Event date: 20.02.14
Venue: Soup Kitchen
Soup Kitchen’s busy schedule has been consistently impressive this year, and the weeknight booking of DJ Rashad (who came all the way from Chicago) is no exception.
Entering the venue at 10.30, I was initially treated to a selection of lackadaisical hip hop in the kitchen, with tracks from artists such as Thundercat and J Dilla being played: setting the scene for the night of off-kilter beats which was to follow. Upon heading downstairs a similar downtempo track selection was in force, with jaunty rhythms and abstract female vocals being a recurring theme. However, Chow Down residents Craig AD and DJ Croww flitted between tempos, venturing into the realms of house, techno, grime and beyond. A particular highlight of this early set was Daphni’s instantly recognisable ‘Yes I Know’, which acted as a gravitational pull over the smoking area and kitchen, immediately filling out Soup Kitchen basement. This juxtaposition of hip hop and bass music was perfectly judged and brilliantly executed, and the variety of music on offer was entirely fitting as support for an artist whose own work draws upon such a broad sphere of influences.
Next up on the decks was Project 13 resident Leadbelly who picked up where the previous DJs had left off. In combination with the night’s host T-Man, Leadbelly expertly worked the crowd into a frenzy, playing an almost faultless set littered with bangers: a personal highlight was Bambounou’s ‘Alpha’, with its warped flute riff and pulsing bass resonating around the basement. Again the track selection was very diverse, but the rolling kicks and piercing snares almost omnipresent in the music united the set and assured its cohesiveness.
The final support DJ was Acre, who begun his set with relentlessly pounding subs which were some of the loudest I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately this brutality appeared to have a slightly negative effect on the crowd: while it would be by no means fair to say that they were alienated by Acre’s set, the atmosphere that Leadbelly had brought to boiling point calmed down just a little between 12.30 and 1. However, this initial intensity subsided and led way to a more eclectic selection of tunes. Mixing was impeccable throughout, and Acre’s set culminated in a ridiculously intense breakbeat conclusion: ‘Wheel ’n’ Deal’ by DJ Gunshot was euphoric in its energy and the crowd responded accordingly. Unsurprisingly from two of Manchester’s most well established promoters, the support on the night was so much more well thought-out than typical warm-up acts, and contributed equally as much to the success of the night as the headliner himself.
While DJ Rashad was the most important act of the night, it is his set which requires the least words to describe: it was a flawless one and a half hour long journey through juke, footwork and bass music in general. Rashad’s set made it clear why he is a veteran of the scene, and from the offset pleasing the crowd was his priority: the opening trio of his own ‘Drank, Kush, Barz’, Addison Groove collaboration ‘Acid Bit’ and Breach’s ‘Jack’ (pitched up a ridiculous amount) sent Soup Kitchen into a manic hysteria which Rashad somehow managed to sustain until closing time. Effortless variety, frantic rhythms and sheer energy are what underpinned the set throughout, and we can only hope that it is not another four years until Rashad graces Manchester again.
Soup Kitchen could not be faulted as a venue: the bar and door staff were friendly, the sound system was insanely powerful, and the music was particularly suited to the dark confines of the basement. In a nightlife scene dominated by DJs who play at or around 126 bpm, it was incredibly refreshing to experience such a wide array of music, and the quality of the residents from both Project 13 and Chow Down astounded me. Credit must also go to the capacity crowd who were consistently engaged and seemed to have an unlimited reserve of energy, making this a very special night.
– Ben Scott