I’d never stepped foot in Leeds before – although I’d heard many good things – but the second birthday of local promoter Circular seemed like a pretty good excuse to change that! Having kicked off at Mint Festival in 2013, Circular has previously showcased the talents of Hot Since 82, George Fitzgerald, Darius Syrossian, Eats Everything and Skream. On tonight’s menu was Germany’s mysterious house sensation Claptone, as well as Mint residents FiNN and Farrow, playing at the intimate and much-loved Mint Club.
Leeds had an electrifying buzz about the city centre – it’s freshers week after all, and spirits were already high as we enjoyed a few upbeat house tunes on vinyl at legendary pre-party venue Distrikt. We arrived at Mint around midnight and I liked what I saw. Friendly staff, intimate vibes and Funktion-One! My kind of venue then! Mint had certainly met their end of the bargain by providing a quality partying space. All that was left was to check out the tunes!
FiNN and Farrow were in the booth as I walked inside, banging out some lovely techno which sounded crisp and delightful on the well-tuned system. An early highlight was a thumping remix of Fatboy Slim’s ”What the F**k?’ like putting a paint job on a Rolls Royce, they’d taken something beautiful and timeless and simply freshened it up a bit.
I’m not the most easily pleased clubber in the world. I expect a lot from my nights out. The music needs to be great, the sound system needs to have lucid trebles and crisp middles along with the thumping bass, the staff need to not be killing my buzz, and the same can be said of the crowd. Get all of the elements right and I’m the happiest bloke alive, and I’ve had some life changing experiences at good parties. If something is amiss, though, I become the grumpy old man of clubland; peeved that I’ve spent cash and sacrificed sleep for an exposition in mediocrity.
Well, I cannot overstate how brilliant the crowd was. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a happy clubbing crowd in my life! I couldn’t move anywhere without being stopped by a smiley happy face wanting to have a chat about the music, about girls, about my beard, about rugby, or about how brilliant the nightlife is in Leeds. Being freshers week, there were 18 year olds everywhere; energetic, unjaded, dancing like maniacs and grinning from ear-to-ear as was I! The £2 beers and Jägerbombs certainly helped!
After an hour or so of techno bangers, I was outside having a cigarette, when I heard the blast of an ice cannon, a jubilant cheer from the crowd and the volume stepping up a notch. That could only mean one thing, so I slipped back inside to catch the main event. Claptone was wearing his trademark metallic golden bird mask. It’s a piece of kit that wouldn’t look out of place on a horror movie villain. But this wasn’t Life and Death. It was a night of fun, lighthearted house music with soulful vocals and jazz grooves.
Now I’m a self confessed tech-head. I love letting those relentless beats envelop me and whisk me away to some faraway planet where I can get lost in my thoughts – or lack of them – as I stomp the night away. I like house, but it’s not necessarily my scene. Claptone’s set, however, was spectacular. He seems to have totally mastered the art of playing to a small room as he delivered an eclectic, swirling musical journey that ranged from jazzy, vocal house through to tech house and there was even a couple of hard techno beats slipped in there from time to time.
The already happy crowd – seriously, Leeds might be the happiest city I’ve ever visited – were simply growing more and more joyous as Claptone turned up the euphoria. Hands in the air, bums shaking, singing along and hugging the person next to you whether you knew them or not – that was the blueprint for this delightfully refreshing party. As we jiggled away beneath the colourful disco ceiling, Rene Amesz’ ‘Big’ was a highlight, as was Antonio Giacci’s remix of Sugarstarr’s ‘Hey Sunshine’, with its funky guitar and soulful vocals.
Claptone wowed us for three fantastic hours, wrapping things up at around 4am to rapturous applause from the totally buzzed crowd. As he stepped aside, Farrow and FiNN stepped back up to finish off the night with some more techno. My feet felt like they were just getting warmed up, and I would have loved to stay and stomp away until closing time. But I had a long bus trip to London in the morning so the adult in me told me to leave with the rest of my friends, and the child begrudgingly listened. But Claptone and Mint Club definitely impressed, and on the strength of Friday night, I’d go as far as to put it in my top 5 small venues.
Photo Credits : Mint Club, Leeds