By Dr. Joseph.
Having had the trains and tickets booked for months to go to No Bounds Festival’s Launch party at Hope Works, I was especially over the moon to be asked with one week left, to play their 5am slot. I felt it best to give full disclosure now as to my involvement with No Bounds, as although the following heaps of praise about the whole affair would be the same without having played, being part of it gave me an insight into both ends of the party.
I arrived at Hope Works to a friendly and efficient security team getting us in as quickly as possible. Unlike certain other warehouse parties across the country where you are treated like a criminal until proven otherwise, and even then things don’t get much better, the courtesy and respect shown by patrons and security alike meant the mood was jovial, never tense or cagey. This was of course made all the better by Lena Willikens subtly shifting bodies with a classy opener of chugging, slightly wiggy, house and techno. I did not recognise a single track from her set but each and every one had a distinct and singular sound, a theme that ran through all of the sets that night. Of course Hope Work’s sound, light and decor were in full effect with a rig more powerful yet well balanced than anything I have experienced in recent UK parties. Maybe only a recent Tresor trip tops it.
After familiarising ourself with the courtyard tent, where I was to play, and also the intimate room 2, time flew by as the place started to fill up. Revellers of all ages and genders were chatting with each other and making friends with their neighbour in the courtayrd, something that of course should be the case at all parties but often is not. Something that struck me immediately was the perfect balance of people with a real respect for both the music and each other, a clear knowledge of who was playing where/when showed that a lot of music heads were about, but everyone also was up for a real throwdown, not endlessly shazamming or trying to out-RA knowledge each other. At one point during a particularly aggressive set of claps that arrived during Nobu’s set, my dancing neighbour accused me of getting a bit close, I reminded him we were at the very front of a busy party and that everyone was a bit close, to which he took some brief verbal distain. However, withins seconds we turned to each other and shared “let’s not argue ey mate” and laughed, safe in the knowledge that everyone their was friends for the night. I even remember a sweaty hug being exchanged. That 3 seconds of mild animosity was the closest thing I saw to a disagreement all night, and it ended in a friend for the session and all in good humour.
What also felt very special and added to the incredibly professional yet laid back feeling that the festival offered, was the site of DJ Nobu chatting casually to some twenty somethings out front with Helena Hauff sat enjoying a beer with some (visibly chuffed) local lads who had just started to chatting to her. Too often these days there is huge separation between artist and dancer, sometimes with good reason, of course the celebrity status can mean endless attention from wrecked punters is annoying for them I am sure. Nor am I denying the need for a green room. But, to see the DJ’s enjoying the venue for all it had to offer, both outside and in, and meeting those who had travelled and paid to see them, felt hugely refreshing. On a personal level I was also chuffed as it meant I got to meet DJ Nobu and make sure he knew I named our kitten after him and also caught up with Helena after having had my mind blown by her when she played for our Backdrop party in Newcastle last year.
Dj Nobu’s set was something of a masterclass in bruising, deep, hypnotic techno.Rarely lifting the four from the floor, I felt it was exactly what the night needed at that point. People were getting into their stride and you don’t want it broken just yet. When maybe just getting your first proper uninterrupted stomp of the night on, for that you want something to cling to and he provided that and more. Having been fascinated by Japan, it’s culture, music and festivals for some time, to see the Future Terror master at work was a real joy. He has ran those parties for over a decade in his hometown in Chiba, and his confident, effortless yet daring style was plain to see. Hearing Varg’s “Heroine I CK” through that spectacular soundsystem was a set defining moment, with a distant acid growl getting closer and surely spinning people into another gear.
It was then up to Nina Kraviz to deliver the peak time madness. She of course did so with absolute ease. On taking the reigns there was a real push for the front, with her star quality drawing lots of adoration and yells of her name. She took Nobu’s energy into her first couple of selections with real class, not dramatically breaking the flow or clamouring for a restart or applause. She soon dipped into one acid track which had helicopter blades rattling around the room, before some unique broken beats and Trip inspired records set the tone for a hectic as hell demonstration of how to keep incredible energy up without playing a single “functional” record. They were all weird and lairy, some subtly so, some insanely so, but they were all fun to dance to. It is often hard when a DJ has reached such a high profile for them to be able to match expectations, she did so completely (and was also very kind when i eagerly thrust her a backdrop flyer trying to entice her to play the Toon at some point…)
Mumdance was causing absolute mayhem outside in the courtyard, where I was set to play. Keen to enjoy this den for sometime before my own slot, I was both incredibly excited and nervous at following the unique energy he had conjured. His ability to fuse grime, dub, jungle, DnB with techno was like nothing I have ever enjoyed. Since becoming somewhat of a house/techno/electro obsessive means I don’t hear as much of the aforementioned genre’s while out, so it was a real eye and ear opening delight to dance to. My knowledge is majorly insufficient to know which tracks he was playing, but some seemed to be majorly familiar with the grime fans in the crowd, before he would pull back and start again or stop entirely and restart with some spoken word before seamlessly stitching techno over the vocals. A calm and collected figure behind the decks but with a noticeably joyous expression, he was pretty inspiring. He was also incredibly kind and calming to my somewhat nervous self who was side of stage. Nothing like a master of the game to pat you on the back before stepping up to make you feel like your right and ready to be there.
Having handed over with some very fast madness, I was glad to have packed AFX “Elephant song” so that i could emerge with something similarly as rowdy and not feel like a giant climb down. Dax J and Devine Right then felt like the right choice to keep the energy up while steering things back towards more of a techno direction. With sunrise upon us and staring into the final hour, I reached for some deeper Varg, Avery and Donato Dozzy records as well as Terrace’s “The Scream” ear-worming it’s way around the courtyard.
“One day you will be a slave, believing things that aren’t real, taking your body rave to rave, dancing like an imbecile. One day you will miss my scream, roaming through the universe, questioning yourself my dream, hopelessly in reverse. one day you will be half dead, begging for a decent meal, if only you had listened instead, dancing like an imbecile”
All before a Tin Man remix of AboutFace’s “Hazy Path to Misunderstanding” closed my set. All of this left me with one hour to go and flail my arms about and dance joyously to Helena Hauff’s closing. To be playing just ten metres or so away from her, and at the very same time as, meant I was hugely grateful to those that chose to stay and dance with me with what was on offer next door.
She is my favourite DJ in the world currently, alongside Jane Fitz, and it was a truly inspiring hour of music. Raucous electro, banging techno, gnarly acid and fucking brilliant rave records ensured her rightful status as just about the most exciting selector about. Of course the mixing was flawless, the presence behind the decks was confident yet very focussed, and her ability to melt minds with incredibly daring records yet also pull you in for deeper moments showed a change in gear from when we had her play in Newcastle. It was not unrelenting, it was mental but it was also appropriate to the time, the closing hour gave her some room for ever so slightly less bat-shit crazy records to bring a bit of comfort to those still with her. An epic sub bass resounded around the room for her final record, with some breakbeat beauty finishing the whole thing with a sublime closing moment. A busy main room right until 7 am is testament to how brilliant everything was.
What more can I say. Sets from Avalaon Emerson, Lo She, Shackleton and more were all missed. I could not get about to everything, I am informed by my friends from the North East contingent that they were all just as brilliant however. Whatever you do, go to Hope Works soon. Go to No Bounds in October 13th-15th. Go see these DJ’s elsewhere if you get a chance. It was the best programmed and most professionally executed party I have been to in years in the UK and is my new favourite British clubbing spot. Liam O ‘Shea and his hard working team deserve a massive thank you from the electronic music community up north and beyond for cultivating a scene and venue that permits so many friendly ravers to form a diverse and passionate floor, with reasonably priced drinks, great sound and friendly staff. What more could we want?
The full festival has released it’s phase one lineup with Jeff Mills, DJ Stingray, Terre Thaemlitz (live AV) and many more. It is set to be a unique and fascinating three days of music, art, culture and all in a brilliant northern powerhouse of a city. Sheffield, we will be back, and there will be even more of us!