On a blustery March afternoon at around 2 pm, 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 over everyone’s head was whether Chibuku and Abandon Silence could deliver; being able to pull off such a large, unique and inspired event on an unprecedented scale is a very tall order after all. Several years ago this would only have been a vague dream, but through a combination of intelligent marketing and promotion, genre-leading bookings and an ever-growing reputation for consistently throwing the best parties in the city, Abandon Silence have helped actualise their long-term ambition. Indeed, this event is both a testament to their tremendous aptitude and a marker for how far they have come in recent years.
Turns out, Chibuku and Abandon Silence really pulled it out of the bag. From the moment you walked in to the venue, you realised that something was special. Tunnels inter-connected Camp and Furnace and HAUS, each promotor taking over a respective stage. Colourful fairy lights were dangled from the bare steel girders and the reflection of a projector’s bulb handily informed you of the set times and locations of the 13+ artists playing across the day from 2-11pm. All round there was genuine astonishment with how well they had organised such an extensive, complex event. Toilet queue’s weren’t outrageous, the sound systems were marvellous and 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 headed towards Four Tet’s standout set, he was already a quarter of the way through his expertly mixed piece, gushing out lush, soulful disco to a surprisingly packed room considering the recent opening. When he played Shirley Collins, fellow artist from the day’s bill, Ben UFO was visibly excited about it, even tweeting his delight. Four Tet’s sets are a great blend of melancholic crescendo clashed with upbeat basslines layered on top, presumably sampled from funk due to the stress on 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 and 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. The crowd are in pandemonium, and Four Tet spring to life. He uses the next two hours to carve out a meticulously perfect set of shimmering house and techno. Never taking time to relax, to look up, to drink his spirit and mixer, he delivers a masterclass in DJing that set a standard which, for me, was not truly emulated throughout the rest of the day.
If there was one performance however that came closest to the Text Records bosses, then it was Ben UFO’s. On immediately after, he produced 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. The magic of his genre-defying sets being their exclusiveness to 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 into a form of dark, menacing techno towards the end – because it did.
Jackmaster was surprisingly uneventful. He seemed at points to draw the crowd into unwanted and unnecessarily long breakdowns, when a quick glance up from his CDJ’s would have revealed a crowd on the precipice of euphoria, thanks to Ben UFO’s adrenaline-pumping preparations. 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 chundering, 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. Splitting the set possibly 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, perhaps a set that doesn’t deserve to be called outrightly bad but the problem lies 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 would have been too difficult a job, especially when you only have control over half the music that is being played.
If George Fitzgerald perhaps agrees he could have brought more to the table, then he has 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. All in all, a well-organised event with 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.
Words: Ryan Tristram-Walmsley