A very special day in the Baltic Triangle, Getintothis’ Ryan Walmsley looks back on the highlights of Chibuku’s 15th birthday party.
On a blustery March afternoon at around 2pm, thousands of people swarmed into the Baltic Triangle in a flurry of Davy Livers, 80’s sportswear brands and discarded Red Stripes for an event which has been unmatched in its ambition since Baltic Bloc Party 2014.
The nagging question was, however, whether Chibuku could deliver. Chibuku didn’t mess around for their birthday celebrations and their collaboration with Abandon Silence (who hosted their own stage) displays a wisdom and maturity regarding how to stay relevant in the constantly changing dance music industry. Being able to pull off such a large, unique and inspired event on such an unprecedented scale is a very tall order.
Several years ago this would only have been a vague dream, but because of a combination of intelligent marketing and promotion, wise and industry-leading bookings and an ever-growing reputation for consistently throwing the best parties in the city, this is just what has happened for Abandon Silence.
Indeed, this event is both a testament to their tremendous aptitude and a marker for how far they have come in recent years. They were easily able to negotiate a WHP-quality line-up, and their recent acts have consisted of the revered Levon Vincent and fans favourite Motor City Drum Ensemble.
Turns out, Chibuku really pulled it out of the bag. From the moment you walked in to the venue (after queuing for an eternity in a cold, muggy limbo) you realised that something was special.
Tunnels interconnected Camp, Furnace and HAUS, each promotor taking over a respective stage. Colourful fairy lights dangled from bare steel girders and glittered in the reflection of a projector’s bulb, which handily informed you of the set times and locations of the 13+ artists playing across the day from 2-11pm.
Despite being disheartened with the size and layout of the smoking area and having strong words with a bouncer about the amount of signs everywhere (no smoking, one way system, cloak room available for £3 this way, buy tickets for the afterparty here, come to the next Chibuku), there was a feeling of genuine astonishment with how well they had organised such an extensive, complex event. Toilet queues weren’t outrageous, the sound systems were marvellous throughout, there wasn’t even any infuriatingly excessive congestion around certain areas, something perhaps Store Street in Manchester should take note of.
As we entered Camp and glided towards Four Tet’s standout set, he was already a quarter of the way through his vibrant, creatively mixed piece. Gushing out lush, soulful disco to a surprisingly packed room considering the recent opening. Playing a Shirley Collins song resulted in Ben UFO getting visibly excited, even tweeting his delight.
A blend of melancholic crescendos clashed with the upbeat, funk-infused basslines layered on top which emphasised the first beat of the bar. Never taking his eyes off the decks, he echo fades out the remaining section of the song and adds ample reverb to build a sense of tension, of anticipation. Through the fading distortion, the noise, the smoke and the lights, Kieran presses play and brings to life the hard, unforgiving pound of a 4×4 techno bass kick and a gritty, syncopated melody.
The crowd is in pandemonium. Four Tet suddenly springs to life. He uses the next two hours to carve out a flawless set of shimmering house and techno, reminiscent of his recent visit to the Shipping Forecast where he played all night long. Never taking time to relax, to look up, to drink his spirit and mixer, he delivers a masterclass in DJing that unfortunately sets a standard that was not truly emulated for the remainder of the day.
However, if there was one performance that came close to the Text Records boss’s, it was Ben UFO’s.
Coincidently on immediately after him, the Hessle Audio boss again affirmed why he has not yet tried his hand at producing with a broad, cultured and truly meaningful set. His influences with dubstep and more predominantly his background interest in UK bass, jungle and pirate radio stations was obvious from the outset, making for a dense, high-octane thriller.
As always with Ben UFO, he derives his identity in equal parts from his refreshing humbleness (in the face of countless generic, sterile and arrogant “Ibiza house” DJ’s) and from his genre-defying sets, made so much more magical due to their exclusivity on vinyl.
This keeps the crowd infused with a sense of intimacy and makes one truly appreciate the difficulty of a multi-genre vinyl set. This wasn’t to say that his set didn’t evolve from a post-jungle, “London” sound into a form of darker, more menacing techno – because it did.
Having not played in Liverpool since Chibuku brought him, Hudson Mohawke and Tessela to party all the way back in February 2014, it was surprising that Jackmaster’s performance was disappointingly uneventful. He seemed at points to draw the crowd into unwanted and unnecessarily long breakdowns, when a glance up from his CDJ’s would have revealed a crowd on the precipice of euphoria, sufficiently riled by Ben UFO’s adrenaline-pumping preparations for Jackmaster to bring the party to a climax.
Alas, he took the mood down from inky, looming techno towards a tribal-focused, drawn-out ‘funky’ sound that was neither impressive nor abject. A solid set, but not necessarily right for the atmosphere, the highlight was undoubtedly Moodymann’s Dem Young Sconies, a thundering, cheeky belter which stood out from the rest because of its confident baseline and unique percussion.
George Fitzgerald B2B Joy Orbison was perhaps the most disappointing performance of the day. Possibly splitting the set inhibited the other’s ideas about what to play, but that should not be an excuse as both artists are seasoned pros at B2B sets. Their show was uneventful and unimaginative, a set that doesn’t deserve to be called outrightly bad, the problem must lie in the sheer talent and creativeness of Ben UFO and Four Tet for setting the standard for the day so early on. Beating their flow and inventiveness today would have been almost too difficult, especially when you only have control over half the music that is being played.
If George Fitzgerald agrees that perhaps he could have brought more to the table, then he’s at least found comfort by becoming a staunch Nabzys advocate, and joins an impressive list of DJ-customers for our city-wide beloved chicken shop courtesy of the Abandon Silence team.
A meticulously organised, thoroughly accessible event whose ambition was only matched by a surprisingly impressive atmosphere, crowd and attitude, Chibuku must be commended for bringing a party of such ambition to Liverpool’s doorstep, whilst Abandon Silence’s bookings stole the show and ensured a very, very special day of dancing in Merseyside.
Photos from Chibuku’s Facebook page.