Having lived in Manchester for nearly 4 years now I have become very familiar with the confines of Joshua Brooks. Whilst it has steadily been chugging out great nights over the last 3 years this year has seen the club experience a new lease of life. Now fitted with a formidable Void Sound system, booking selecta Hugo Monypenny has rightly capitalised on this development and dropped a mouth-watering list of line-ups this autumn. Amongst this is the brilliant Meat Free collective who have made their own great contributions to this catalogue.
Anyone whose interests converge on the sounds of Techno and House will no doubt be well aware of the Manchester based Meat Free collective. Not even 2 years old yet these girls find themselves running one of the best underground dance nights in the city. Resident nights previously have been based around a ‘pay for what you think the night is worth’ policy, leaving it up to the punter to decide the price of entry. It seems a risky ploy considering students’ capacities to be notoriously stingy but it seems to have paid dividends so far! Past bookings by the group include the likes of Youandewan, October and the mighty Tamo Sumo; last Friday on Halloween it was the turn of synthmaster and all round House & Techno don Legowelt to get spooky in the JB basement.
Arriving before the clock struck midnight, surrounded by many a half-arsed Zombie costume ensemble (I have to admit I was one of them), but also an equal amount of extravagant efforts, I was greeted by the sounds of Nottingham based duo Alex Lewis & Willow. Sticking strong to the Berlin Techno orientations of Meat Free but also infusing some nearer to home UK influenced tracks, they reinforced the importance of the warm act – keeping the selections subdued but also with enough drive to allow the crowd to get into gear. Perhaps a surprising selection was the dropping of ‘Levon Vincent’s – Solemn Days’ which I would have initially been seen as a premature play but it managed to draw the crowds gaze away from their friends and pointed firmly towards the music!
With a great warm up set established and a Joshua Brooks basement caked in hanging skeletons, ghosts, ghouls and all other Halloween décor in-between, Legowelt stepped up around 1 o’clock. Calmly and timidly approaching his vast live synth setup as soon as the first kick drum boomed out of JBs sound system he and the crowd sprang into life. Often at full stretch swiftly navigating from one interface to another Legowelt stuck true to his reputation pushing a synth heavy orientated set unrelenting in momentum. Though I am a sucker for a low end groove Legowelt somehow managed to move through a variety of high end synth led tunes that never became laborious or dull to endure. Built upon strong 4/4 rhythms Legowelt offered intense hands in the air build ups often capitalising on kick and snare synchronised stabs which time and time again built the crowd up into hand waving and fist pumping states of hysteria. Though on a personal level I would have loved to have heard some vocal explorations and more stripped back grooves as well, the set was still one of the best I have heard this year and can be complimented no higher than by the fact that never at any point did I draw for my phone or consider a break to the smoking area.
Whilst the Meat Free resident girls have no doubt developed the skills to throw a good party, they also seem to have developed mind-reading techniques – Blasha and Allatt stepped up after Lego answering my subliminal prayers by dropping some of the rawest pummelling techno belters of the night!
Though my qualms with Meat Free as a night are almost non-existent I do still hold some reservations regarding Joshua Brooks as a venue: When at its peak, as was the case on Friday, it can be quite a frustrating venue to go to. Though now boasting a new rig, the club still suffers from a toilet route that cuts across the dance floor and a lot of wasted space in the basement. When rammed the main area is almost inhospitable, in a constant state of flux as many push past to get to the toilet or bar, and aggravated further by some weapons who convince themselves that bringing in precarious mixer drinks is a good idea. It doesn’t ruin nights there, but can often have a detrimental impact to the vibe of the dance floor.
Regarding Meat Free however these guys are continuing to lead by example on how to throw nights that incorporate great music and a warm, friendly party-starting vibe. With Ben Sims stepping up for the next one, I’ll definitely be turning up again!
Venue: Joshua Brooks
Date: 31st October
– Calum Carey