“What was once an old warehouse, reminiscent of Liverpool’s more industrial years that reeked of the post Thatcher north, became something that better resembled James Cameron’s Avatar.”
A tightly executed night wound around a vibrant atmosphere, heavily syncopated rhythms, and – possibly – a relative degree of cultural insensitivity.
Somewhere in Liverpool’s infamous Baltic Triangle lies a warehouse that, for one night only, played host to a neon painted spectacle that sought a packed out venue in exchange for, what seemed to be, various methods of dressing up a very regular beat. Soul, Ska and Hip Hop officially took over Constellations, fronted by Manchester’s finest Hip Hop collective, The Mouse Outfit.
The first (official) theme of the night was “Navaho (Navajo) neon paint carnival”, and it was at this point where the first sharp intake of breath through teeth took place. I’ll be the first to admit that, as far as event decoration goes, this was the most impressive I had ever seen. What was once an old warehouse, reminiscent of Liverpool’s more industrial years that reeked of the post Thatcher north, became something that better resembled James Cameron’s Avatar. The fluorescent leaves and feathers, tribal markings and a rather impressive stage projection – an eclectic mixture of Native American and possibly African patterns – invited, enticed and convinced you to pay the £4 per-half-decent-beer price tag.
It was fun, it was vibrant, and it was evident that the effort had been put in – a success if you will. However, as one of these 21st Century politically correct loony leftie types, I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable by it all. Is it okay to use the culture of an oppressed people as a novelty in order to sell tickets?
Anyway, aside from my little gripe (especially at the tribesman statues painted white and stood hunched in a loincloth – frankly, tasteless), the reason we were there was, of course the music. 7 acts over the course of the night, and with this came the second theme of the night – bands, but with lots of people in them. 7 pieces, 8 pieces, the more the merrier. You play brass? Come and join us! Arkham Karvers opened up, a four piece who played an impressive ska, infused with indie pop guitar and a vocalist whose voice is so versatile that he could be just as comfortable in a pop, pop punk or even a jazz band. Kioko followed suit, a stylish 7 piece from Birmingham who aren’t afraid of brass and rock a steady beat. By 10 o’clock, the crowd was almost certainly warming to the night, the place gradually filling up.
Just a little late of schedule, The Soul Rays took to the stage, a local and totally underrated ten piece soul outfit. With special guest local rappers to accompany the strong harmonies, the atmosphere was as full as the stage. Highfields and The Kazimier Krunk Band brought the fun in the shape of more brass and more offbeat rhythms at variable tempos and textures – Krunk’s accordion was an especially refreshing touch. Before long though, it was time for the act everyone had been waiting for, The Mouse Outfit (with more special guest rappers in the shape of Dr Syntax & Sparkz).
Flawless, seamless and a sense of humour to boot. The flow of the rhymes was liquid, the band was tight and the only thing I feel could have made it better is if the mics had been a fraction louder in order to get the effect of each powerful line. Incorporating their renditions of crowd pleasers, including Sir Mix a Lot’s Jump On it alongside others in a medley effortlessly raised the bar and the roof. While the night overall was largely a mass of similar syncopated rhythms and blinding ignorance in choice of décor/theme – it was, to be frank: fun, vibrant and the breath of fresh air that I feel Liverpool’s night life has been missing.
Words: Lewis Dale