Thursday, October 01, 2015

At The Races

Originally posted on Ticket Arena:

Nothing signals the onset of autumn like darker evenings, adverse weather conditions and the end of the festival season. Fortunately for anyone stuck in the city that belongs in a field, Mint Festival came galloping back to Leeds on September 19th as a two-day camping event at Wetherby Racecourse. Now in its fourth year, the festival continues to showcase the best in emerging and established musical talent. Returning to Leeds after last year’s relocation to Lincolnshire Showground, Mint Festival continues to expand and this year’s event boasted an impressive eight arenas and promised amazing visuals and production. I frequently travel to Leeds from London, attending events at Mint Club and Mint Warehouse and I have always been impressed with the bookings and organisation. I missed out on last year's event in Lincolnshire, but have some great memories from Lotherton Hall and was excited to be heading back to Leeds to experience the new venue.

On the approach to the festival, the campsite was visible and there were many people that had taken the option to pitch a tent for the weekend. I decided against camping, instead opting to attend the after parties in the City Centre of Leeds. The main entrance to the festival was located only a short distance from both the campsite, and the drop off point, plus there was minimal queue time which meant we were soon inside the arena. The sun was shining, the ground was good to firm and we were ready for a weekend at the races.

Heading straight into the Knee Deep in Sound arena, hosted by Hot Since 82, Denney was warming up the crowd with acid-tinged synths and 303 basslines. After purchasing some drinks tokens and exploring the facilities, I was ready to experience more music and my group made our way to the System and Set One Twenty arena. When we arrived, Premiesku were on the stage performing a live set. I really enjoyed their track selection and have grown an appreciation for Romanian influenced techno with its deep basslines and hypnotic atmosphere. There were some familiar faces in the crowd and everyone was enjoying the music. French trio Apollonia, featuring Shonky, Dan Ghenacia and Dyed Soundorom, were the next artists on the agenda. The threesome are popular in Leeds and always entertain the crowd with their one-record-each concept. 

Although the festival was nowhere near a sell out, many of the arenas were busy, with the Bitch stage being at capacity for most of the day. I spent the remaining few hours between stages watching Luciano and Hot Since 82. Both artists incorporating steady builds, drops and breakdowns, accompanied with crisp visuals and production. Before leaving for the after party at Mint Warehouse, I caught up with Mint Club resident Ethan Marin who was keeping the dancefloor moving whilst closing the No Way Back tent. Anticipating a long wait to navigate back to the City Centre of Leeds, I was impressed that I was promptly on my way and there were no delays leaving the site, a considerable improvement on previous years. Circular resident Finn and Tom Haigh were playing in the main room when I arrived at Mint Warehouse, with Gas House Kids upstairs in the Loft. The music in both rooms continued the vibe from the festival and the up for it crowd partied through until the early hours.

I headed back to the festival early the following morning, I was there to watch Gas House Kids warming up the Paradise stage and to support Jack Bettinson and Jordan Day in the Hard Times tent. The production crew in the Elrow arena must have worked through the night to transform the stage into their Rowshow 'Sambodromo Do Brasil' theme. The Brazilian Jungle decoration, complete with a snake, was born one Sunday morning in Barcelona. Having experienced Elrow in Barcelona and more recently the Rowshow in London, I was anticipating another carnival atmosphere. Due to last minute technical issue with one of the tents, organisers had combined the Elrow and Seth Troxler Presents stages which eased the program congestion, helped further with the slight short fall of attendees on the second day and made for some exciting back to back collaborations.

The afternoon was slow to start but that soon changed once the crowds started returning to the festival site. The Sunday line-up was incredible, which meant that it was impossible to see everyone on the schedule. The production in the Elrow arena was fantastic, with DJs and performers recreating the rhythm and spectacle of a Brazilian carnival. Skream’s remix of the Chemical Brothers “Sometimes I Feel So Deserted” and Eats Everything’s “Dancing Again” generating a huge response from the crowd. System presented London’s infamous Sunday party, Fuse in another tent and the label’s refreshing sound accompanied with veterans Ricardo Villalobos and Zip provided an education in minimal techno. At the same time, Paco Osuna was expressing his precision and creativity on the Paradise stage. At this point, I headed to Elrow to watch Tuskegee close out the arena before heading on to the after party at Mint Club. At the venue, Dyed Soundorom and Enzo Siragusa treated the crowd to the best set of the whole weekend. Roll on next year.

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.