Saturday, 21 February 2009


Joseph Grant investigates the local free party scene...

It’s your typical Saturday night in the city of Salford: cold, unexciting and bleak. The aluminous aura of Manchester city centre looks very inviting from the top floor of a tower block in Pendleton, and although I am only a fifteen minute drive away, the two neighbouring areas seem worlds apart. The high-rise blocks, council estates, and numerous abandoned buildings that litter the Salford landscape are a harsh reminder of how much this once prevalent industrial centre of the north has degenerated over the years, succumbing to commercial competition from overseas, and national economic instability. Tonight however, I am genuinely excited to be in Salford.

Over the past week, rumours have been spreading about an illegal rave that is taking place somewhere near the university. The supposed organisers are well established in the Manchester scene, so our expectations are high. According to some sources we can expect several rigs playing an eclectic mix of drum and bass, dubstep, techno, punk, metal and even ska (an assortment of which I have never come across before).

Many, many phone calls later, I eventually find out where the rave is being held and after a short walk through the dreary streets I arrive at an abandoned hotel. An assorted mass of people ranging from hippies, students, punks, scallies and just plain looking weirdo’s can be seen bundling through a tiny door at the back of the derelict building. I patiently wait in line to enter the squat.

The arduous procedures a raver must endure in order to get to a party is something I have always found very intriguing. You often end up waiting around for hours making an endless amount of phone calls, driving further and further into the abyss in your clapped out Fiesta with nothing but the most absurd directions to guide you to your destination. For example: “What you want to do right is...errr…umm…take a left turn after the small bush that looks a bit like that bloke that used to present Blue Peter”. Carl from Essex, a keen raver for the past five years, describes the process as “frustrating but exciting at the same time” and “never sure if your night is going to be a complete disappointment or if it will be one of the best of your life.”

Eventually, however, I emerge inside the desolate building to witness what seems like hundreds of people packed in like sardines, manically pogoing to the ominous and sludgy beats of Dj Stenchman’s dubstep. The rumours about this party were indeed true. The ground floor is divided by two separate speaker systems and a third rig is being set up on the top floor. It seems quite an impressive feat when one considers the amount of organisation that goes into these events. Considering that the majority of the organisers are strictly non-profit, it makes you wonder what compels them to keep arranging them, week after week, and year after year.

“It’s not about making money for us and it never will be. We’ll leave that to the clubs in town” says Martin, a party organiser based in Manchester. “The reason I’ve been putting these parties on for such a long time is for the love of the music and people that come along. The atmosphere of a free party is like no other I’ve come across. Everyone is there for the sole purpose of having a good time and not be constricted by any rules or regulations.” Martin, who has been involved in the scene since the mid-nineties, explains how it has changed and developed overtime. “I think there has definitely been a shift in the overall vibe of parties, especially in the past ten years or so.” He goes on to say that “the whole, loved up, ecstasy driven thing has kind of faded away, but that’s not to say that raves are intimidating places to be now. I guess there’s just more of a blasé attitude amongst the crowd.”

When asked about the musical developments within rave culture, Martin claims that the music has become a lot more “dark and aggressive” with the rise of “hard techno and dubstep, which seem to be the preferred choice for all the party goers at the moment.” He also claims that this is “probably linked to the drugs that are being taken nowadays. It’s gone from everyone taking ecstasy, to everyone taking ketamine, which have completely opposite effects.” Although some of the factors may have changed since the original acid house warehouse parties of the late eighties, it seems that the raves of today are still as hedonistic as they were twenty years ago, which is one of the main reasons for much of the negative press that the rave scene has been victim to.

Drug use amongst counter-culture movements is not exactly ground breaking news, but it makes me question the motives behind the whole free party ‘ethos’. Is the entire rave scene built upon the self-indulgent desires of drug fuelled, disenfranchised youths as the media would have us believe? Or is there a genuine empathy to create an autonomous zone where people can freely express themselves in whatever manner they please without fear of persecution? A political activist and avid raver, who wishes to remain anonymous, who I questioned regarding this suggests that “drugs are an ingrained revolutionary aspect of dance culture an offer us an explanation of the genres longevity and popularity” and that “drugs are the last stand of rebellion in the United Kingdom and they are vital to the survival of dance culture.”

These statements are fairly bold and are certainly subject to debate but it does make you wonder about the co-existence between drugs and dance music. I find it almost impossible to imagine the Madchester and London squat scenes ever coming to fruition without the introduction of ecstasy. “Drugs and sub-cultures are so inexplicably linked”, says Martin. “People who seek alternate lifestyle choices often want a fresh perspective on their overall outlook, and I guess drugs are one way for them to achieve that.” When asked about the dependence of the free party movement on recreational drug use he replies “it’s not as simple as that. People are getting really sick of the drunken yob mentality and boring nightlife that you find in the town centres. Clubs and pubs are getting more expensive, and the music is becoming less and less diverse.”

I can’t say I whole heartedly agree with that final statement, with regards to Manchester at least, where alternative music seems to flourish. I can appreciate Martin’s point though, considering my own personal introduction into free parties was purely sheer boredom at the local nightlife in my small seaside town in Essex. Even the occasional night out in the larger, nearby towns proved to be bland and unexciting, which makes me wonder if we would see a decrease in the popularity of raves if the more ‘traditional’ club scene catered for my diverse tastes? “It’s a possibility, but not very likely” explains Martin. “They have their target audience, the norms!” he laughs. “Most of the free party crowd are pretty hardcore; they won’t give in so easily. It’s not just about musical preference.”

A seminal moment in the history of rave was the introduction of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in 1994. The sections regarding raves and trespassing was considered by some to be a reaction to the Castle Morton ‘mega-rave’ two years previously where up to 40,000 people where said to have attended. According to the bill, a rave is defined as a gathering of a 100 or more people, where amplified music is played “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

“The law hasn’t really changed anything” according to Martin. “Organisers have had to wise up a lot by knowing the law and their rights but it won’t stop us from putting parties on.” To me the laws that prohibit raves are completely ridiculous and unjust, and trying to outlaw so called ‘anti-social behaviour’ such as this seems like a waste of time. In my opinion, ravers should be regarded with high esteem as the people who actually stand up to political legislation and commercial pressures whilst the majority of us sit back and do nothing. Ravers are remarkable in the fact that they do this without having any real political agenda. They merely want to be left in peace for two nights a week to escape the harsh realities of every day life. Is that so much to ask?

One thing is for certain, free parties are as relevant as they were twenty years ago and I am fairly confident they will be around for a long time yet. I just hope the masses eventually realize that they are not to be feared, and most importantly that the government realizes that compromise is the best solution to a problem.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


Manchester duo Paul and Alan Farrier, AKA Shadow Dancer, are about to release a debut album on Boys Noize Records. Golden Traxe is 13 "convulsive, beat-propelled electro-synth" songs which includes three previously released tracks, 'Poke', 'What Is Natural' and 'Soap'. The duo recently released the latter as a teaser for the full-length, and it's currently being hammered out by the likes of Soulwax and Erol Alkan.


01. Poke
02. Soap
03. Infinite Lies
04. Walker
05. Golden Traxe
06. Landlines
07. Drivetime
08. What is Natural
09. Loader
10. Be Happy
11. Lower Left
12. The Bad Thing
13. This is This

Boys Noize will release Shadow Dancer's Golden Traxe 23/02/09. The pair also play Bugged Out 17/04/09.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Impromptu rave vibes via this small mix that features tracks and mixes by the likes of Riva Starr and Jack Beats. Download, stream or ignore as you see fit.


Ewan Pearson is a vocal critic of posting MP3's on blogs, so imagine NN's surprise to receive an email from a label he's just done a remix for, suggesting we post it for all you little northophiles.

Luckily for you, the track is a winner as it's the latest release from Moon Unit, signed to that odd little Berlin imprint Supersoul Recordings - remember that competition we did with the DFA album thingy way back in 2008? Yep, same people.

Anyway, here it is, apparently it's 'somewhere between Belgian New Beat and classy bondage party'.

MP3 : Moon Unit - Connections (Ewan Pearson's Slo NRG Dub)

Sunday, 15 February 2009


This is the new track and video by Simian Mobile Disco.

It features Todd Rundgren on vocals.

That's all.

For now.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Last night I went to FACT in Liverpool to hear, author, Simon Reynolds expand on his Hardcore Continuum theory. You can read more about that here or even pick up a copy of the current Big Issue in the North which features an interview I did with him. Anyway, it was pretty good and worked particularly well as Reynolds used key tracks to illustrate his points. For example, he explored the link between Jonny L's 'Hurt You So (Alright)' and the speed garage of Fabulous Baker Boys' 'Oh Boy' and noted how that led to Jonny L's work as one half of True Steppers. (And somehow made Posh Spice believe she was relevant for about a week.)

The last section with Reynolds in conversation with the guy from The Wire magazine lacked a certain spark and it might have been better if they had edited down the chosen tracks so that we didn't get an Amen onslaught for a few minutes before fading it out at the best bit [due to the lecture's time restrictions] but, over all, it was an interesting evening out. And, as Ruth Allan whispered to me, quite possibly the most surreal environment to listen to some chipmunk-vocal rave record ever.

However, you can catch Reynolds at Waterstones on Deansgate today where he's talking about his latest post-punk book.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Just a few weeks after Greg Wilson showed up on the Essential Mix, Stockport instititution Mr Scruff has now contributed an equally fine selection for Tong & co. The track list is below while you can head over to the Radio 1 site and check it out for yourself.

01. Body and Soul ‘In The Beginning’ [National General]
02. Leroy Hutson ‘Lucky Fellow’ [Curtom]
03. Eddie Kendricks ‘Girl You Need a Change of Mind’ [Motown]
04. Zed Bias and Jenna G ‘Let Me Change Your Mind’ [Development]
05. Mr Scruff ‘Give Up To Get’ [Ninja Tuna]
06. Mr Scruff ‘Rocking Chair’ [Ninja Tuna]
07. Theo Parrish ‘Chemistry’ [Sound Signature]
08. Arcadion ‘Ghostfeeder’ [DC]
09. Ragga Twins ‘Wipe The Needle’ [Shut Up And Dance]
10. Q Tip ‘Manwomanboogie’ [Motown]
11. Mr Scruff with Skuff and Inja ‘Zen’ [Ninja Tuna]
12. James Brown ‘Get On The Good Foot’ [Polydor]
13. Mr Scruff and Quantic ‘Donkey Ride’ [Ninja Tuna]
14. Mr Scruff ‘Fish’ [Ninja Tune]
15. Mr Scruff ‘Get On Down’ [Ninja Tuna]
16. Thomas Bangalter ‘On Da Rocks’ [Roule]
17. Psychotropic ‘Only For The Headstrong’ [Raw Bass]
18. Mr Scruff ‘Chicken In A Box’ [Ninja Tune]
19. Mitsu The Beats ‘Kuro Fessional MC (instrumental mix)’ [Mukatsuku]
20. Color Climax ‘Disque O Heights’ [Breakin Bread]
21. Jazzanova ‘Boom Clicky Boom Klack (Mr Scruff mix)’ [Sonarkollektiv]
22. Talking Heads ‘Once In A Lifetime’ [Sire]
23. Mr Scruff ‘Kalimba’ [Ninja Tuna]
24. Sweet Salvation ‘Rock Steady’ [Elektra]
25. Cosmic Force ‘Ghetto Down (Kenny Dope mix)’ [Truth and Soul]
26. Mr Scruff ‘Sweetsmoke’ [Ninja Tuna]
27. Benny Ill, Kode 9 and The Culprit ‘Fat Larrys Skank’ [Tempa]
28. Nicolette ‘Dove Song’ [Shut Up And Dance]
29. Channel One ‘Jungle Skank’ [Channel One]

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


We often forget to list Jam Street Cafe's presentations over in deepest Chorlton which, y'know, is pretty poor of us to be honest. So consider this some kind of apology and also a little reminder that Rob Bright joins the Eighty Six residents for some offbeat music this very Friday. The following month features Jan Hammered while Balearic deity Moonboots drops by on April 3rd.

(*This title relates to the OAP bloodsport known as 'Bingo'.)

Sunday, 1 February 2009


Common, the bar on Edge Street in the Northern Quarter, is ace. Here's why; Like some shit Watchdog type thing, one NN monkey (namely me) mailed the nice Commoners to enquire about the new membership scheme. Below is the letter from said monkey, and then their smiling inducing reply.

It's actually better than most of the press releases we get from professional press release type people.

i am confused, you see, i have an orange membership card from a
couple of years ago and to be honest it means a lot to me.

i often use it to impress people, and girls dig it when the powerful
thing magiocally wavers the £2 entry fee while chumps stood outside
in the cold.

it is also ripped in half and stuck back together again with tape,
it's got character.

but i fear i don't know it's worth anymore, i turn up and they say
sorry it's £2 for members your card is worthless, and then they try
and sell me rum for cheap at the bar - which is great, i love rum.

but i'm just unsure as to what the hell is happening with this
membership jazz. please don't take my card away from me, i don't
want a new one. one day it'll be featured in a book or something.

i'm not sure i feel so super special anymore.

bestest regards,

sam, prince of fallowfield.

Hello Sam

Ah, confusion reigns, but fear not: your card is still yours (and
yeah, they work a treat with the ladies).

Towards the end of last year we did some very high level research into
how many of our members were taking advantage of not having to pay the
£2 entry at weekends. Yes, we did a tally. What that tally showed us
was that on average 5 people a night were taking advantage of the 'no
door charge' perk. I'm sure you'll agree that's not to great a number
so we concluded that it wasn't really working as an incentive to get
people to come on a Friday and Saturday evening. So we decided to
change what the card gets you, one of our valued members.

Firstly we decided to extend the 10% discount on food and drink so
that it's valid all day and night every single day - just show your
card when you're ordering your babycham or whatever people are
drinking these days.

Secondly we decided to introduce the 'Members Only Prices' scheme
whereby every few months we pick a couple of drinks that seem popular
and sell them to members for £2.50 every Thursday, Friday and Saturday
after 9PM. At the moment it's bottle of Vedett lager and Sailor Jerry
and a mixer.

Thirdly we scrapped the the free entry partly because, as I mentioned
above, no bugger seemed to be taking advantage of the perk, but also
because we have new promoters for Fridays and Saturdays and they
wouldn't make anything if the place was full of members getting in for

It was a difficult decision to make but we reckon it's the right one.
If not then we'll keep changing things until they're right.

You might not feel it but you'll always be super special to us.
Awww, shucks.