For over a year now, Joshua Brooks has played host to one of the finest club nights that Manchester’s Dancehall scene has to offer. Every month the boys from Frontin’ host a night where Rum and Ragga flow smoothly and seamlessly, the emphasis is on the music and the funky vibes and as a regular punter I can guarantee you that they do not disappoint. From humble beginnings at Red Rum (R.I.P old friend) to now consistently selling out Joshua Brooks on a monthly basis, the last eighteen months has seen the Frontin’ team hit an upward trend that does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Back in Manchester after a wild summer and with the academic year in full swing, we caught up with Frontin’ boss J Rus to reminisce a little and to find out what they have planned for the future.
I want to start with a really simple one, why? And I want complete honesty, what drove you to try and put Frontin’ on in the first place.
We were a bit bored of the monotonous house/tech/bass nights that seemed to be popping up all over Manchester and quite simply just wanted people to have fun again. We wanted people to come down just to dance and let loose, rather than taking the whole experience to seriously. Oh and drink lots of rum.
Next let’s find out who is involved. When we talk about the Frontin’ team who are we actually talking about?
I literally couldn’t run it without the help of Bacchanal Ronin and CanYouFelix – my tropical brothers. Orfan has been a constant help since the Red Rum days, Frontin’ wouldn’t be where it is today without him. All 3 are residents and between them pretty much cover all musical bases, soca to 12” classic soul records. Can’t forget our host Darka, who holds the vibe every time without fail. They’re all top geezas who I love working with – feeling emotional now haha. Wanna give a shout out to Henry Bird too, he gave us the opportunity we needed to get things moving. At this point though our extended family is pretty big so I’m not gonna list everyone but y’all know who you are.
Now let’s get to the heart of things, the music. Why did you want to put on a tropical night? Did you think there was a gap in the market, or was it just for the sheer love of the music?
I’ve been going to Notting Hill, St Pauls Carnival and Hot Wuk since I was a teenager so I owe my love for all things tropical from the vibe they provide, can’t quite get anything else like it. Growing up around all of that and being surrounded by a great music scene in Bristol as a teenager, I wanted to put my own twist on it I guess. Even though we push a lot of tropical music at Frontin, I try pretty hard to not strictly define us as that. We have a really open mind to our music policy. Groovy soca and afrobeats can be anywhere from 112 to 130 bpm, so can sit really nicely with a lot of underground stuff coming out of the UK in the last 20 years – UK Funky and UK Garage in particular. Dancehall and RnB is another one to work hand in hand, which we constantly draw for and always gets a big reaction. I guess I just want to keep things fun and interesting musically speaking, there’s so much out there I’ve never found the need to just play a certain type of music.
In an ideal world you take over Manchester’s and then the world’s Tropical scene. More realistically though, where do you see yourselves going? What are the next steps for Frontin?
For the time being, keep putting on our monthly parties at Joshua Brooks and running our stage at Pangaea Festival with BPM. Starting in November, we’re bringing a monthly party to The Big Chill Bar in Bristol which I’m pretty excited about kicking off. Other than that, I’m keen to get Frontin’ on the festival map next summer – there is definitely a niche to be filled for tropical vibes at UK festivals.
Undoubtedly it’s been crazy since everything kicked of back in March 2013, what’s been the most enjoyable single experience since it all started?
Real tough one as we’ve had a lot of fun in the last 18 months. Off the top of my head, Royal T absolutely smashed it when we booked him with BPM last April – rarely see a vibe like that and it was special seeing it at your own party. Shouts to Crissi, Darka, Tdot, Sleepy and all the BPM family each and every.
In terms of an overall experience though, Frontin’ has really opened up opportunities to meet some great people. All the guys who run Swing Ting, Hot Milk, Overproof, Fever 105, Stevie Wonderland and BPM have been a constant help. It’s really reassuring seeing nights occupying similar niches to you but helping you out rather than getting competitive. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing – just to put on great parties with the music we love. I’ve got a lot of time for that and is probably my favourite thing about the Manchester music scene.
Conversely, what’s been the most difficult experience you’ve had since it all started?
Technicals. Always technicals. I was playing after Brackles at Pangaea last year, and we had a complete sound cut out for about 3 minutes. Would’ve been completely screwed if it wasn’t for BPM’s Tdot who somehow held the vibe – my man is a charmer, had the girls in the front rows full attention haha.
As with every month, next Thursday the 23rd, the Frontin’ team hosts Joshua Brooks. Make sure you get yourself down there to soak up the tropical vibes.