Monday, 15 October 2012

Live Review: D/R/U/G/S, Ejeca, Organ Freeman (BidoLito!)

Ejeca - Organ Freeman - Residents
Waxxx In Public @ Waxxx Warehouse

Waxxx’s rise to the top of the Liverpool nightlife scene is a welcome one. To those who attended one of their parties in an empty Shipping Forecast eighteen months ago, it will have seemed impossible that they would be filling up warehouses as they do today. With a well-earned reputation for throwing the wildest and most unique events in the city, Waxxx breathe life into a frustratingly student orientated club scene, with parties that recognise young people’s desire for more to their nights out than cheap drinks and the chance to meet Mini-Me.    

Tonight sees them attempt their most ambitious project so far. The Waxxx In Public theme takes inspiration from Josh Harris’ We Live In Public, where the ‘Warhol of The Web’ documented people’s lives via webcams, exploring the way modern societies willingly trade their privacy in exchange for a constant connection with the world. As details were released, attendees were instructed to add a Facebook page if they wished to ‘take part in the experiment’, promising an Orwellian experienced they would never forget.  This intriguing concept was complimented by their most impressive line up to date, with hotly tipped duo D/R/U/G/S supported by EJECA, and ORGAN FREEMAN.

The first act of the night is Organ Freeman. Sporting two singers and dressed like boys from the Hitler Youth, the lads from the Wirral offer short burst of energetic synth rock to an intensely polarised audience, delighting and bemusing in equal measure.

Promising Belfast producer Ejeca is next up, bringing dance music back into the focus of a relieved crowd. Boosted by a collaboration with fellow Belfast duo Bicep on the excellent ‘You’ earlier this year, as well as support from Jackmaster and Radio 1, these intimate surroundings will surely be a fond memory for him very soon. Tracks like Love Daze and The Way I Feel keep things nice and smooth, as their UK garage style vocals and deep house baselines steadily flow through the audience in what is a confident and engaging set.

Headliner D/R/U/G/S arrives in the main room to a backdrop of brilliantly effective projected images, promising an hour DJ set and an hour long live set. The duo’s exciting brand of ambient house music is welcomed by a serotonin overloaded crowd, seamlessly crossing the bridge between the dynamic and the danceable as they exercise almost total control over their audience, dominating a packed main room with a breathless foray of ideas and sounds that demonstrate why UK electronic music is in such a good place right now.

The ‘We Live In Public’ concept is very quickly forgotten, which is a shame. A rather half-hearted execution saw people’s Facebook pictures flash across a projector in a style that resembled a freshers week disco, as people reluctantly conceded that there was nothing more to it. Such an ambitious idea was always going to struggle to flourish, especially with a line-up as strong as this one, although the idea itself must still be commended. Now they have a permanent home in place, it will be exciting to see what they can achieve with these concept driven club nights. With the new venue rumoured to have come with a five year lease, Waxxx look like they are making some room for an exciting, ambitious, and unpredictable future. I can’t wait.

Mike Townsend

Friday, 5 October 2012

UNTITLED Launch Night - Live Review (For BidoLito!)

HiFI (Formerly Binary Cell)
27th, 28th September

In an interview with Bido Lito! last month, UNTITLED founder Hasan Abbasi talked at length about his ambitions for his new night and for himself as a promoter with admirable confidence and infectious enthusiasm. Namedropping the likes of Abandon Silence, EatYourGreens and Chibuku, UNTITLED set itself the ambitious target of becoming a vital component of an already thriving Liverpool electronic music scene.

Residents of Liverpool will know that the city is already littered with student nights promising one pound drinks and the chance to meet mini-me from Austin Powers. Head to concert square any given weeknight and you will fall victim to a swarm of tired promo staff trying to coax you into their dry iced nightmares. With a handful of new nights launching every term, you’d be forgiven for mistaken Hasan’s confidence, likeable though it is, for naivety
Based on strong ticket sales for the original launch in May last year, UNTITLED’s relaunch is made into a double header, spanning across the final weekend of September and hosted by Seel Street’s HiFi (formerly Binary Cell). With a capacity approaching 900, selling out both evenings would be a remarkable achievement.

Promising to please listeners of all electronic music, UNTITLED’s two night launch took advantage of the impressive pool of talented local DJs Liverpool has to offer. With residents drafted in from already established local nights like Abandon Silence, Waxxx, EatYourGreens and Discoteca Poca, UNTITLED did its best to make good on its promise of being one of the most eclectic nights in town.

The nights themselves are mostly enjoyable. The DJs are good, the atmosphere is friendly and excitable, and the crowd, though not quite as big as organisers might have hoped, is still large enough to create a bit of a buzz. Mike ‘HORZA’ Wilding particularly impresses with an abrasive and lively set, justifying his recent appearances at Outlook and Parklife festivals. Local drum and bass veteran ANDEE J provides an unlikely highlight as he reminds us that drum and bass isn’t dead just yet. Other DJs do their bit and are generally very good, doing their best to keep a lukewarm crowd dancing on their feet and not sat in the smoking area. However, the constant genre hopping and the many, many set changeovers eventually contribute to an unsettling lack of continuity, making it difficult to lose yourself in the evening and have a good time. The stairwell is often the busiest part of the venue, as people hop back and forth between floors in an attempt to find something that catered to their taste, making the spacious Hifi rooms feel more vacuous than ever.

Another stumbling block for the night is that the majority of the crowd consists of fans of going out, not fans of electronic music. Now you would be forgiven for thinking this sounds pretentious and conceited, but allow me to explain. Of course there is nothing wrong with these people, many Liverpool nights thrive on them. However, everything leading up to the weekend; the interviews, the social media and the nights themselves, saw UNTITLED try to distant itself from Liverpool student nights and from the people that enjoy them. What the organisers have failed to understand is that the first UNTITLED event last term, and the infamous Thugz Mansion house parties that it was born out of, consisted largely of students just looking to have a good time with their friends. By misunderstanding its market and by aiming at the wrong goalposts, UNTITLED has risked alienating a potentially wide and lasting student fan base and leaving itself with nothing at all.

In his interview last month, Hasan suggested that UNTITLED would one day settle alongside these nights as essential parts of Liverpool’s Electronic music scene, bringing fans of all styles of dance music under one roof. This unfortunately, is where it all falls down. These aforementioned nights don’t offer something for everyone - far from it. This is exactly why they are so good, and exactly why they are still thriving after two years. The reason these nights have such a loyal and committed following is that people go there to get away from an indifferent and generic crowd, to be welcomed into a scene that truly understands them and one that they truly understand. If these nights were to suddenly try and please everyone it would be a betrayal of everything that has made them so popular. I’m not trying to suggest that for example, jungle and deep house listeners are worlds apart. Of course they’re not. But when was the last time you danced to both on the same night?

It is altogether an enjoyable evening. Come three o’clock, everyone spills out onto Seel Street with a grin on their face.  But in Liverpool, with the right people, the right outfit, or the right drugs, it’s not hard to have a good night. With club nights and venues falling every month, and with so much choice around the city, a good night just doesn’t cut it anymore. It has to be memorable. With another night planned for Halloween, perhaps UNTITLED and its organisers need to try and do what Waxxx et al. all do so well: find an identity, find a niche and stick with it. At the moment, UNTITLED lives up to its name as the ‘night you can’t put a name to’, which sadly, might be its downfall.