trommer Og Bass' and Josh Wink 'Talking To You', before finishing with his closing track 'A Hold On Love / Only Love Can Break Your Heart' (taken from the acclaimed FabricLive 77).

George FitzGerald followed, making his debut at Store Street and clearly enjoyed the atmosphere in the main room. Heading over to the second arena, I was eager to catch Moon Boots (French Express) having missed out on attending the MixMag Lab event on Friday afternoon. Moon Boots has been on the French Express' UK tour - alongside Jonas Rathsman and Isaac Tichauer - but tonight was his last show in the country for a while. There was a great vibe by this point and we moved between both rooms absorbing the atmosphere. It was heaving in the second room by the time Skream took to the stage and he played a rousing set. Returning to the main room, Paul Woolford had everyone moving even the security personnel. 'Fly Life Xtra' by Basement Jaxx is a popular track with my friends and it was great to hear that played. Green Velvet closed proceedings and a section of the crowd lifted up someone in a wheelchair to get closer to the action. Incredible scenes in Manchester and thanks to Carling British Cider for a memorable night.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Barclaycard Mercury Prize 2014

I recently entered the Wells and Young’s ‘Barclaycard Mercury Prize’ giveaway. The competition which was announced on the Estrella Damm Facebook Page, required participants to tag one friend in the comments section of the original competition post. The winner received two tickets to the Barclaycard Mercury Prize and complimentary Estrella Damm (four per person). Estrella Damm is a pilsner beer, brewed in Barcelona, Catalonia. Estrella means "star" in both Catalan and Spanish. It's apt then that Estrella Damm were sponsoring the Mercury Prize, considering that the shortlist shines a light on future stars that could benefit from the exposure. I was announced as one of the winners, here's what happened that night...

Arriving at the Roundhouse entrance with my date, we were given the red carpet treatment which included a drinks reception. After having a few beers, guests were taken to their seats for the live performances and ceremony hosted by Nick Grimshaw. All the shortlisted artists receive a specially commissioned 'Album of the Year' bronze trophy. The overall winner receives a cheque and a special winner's trophy. I've seen live performances at the Roundhouse before during the iTunes Festival. Most notably, performances from Bombay Bicycle club, The Courteneers and Phoenix. The iTunes Festival is an annual, month-long music concert series which takes place in September. Bombay Bicycle club were one of the big names shortlisted tonight alongside Damon Albarn, with seven debuts and three jazz artists.

I was eager to see FKA Twigs and Jungle perform at the Roundhouse, having listened to the majority of the albums when the shortlist was announced. All the live performances were impressive and in a shortlist in which there was no obvious winner ― I believed that either FKA Twigs or Jungle would be announced as the winner. Dinner followed the live performances and guests were treated to a mouth-watering menu. Nick Grimshaw returned to the stage afterwards to run through the nominations for this year's award. Then came the announcement that Scottish hip hop group Young Fathers had won this year's Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize for their debut studio album Dead. Young Fathers then took to the stage with the shortest acceptance speech: “Thank you. Thank you. We love you all. Thank you!” The aftershow party beckoned but we decided to be sensible and head our separate ways. This proved to be an expensive choice because my date for the evening slept through her stop and ended up miles away from her destination. Mouth open you're. . . getting a cab home from Coventry! A massive congratulations to Young Fathers and thank you to Estrella Damm for an amazing night!