As I piece together the weekend just past, the overwhelming emotional memory is of togetherness; a spirit of peace and unity I shared with 500 fellow music lovers in a bombed out church in Liverpool. Its been a fair while since I’ve experienced that feeling, and gladly for me, its happened far more often in my new home in the North West of the UK than any place else I’ve lived. The event was hosted by Freeze, a group of Liverpool based promoters who’s dedication and passion was clear to see in everything that happened over the course of that magnificent 17 hour rave.
My Saturday started as normal, I woke late to the sound of my housemate drying her hair. It was around 9am, the minibus was due about 12.30 so I had some time to kill. I wrote a few text messages to various folks, watched a little internet TV (loving True Detective right now – how could I have missed it!) and worked out what to wear. Everything was moving along quite nicely, so it came as no surprise when the minibus driver called to tell us he was running late; stuck in traffic in Chester because of the Creamfields festival back log. There was a number of us going from Manchester; My housemate Julie, my next door neighbours Carly and Gary, friends of ours from the area – Trish and Matt, Pete, Chris, and Danny plus others we were meeting there like my Decoded colleague Ian and his girlfriend Jade, and my crazy Canadian friend Jenny.
Because of local council rules, the Freeze team had stated on the events Facebook page that the day event would shut their doors at 3.30pm, so as our merry band of friends began to gather around 12 o clock the air began to thicken with concern. On tenterhooks we waited for the driver to chime in with updates of his progress. We had a few drinks to calm our nerves and waited as patiently as possible for him to arrive. Finally at around 1.30pm he showed up and we were quickly away. Using our combined local road knowledge we sped along the M60 northbound with the glorious Heaton Park to our left we hit the M62 in pretty good time – We avoided the city centre route because it was Pride weekend and much of central Manchester was cordoned off for a parade. From then on it was plain sailing and even with a short pit stop at the services outside Warrington, we still made it to Liverpool with time to spare! Then we saw the queue and my heart sank. I’ve never been a patient man, and the thought of that massive queue taking ages got me a little rattled. I shouldn’t have been worried though, the line quickly shuffled into the church. As we edged ever closer Jenny waved from the pavement below, we let her in the line where we were (it isn’t queue jumping if you know the person!) and we went in as one harmonious happy group
The location for the day party, the Church of St Luke is probably one of the most spectacular venues I’ve had the pleasure of raving in for a long long time. Back in Bristol we had the Trinity, a restored church, but this had a whole different vibe to it. As I found out later, during the Liverpool blitz of 1941, the church, which in UK terms is fairly new – built in the 19th Century, was hit by an incendiary device and suffered a great fire which burnt the insides and roof leaving a shell of ashlar sandstone carvings and gothic revival architecture. Designated as a Grade 2 listed building, it serves as a lasting memorial to all those who lost their lives during the second world war and as a stark reminder of the futility of conflict. Gazing up and seeing the by now sunny skies was one of the most spiritually satisfying experiences of my life. Not even the constant and unwanted attention of the local wasps dampened my total awe. The music which formed the sound track to our adventure didn’t disappoint either. Freeze resident Jemmy was in fine form, a DJ and producer on my radar since his amazing Suede Desert track back in 2012I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him a number of times in various locations, but this was one of the best. Silky smooth deep house sounds drifted out from the speakers as the main dance space slowly filled with a select crowd of music lovers and as John Digweed walked in and over to the raised stage the volume in the church increased exponentially. After his stellar performance in Manchester, I had turned off any expectations that this was going to be anywhere as sonically gifted. How wrong I was!
Jemmys perfect summery mix of sparkly deep vibes had lulled us into a hypnotic state, and many were thinking John would pull out one of his trademark Miami boat party style sets, but what we got was a full on techno assault from the first bar of the first track to the last note of his glorious exit. I barely recognised anything and in fact asked ex Cream resident, and owner of SMP3 digital distributors Steve Parry, who was dancing next to us if he knew any of the tracks. He didn’t either, thats how fresh and up front John continues to be! As Paco Osuna stepped up to the decks, I can only imagine what was going through his mind, but the Spanish techno wizard had nothing to fear. His first set that day (he was also booked for Creamfields) was pure gold. Having never heard him before, I was really looking forward to his set. Our resident techno fan – Mick was waxing lyrical about him for a few days before the event. And boy does he know his music! As much as I’ve been edging towards a more organic techno sound myself, my passions are still very much centred on melody. A lot of the modern tech house I hear is fairly generic, using the same tired bouncy bass line and stock percussion, but none of Pacos tracks had that. Sure it was bouncy tech house, but it had a fresh vibrancy to it and it never felt repetitive or old. To round out the day show was one of my favourite DJs – Henry Saiz. My mate Danny was also physically buzzing about the performance. This was something a little special as he was performing tracks from his recent album as a band. As the rain started to pour and the ponchos were handed out Saiz’ glorious synth lines elevated us into the clouds. Talking and dancing with so many strangers is normally a fairly uneventful activity, but the people I met that day had such joy in their hearts and such a willingness to share their time and their stories that it made the event a true meeting of minds and reminded me of the glory days of old wearing my global hyper colour tee shirt and dancing to Slipmatt in a field somewhere hugging everyone and everyone being your best mate in the world.
With a glorious crescendo of sound, the day show was over. And with the grace and respect of a more European crowd, we exited the bombed out church quietly and with little fuss. All thoughts were on continuing the party at a club a short taxi ride away called “The Garage”. The club was everything the church was not. Dank, waterlogged and grimy, its industrial interior reminded me of a much smaller Trouw. It was PERFECT!! Warm up duties again were ably filled by the multi talented Jemmy and again Henry, this time in DJ guise continued where he left off at the church a few hours before. The real surprise performance here was Tom Demac (live). Im a fan of his tracks and Ive even watched a few youtube videos of his production skills, but this live performance was really not my cup of tea at all. (sorry Tom). Too much drop and climax for my simple tastes, thankfully Paco was on hand again for an extended set to close out a stunning days entertainment.
Cant wait for the next one guys, in the meantime I’ll be at the front for 303 presents Satoshi Tomiie in 2 weeks!
Images by Ryan Fitz Photography