Getintothis’ Ryan Walmsey gets straight to the heart of the Baltic Triangles’ underground dance music scene’s new hub, 24 Kitchen Street.
For venue owners in the Baltic Triangle, the last couple of years have been both strenuous and rewarding. Capitalising on the noticeable shift of dance music events from the city centre to the gritty, post-industrial and almost Berlin-esque Baltic Triangle has paid dividends for those shrewd and portentous enough to invest.
24 Kitchen Street is exactly one of those spaces. It is an idiosyncratic 400-capacity venue just off Jamaica Street, and not only plays host to an ever-growing catalogue of house, techno, garage, drum’n’bass and grime parties, but it’s also utilised by musicians in other fields as well as independent institutions for plays, workshops, lectures and art galleries.
The venue is divided into two spaces, featuring a large garden with quirky, unique seating and mood lights. But the highlight is it’s simplicity. Putting aside the success they have had from wide areas of Liverpool’s creative collective, it is precisely this stripped-back, uncomplicated mass of bare bricks, exposed wooden rafters and undressed aesthetics that give it such an appeal to the dancers.
In hindsight, it is the momentous and pivotal decision to renovate the Masque that has ever-fuelled this new discontinuity between the centre of town and the Baltic area. Whisking away the Mecca of Liverpool’s dance music community in a whisp of white paint, bright lights and G4S armbands finally made the promoters realise that the ever-rising rental fees of L1’s venues was not cost effective. Something both underlined and exacerbated by the Matrix’s recent crack-down on Liverpool city centre venues. Forcing the promoters to look elsewhere allowed venues like 24 Kitchen Street to come to the fore.
There are ambitious plans to double their floorspace by renovating the first floor. It’s been over a year now since Saad and Yohan took over the property, and it is not coincidental that it has coincided with the staggering rise of 24 Kitchen Street as one of the best venues in Liverpool’s dance music scene.
More and more it is quenching the insatiable appetite of Liverpool’s innumerable promoters and nights, it being the favoured stomping ground of Less Effect, Pagoda, Jolt, and of course Hot Plate – their own party. Hot Plate itself has brought the likes of post-grime influenced Roska, Garage legend Wookie, and London’s Loefah and MJ Cole to Merseyside. Highly thought of in the student community, Saad and Yohan talk about what they’ve achieved so far, and what the future holds for 24 Kitchen Street and Hot Plate.
Saad: We did so much hard work at the beginning and didn’t really see it going anywhere, but now you’re hearing nothing but good things. It’s been a lot of hard work, because we’re working so many hours a week, and also functioning as a business, you don’t really get time to appreciate it.
24 Kitchen Street should not just be pigeon-holed by its great reputation for dance music parties, though. Yohan and Saad stress the importance of diversifying their target audience and building lasting infrastructure.
Yohan: Just keep on doing different things. Some of the most exciting things have been things that we never saw coming. We want to diversify. We had a play on Monday and Tuesday which sold out, we’ve had Red Bull Music Academy Lectures and even Art Shows. We want to do more bands as well.
Saad: We’re looking into upgrading the staging and the lighting equipment at the moment, and just generally building up the range of facilities on offer for parties.
The amount of work that Saad and Yohan have invested into this project is substantial, and huge differences seem to be springing up week by week. Before their ownership, there was no functioning drainage system, only portaloos.
The bar, too, was reminiscent of a wallpaper pasting table and a few crates of Red Stripe behind it.
Saad: We’ve put in a fully stocked bar with draught beers, upgraded the electrics, relayed the floor too and installed functioning toilets with cubicles.
Hot Plate, Saad & Yohan’s own label/party was launched in conjunction with 24 Kitchen Street. Originally focusing on gritty, post-grime garage-influenced artists, they’ve been delving into house and techno more recently to quench Liverpool’s insatiable appetite for it. They argue that the key for Hot Plate was disassociation from 24 Kitchen Street. They’re trying to build a venue and a brand separately.
Yohan: We put on a great party with Fatima recently, and we’ve got a funk & soul party coming up this weekend that we’re really excited about. Originally we rooted Hot Plate in garage because that was the biggest influence on us growing up, and the genre we are most familiar with. The key issue for Hot Plate was to separate it from 24 Kitchen Street, rather than forming too close an association between the venue and the party. We didn’t want a member of a hardcore punk band to be dissuaded from using our venue to put on a night because it was associated too closely as the home of Hot Plate.
Saad: It’s not the only event that we’re associated with either, because we’re the resident spot for Less Effect, Jolt, Pagoda and Rub’a’Glove.
Yohan: We’ve definitely got big plans for Hot Plate. We’re planning on moving it, doing the event at other clubs from about next September. The beauty of Hot Plate is that we can communicate more directly with other promoters, venues and artists who are a part of the dance music scene, whereas 24 Kitchen Street is much more broad, a blank canvas.
Looking into the future, their parties are becoming increasingly more ambitious and venue hire requests increasingly more frequent. However, they do have some events and projects they are particularly excited about. They also spoke of their disappointment on putting so much effort into the Baltic Bloc Party but not being able to get Kitchen Street a part of it in time.
Yohan: Nightmares on Wax is something we are really excited about, it looks like it’s going to be a sell out for that event. That’s on the May 3. We’ve also got a big party coming up in April that we’re keeping under wraps.
Saad: We’re also looking into the possibility of exporting some Hot Plate events towards the end of the year, as mentioned earlier. Look out for collaborations with other nights, so that is really big for us. Hot Plate X ?
Yohan: Then we’ve got the Baltic Bloc Party, too. It was a great success last year and it’s going to be even bigger this time around. Us and the other Baltic Triangle venues are all part of organising the most ambitious party the area has ever seen.
Saad: Last year it was disappointing for us because we co-ran it and just couldn’t get the licensing issue resolved in time. This year however everything will run smoothly. At the moment it looks like we’re going to be the “Secret Party” side of things, so we’ll be a pop-up where we have secret guests coming and playing at 24KS. So maybe some of the headliners as well as doing the big venues will do secret, much more intimate shows. We’ve definitely tried to go bigger and better with Baltic Block Party this year.
Their cheaper overheads allow them to reduce ticket prices to a reasonable level, with ticket rises notorious problem in Liverpool’s scene in recent years. They talk of the consequences of being a small venue with a fledgling reputation, too.
Yohan: Yeah, definitely. I mean, a lot of it was down to the renovation of the Masque and the increased licensing fees, and the Kazimier has come out really strong recently. But there definitely is space for the smaller nights. We have smaller overheads, too. The fact that we can run cheaper gives us a huge range of opportunities to explore. Whereas Chibuku get people that we can’t book at the moment, they’re not interested in booking acts which have a smaller following, which means we get to retain our underground identity to some degree.
Saad: Especially people that were quite hard to get, as well. Your MJ Cole’s, your Zinc’s, they’ve really enjoyed playing here because I think it takes them back to when they first started out. Instead of supporting more commercial artists or playing huge venues, they’re coming here and playing an intimate venue with either residents or smaller acts on their way up.
Yohan: A good example is MJ Cole. When we were trying to book him his agent was basically saying to us “there is no way you’re going to be able to book him”. We thought we weren’t going to be able to make it work because of the fee that he charges, but he spoke to Zinc and agreed to play for a much reduced fee because of the good things he’d heard about 24KS!
Saad: I remember that he was straight off to Leeds after our show, and kept telling us “just tell me when and I’ll come back, definitely!”.
Deep Hedonia bring techno head Samuel Kerridge to Kitchen Street on Thursday April 2 alongside two Getintothis favourites, D R O H N E and VEED who will collaborate live together once again. There’s also DJ slots from resident TOMASU and Cold Blooded’s BLENKY. There’s also the debut from BLACKHOodS member JC and Liverpool power metal trio BODIES ON EVEREST.
24 Kitchen Street in pictures: