I LOVE ACID MANCHESTER @ GORILLA 2020 REVIEWJune 7, 2020
Review – Suddi Raval
DJ’s Posthuman, Jon Dasilva, Boxia, Leftfield & Altern-8 live.
It is the 7th of February 2020 and there is a buzz in the Mancunian air tonight. Everyone I see in the street seems to be really hyped about something. Surely they can’t all be going to I Love Acid? People seem to be smiling at me as I pass them. It almost feels like a festival atmosphere round here tonight. Is it me or is everyone almost skipping with excitement? I don’t know. I genuinely don’t but I’m not imagining this and then I remember. I’ve not seen the streets of Manchester at night for quite a while.
As I was walking down Whitworth Street from my hotel to towards Gorilla it occurred to me how lucky I was to have grown up in Manchester at the time I did. As I turned 17 years old in 1988, Acid House Music was about to explode onto the dancefloors of the Hacienda and Blackburn. For a while I didn’t go to the real underground clubs, too afraid or apprehensive about what to expect. Then in one week, after I had the opportunity (the full story is in one of my previous “One Foot In The Rave” columns) my eyes were finally open to the world, and all it contained in the multiverse of madness that only Acid House could offer. I have literally not stopped clubbing since.
I went from The Hacienda and Blackburn, to every single Electrik Chair night I could physically attend. It sounds obsessive of me, but if I was to go on holiday at the time of my peak-interest, I’d feel like I’d missed out on something massive. And also the smaller club gems such as Friends & Family, Aficionado and Most Excellent. Manchester truly was the city that never stopped giving and whilst I knew there were always amazing clubs in London, I’d only go as far as to say, I’d dabbled. I’d been to most of the biggest clubs like Fabric and Ministry but my heart was always in Manchester and clubbing for me was always it’s best in the North. I have to say the North because some of the best clubs were not always in Manchester, being at either end of the M62. Namely Cream in Liverpool (before Oakey Trancified it) and epic nights such as Back to Basics, Kaos, Up Yer Ronson and Soak in Leeds.
Then all of a sudden in 2007, something changed about how I felt about clubbing in London. I started to hear about this one night. A homegrown night that, from what I was reading online, seemed to go from strength to strength. I tried to resist but the fuckers gave it a name I absolutely could not ignore. The night was called I LOVE ACID! Bastards! It was the forbidden apple tree and man, I wanted a piece. I wanted all of it.
There were times in the night where I stood back and looked at the crowd and thought to myself, this is like ’89.
For many years I had convinced myself that it was in London and therefore I couldn’t go. It was miles away! How can I possibly travel all that way? Imagine the cost of a night in London, but posts for the nights kept cropping up and they were not helping me resist temptation. With the club night being named after the brilliant vocoder-driven tune, I Love Acid by Luke Vibert, it was fitting that they had him as a guest at the early nights.
Reportedly, the mood at some of the early nights was meant to be on a bit of a Rephlex records tip, the label owned by Aphex Twin. After the label’s head honchos, Richard D. James and Grant Wilson-Claridge proclaimed the label’s intention was to “promote innovation in the dynamics of Acid” it all made sense. With Rephlex, they helped keep Acid House alive in the ’90s whilst much of the world had largely switched off to it, so the mood of the night was a fitting tribute to a pioneering label that helped Acid House stay afloat when it could have been in danger of sinking into the depths of clubbing history.
Don’t get me wrong, all the I Love Acid nights around this time looked incredible. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go. I did, desperately but it seemed insane to travel all those miles, probably on my own as I don’t think I knew anyone at the time who was as obsessed with Acid House as I was (how times have changed!) Then I saw some posts around 5 years ago that changed everything. I’d already missed out on countless nights. So when I saw this, something inside me happened. It was an ad for an I Love Acid night. The line up said: DJ Pierre, Luke Vibert, Posthuman, Affie Yusuf, Placid. Jesus! I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was no club night line up! This was like a work of phantasy phiction.
A load of my favourite acid and house names, on one billing. It was too much to bear. I didn’t even hesitate. I immediately got my bank card out and before I knew it I was entering my details to bag myself a ticket, not even thinking about where I was going to stay or the logistics of the night. As I frantically entered the digits It occurred to me, how much this night is going to cost but I said to myself, it’s a one-off. It really is.
How many times are you going to see the creator of Acid House performed a DJ set with a host of other legendary dance music figures? I looked at the line-up again and asked myself: Should I really be doing this? Am I mad? And my overwhelming feeling was, the only thing mad about this was the possibility that I might miss it. Fuck the doubt. Let’s do this and my god I wasn’t disappointed. From then on, I was hooked. I went to pretty much every I Love Acid night I could and after a while I even got used to travelling 200 miles on my own as I met loads of people there who quickly became good friends.
As the years went by and the I Love Acid nights got better an opportunity presented itself to locate to London for me. As I was spending so much of my time down there and much of my clubbing centred around London club nights, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, plus some of my favourite nights were there and it would certainly make getting to the nights a hell of a lot easier. So I made the move and guess what happened? I Love Acid only started doing club night in Manchester! They’d branched out. It’s no surprise really seeing as by now the nights were a nationwide talking point and the demand for their nights had obviously outgrown the locality of its birthplace.
So here is me, for years travelling to London to go to I Love Acid nights and as soon as I move, they start putting them on in my hometown. Oh well, looks like I am going to be making the trek in the opposite direction!
As expected the night was off the scale but I thought it was going to be a one-off. Thankfully not. They had clearly identified the public’s insatiable appetite for what was rapidly becoming the best club brand in the country but don’t take my word for it. DJ Magazine had recently honoured them the grand title of Best Club Event in the UK! And rightly so!
The line-up for this night was ridiculous. Just one of any of the mighty names on the line-up this night offered would have been enough but in true I Love Acid fashion, they pushed the boat right out and went way beyond anything anyone could wish for: on the line up we had Boxia, no stranger to the scene. Boxia is signed to Adam Beyers Drum Code label and is a self-confessed “rave anorak” who lives and breathes underground electronic music who has released some of the most infectious grooves laid to vinyl. Described as a rare breed who is driven by the essence of rave culture – he says his obsession is motivated by the human connection, the freedom of expression and the positive power of music.
Next on the line-up was one of the heavyweights in dance music history, makers of what could be described as possibly the greatest electronic music album of all time, Leftfield. What could they possibly add to this collection to make it even better? None other than rave-originators Altern-8! With the man behind the mask, Mark Archer manning the decks on the pre-party too then next on the line up we had Jon Da Silva, Hacienda legend and I Love Acid Manchester’s resident DJ. To finalise the billing was Posthuman, resident DJs at all the I Love Acid events and the guys behind the club night. What a line-up!
Boxia……. is a is a self-confessed “rave anorak” who lives and breathes underground electronic music
I was bursting with excitement so I booked a hotel at the nearby Refuge hotel owned by the guys who used to run the Electric Chair nights so the night began with House music related elements at every stage.
When I got back to the pre-party in the bar, it was starting to finish and there was quite a queue forming for the main club. This alone should have given me an indication of what was to come because it took me right back to those old Hacienda days as it was just a couple of hundred meters away from where the old Hacienda building used to be (which unsurprisingly is now a block of luxury flats!) So I joined the queue and waited with high anticipation to enter the club. You could hear the thud of the bass drum, boom-boom-boom pounding through the door as you got closer. Man, it sounded loud. Very loud. This just got me more excited for what was to come. As I got to the front and got through the box office area, the music was getting clearer and the bass was getting louder. I wasn’t sure who was on first. I didn’t bother to check the running order.
I wasn’t expecting the place to be so full as the club had only just opened its doors but as I entered the main room it was absolutely buzzing. The energy could be seen on people’s faces. There was an excitement in the room driven by the music which I can only describe as pumping, pounding and relentless and quite frankly, fucking amazing. The stage area in Gorilla is at the other end from where the entrance is but I wanted to see who was playing and I wanted to get closer to the speakers. I had to literally climb through the swathes of bodies consuming the dancefloor but I did that thing where you pretend you’re in a hurry to get somewhere saying excuse me to everyone you’ve just elbowed in the back, when in reality you’re just trying to get to the front until finally, I’d arrived at my destination.
I’d got a front-row seat at the best show in town (obviously there were no seats here really but you know what I mean!) They’ve got a good sound system in Gorilla so when the music is this good it just sounds all the better. I couldn’t see who was playing for the smoke but I was squinting my eyes as I occasionally stopped bobbing to the beat to try to work out who it was then I could just make out the silhouettes of Jon Da Silva and Posthuman. The music was so good, it was actually almost a little distracting from dancing. I get like this sometimes. Being a part-time synth nerd I sometimes need to stop and listen to the sounds that a DJ is making. It’s a stupid thing to do when I could be enjoying myself but I can’t help it and it only really happens when it is this good. I didn’t know most of the tunes but this is without a doubt one of the best things about the I Love Acid nights. It isn’t a retro night.
They always play the best brand new Acid House music in the world. Before I started going to I Love Acid nights, I didn’t even know there was that much new Acid House music in the world but after coming to these night for so long you had grown accustomed to that. Never complacent though. One thing struck me as I listen to tune after brilliant tune. I’d been listening to Posthuman DJ for the best part of the last 5 or 6 years now both online and in clubs but mainly in clubs and there was where it mattered the most because after all, that’s where this music is best heard. Listening to a club set on your living room speakers or headphones is never going to be the same as on a massive pounding club system and you’re never going to get the same atmosphere at home. So for me, this is home. This is where I am most comfortable doing the thing that I love the most: listening to Acid House music in a club on a massive system.
One of the best things about the I Love Acid nights…It isn’t a retro night.
I’ve never made so many friends as I do at the I Love Acid nights so it was no surprise at all that very early on in the night I got chatting to a bunch of different people who all end up putting the glowing bands on their wrists, on their heads, round their necks and no matter how serious a music aficionado you are, you get caught up in this incredibly happy feeling of togetherness. I had never really put any thought into those glow sticks until writing this but my guess is that it is no accident that the guys behind the night go to such lengths to add to the fun element of the night. You know these events would be amazing anyway. I only think I come for the music but it’s the crowd it attracts too. Everyone is so happy and into it and that rubs off. So the night was off to an amazing start. Jon Da Silva and Posthuman banging them out tune after tune that I’d not heard of before, reminding me of the some of my early clubbing years for more than one reason. Not only did I have the fortune of hearing Jon Da Silva play some incredible music with one of my favourite DJ’s but musically, it was just like it used to be where you’d be gifted with the best new tunes.
There was a seamless blend into Boxia coming on the decks as he just kept up the quality of the music but one of his early tracks was something I was familiar with. I love Paul Woolford at the best of times so this was all my favourite worlds colliding at the same time! The tune was Fahrenheit 451 by Special Request. Special Request is one of Woolfords alter-ego’s, his Hardcore moniker. It has such an incredible bassline that just throbs to a massive 4 on the floor beat and goes into a brilliant rave-stab driven breakdown with old-school vocal samples yelling “got to keep the fire burning”. The set carried on with some blinding pulsing basslines and driving beats and just when you think you know what’s going on he throws in a tune by Yello! Yes, them! The Swiss electronic duo! It’s not totally brand new but it’s not one of their oldest tracks either. This is a tune called Electrified 2 off their Toy album back in 2016 that was only available on the deluxe edition of the album and it was a stroke of genius to chuck it into an acid set at an acid house club!
This should have given me a taste of what Boxia was going to give us. The music just continued to be consistently unexpected and amazing. It got quite abstract at times but always banging and again when you think you know what to expect next he throws in a Plastikman remix of an old System 7 tune with Felix (Don’t You Want me) samples over the top! The place was literally jumping by now and as if you begin to get a handle on what is next, he starts to wind his set up (definitely up and not down) with a jungle track! It worked. I never thought it would but the break (no pun intended) from the Acid was so unexpected it grabbed you by the scruff of your neck and demanded you danced to it! Excellent work.
You didn’t know where to look! The breakers, the MC or the 2 music makers behind their stack of black boxes. It was a sensory overload and it was incredible to watch.
We are nowhere near even close to the end of the night and it was already incredible. I knew there were 2 more acts to follow but I wasn’t sure who was on next until an MC came on and asked us to raise the roof (that probably wasn’t his exact words but that is exactly what happened) for one of the most iconic acts in dance music history and as the masked crusaders joined the stage the entire venue erupted to the magnificent sound of Altern-8! Playing all their classics, the crowd were whipped in a frenzy as the 2 music makers on their array of electronic boxes poked and prodded their lights and switches to make their music happen, neck deep in wires and gadgets they were firmly eyes-down focusing on their craft as the MC took care of the crowd.
This guy has clearly been doing this for some time as he knew exactly how to play the crowd and as the energy seemed to peak, what was to happen next was completely unexpected and if you’d ask if this was possible I’d say no! A pair of break-dancers came onto the stage. Bear in mind, this was no stadium arena stage! This was a modest club stage at a dance music night and they did some of the most spectacular breaking moves I’ve seen since 1985. Windmills, flying feet and headspins all over the place! You didn’t know where to look! The breakers, the MC or the 2 music makers behind their stack of black boxes. It was a sensory overload and it was incredible to watch.
It’s hard to believe that after all these years in going to clubs and raves I have somehow never got to see Altern-8 live before and you could tell that these were guys who knew their craft. Playing banger after banger ripping up the dancefloor with such a ferocious energy the front of the stage was more akin to a mosh pit than a normal rave. A happy friendly one mind, with none of the aggression or flying fists you might find at a metal gig but all of the chaos.
This was some show and it felt as if every single person in the club was in tune with the performance on stage probably partly due to the respect we all had for who they were and what they’ve achieved in 30 years in the scene. Afterall this gig was part of the Altern-8 30th-anniversary tour. It’s hard to believe that these classic tracks have been around for that long and these guys have been in the game for all these years but the giveaway is their professionalism and their skill at their craft. It was a flawless performance done with such precision, only decades of hard work and devotion to your art can produce something this good. You sometimes forget they were also the minds behind the techno outfit Nexus 21 and then throw into the mix, that they were behind the genre-defying Slo Motion project. It’s hard to believe the scale of their contribution to dance music.
This could have been it. We would have been a couple of acts ago the whole thing has been so brilliant but no. This is an I Love Acid night and they will not stop giving you what you want until your jaw is on the floor and what was next to come truly left our collective jaws on the floor. Leftfield have genuinely provided us with us one of the most important electronic albums in music history, Leftism. I remember when It came out because I bought it on both vinyl and CD and it was the CD I played at the time for ease and laziness. So my vinyl copy is in pristine condition. Waiting for Leftfield to come on after Altern-8 was very exciting and as Leftfield graced the one’s and two’s they played a perfect blend of music that was both head music and foot-fodder. This was a perfect collection of tunes to end the night. They kept the bar very high and the crowds hands were flying high throughout most of their set and they pulled out such an incredible selection of tunes that blew our minds and packed the floor.
I cannot wait for the lockdown to be over so we can all get back to dancing again. I can’t wait for the next I Love Acid night.
All in all, it was a perfect night. As far as I Love Acid nights go, it was genuinely one of the best I’d been to and that really is saying something as I have been to a lot and they are always fantastic but this one just kept giving. As I think about the night now, well after it is over, it makes me wonder how they do it. They clearly want to remind us of those heady days of the early years of Acid House as no-one ever stops talking about how they were some of the most amazing nights in clubbing history but somehow they do it. They manage to genuinely recreate that magic. There were times in the night where I stood back and looked at the crowd and thought to myself, this is like ’89.
This is actually as good as it was back then. I really don’t know how you can capture that atmosphere. It can’t be easy or everyone would be doing it but somehow they manage to pull it off and it is something, once you’ve experienced you want to feel again. I cannot wait for the lockdown to be over so we can all get back to dancing again. I can’t wait for the next I Love Acid night. For now, all we can do is be patient but one things for sure, when this quarantine is over I’ll be stepping foot into an I Love Acid night again is going to feel like you’ve been born again. Ha! A born again raver! It’ll be an event of biblical proportions. Gives me butterflies just thinking about it.
Review – Suddi Raval