And UK City of Culture 2017 goes to…Hull!
A lot of people were somewhat surprised at Hull’s success in securing the prestigious UK City of Culture award, yet a large proportion of the creatives within the city weren’t. See, Hull has a thriving underbelly of start-ups, bars and creative spaces that make it a befitting place for electronic music.
The calibre of the parties in Hull is impressive, and music fans outside of the city should start to take note. With listings on Resident Advisor regularly ranking them as some of the North’s go-to parties, Hull has become a notable setting for electronic music. The allure of attending events in Hull is reinforced when you take into account the compelling venues, with an old theatre, intimate subterranean basement, and an abandoned riverside warehouse to name but a few, all lending themselves perfectly to the more industrial of sounds. Hull is also home to the UK’s second longest running house night, Deja vu – est. 1992 – which accompanies ten year old Different Language, Illicit, Fractal, Religion, LocaL, drum and bass outfit Shinobi and the university DJ society Crystal Clear. These promoters are shaping and redefining a vibrant electronic music scene within Hull, bringing both respected and exciting electronic artists to the often forgotten east coast.
The city itself is rich in musical history, with the likes of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South learning their trade amongst the vibrant midweek music scene. However, it is within the electronic music sphere that Hull’s most recent big name talent has emerged, the enigmatic (his Snapchat is definitely worth a follow – for context he just took his mum and stepdad to Burning Man) DJ and producer wAFF. Becoming an integral part of the Hot Creations crew, wAFF has developed a distinctively playful, bass-heavy sound that has seen him release on Drumcode and Cocoon more recently. However, he has never forgotten the place that made him, returning each Christmas for a Boxing Day party led by local promoters Deja vu at the impressive theatre-turned club, Funktion.
Deja vu is a true titan of the UK house scene, and for over 25 years has brought names such as Sasha, The Martinez Brothers, Carl Cox and Marshall Jefferson to the banks of the Humber. Deja vu head Terry Spamer has also never forgotten his origins, with his passion for quality music fuelling a relentless spirit that sees him throw a ‘Reunion’ night every once in awhile, a night that recaptures the atmosphere of the early Hacienda days with veteran DJs such as Allister Whitehead and Dave Clarke. After chatting with Terry, he had this to say on Hull’s past and present relationship with electronic music:
“It’s changed considerably in some respects. Apart from the odd exception, back in the day there was only myself bringing guest DJs to the city. Then we seemed to enter the super club era when Deja vu would attract between 1200-1600 people every week to our parties. One Boxing Day we even had over 3000 people turn up which was crazy! Although the scene is still popular today, it’s not on that level of the mid 90’s and early 2000’s.
Saying that, I work with promoters & on events all over the north of England and in my opinion Hull has a very healthy scene – there’s a number of very good promoters in the city who put on great electronic talent. Shinobi & Different Language are both great nights, but there’s also a few smaller nights throwing great parties such as Fractal, Religion, Illicit and Local, and these will only grow.
With Deja vu I’ve always tried to move with the times and keep the party fresh, I suppose that’s why we now have the sons and daughters of our original crowd coming to our parties. The responses I get from the DJs who play here are also really humbling, they love playing for us and love the Hull crowds. If I’m honest, I’m still amazed that so many people are familiar with the brand and its history. I’m very grateful for the amazing support I’ve received in the last 25+ years and Hull is certainly an exciting place to be right now.”
A more recent development in the city was the relocation of the Different Language party series, which usually throws around four events a year. Having initially thrown parties in an old fire station, Different Language then moved to a charming old fruit warehouse on the marina – a multi-purpose events space aptly named Fruit. It is the most recent location however, which is under threat itself, that seems to embody Hull’s industrious nature and love for house and techno. Gate No.5 is an imposing industrial warehouse on the banks of the River Hull, surrounded by the ghosts of a once thriving mercantile riverbank. The organisers behind the events also have a precious knack of identifying the rising stars within dance music, with tINI, Guti, Dan Ghenacia, Dana Ruh and Enzo Siragusa but a few of the names that have gone on to great things in recent years. There is also their infamous Halloween party, which from my experience, is where you will bear witness to the best fancy dress efforts you could ever hope to see – past standouts being a human-size bag of ket, a suitcase (literally just two legs coming out of a suitcase) and a full-scale Honeymonster.
The imposing Gate No.5: Photo Credit – Chris Pepper
After catching up with Different Language godfather Martin Hodgson, he certainly seems optimistic about Hull’s electronic scene:
“I think Hull is immersed with excellent musicians, DJs, promoters and producers that are passionate about music. And the city, understandably with the City of Culture, is as vibrant and diverse as it ever has been. Hull has been allowed to be far more creative and original than in previous years, and I hope we can continue to build on that.
We at Different Language certainly intend to, despite a relatively quiet summer by our standards. But there’s lots of decent things going on, and it’s not always about bringing the most expensive and popular DJs to headline gigs. We had our busiest event to date this year with a relatively unknown artist called Molly. The more quirky and unique spaces have been explored and that’s exactly what we’ve been about in our last decade of events. We’ve just stuck to booking solid underground artists to play in a space that suits the music and atmosphere to dance in. Yes, it’s been a lot of graft but let’s face it, the authorities have to be tight, and if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it right?”
Different Language: Photo Credit – Chris Pepper
Most recently of all has been the introduction of The Old School House & Courtyard as a venue for the more underground of genres. Situated in an 18th century school house, the location offers four areas of music and held their opening party with Back to Basics legend Ralph Lawson. The event also saw the subterranean boiler house play host to dub-techno, minimal and tribal sounds, run by local DJ Alex Robinson’s new project, Bloodwaxx. There is always a plethora of local talents on showcase at any Hull event, a recurring and admirable theme that enables the hotbed of local DJs to network with and learn from some of the industry’s finest. This laudable element of Hull’s scene has rewarded aspiring DJ talent, with Deja vu resident Lee Jeffrey recently releasing on Steve Lawler’s Viva imprint.
As Different Language and Deja vu have grown into Hull’s cult parties, there has been a rise in youthful promoters throwing events across the city in an effort to sate Hull’s pining for electronic music. These promoters now contribute to a thriving city calendar, consolidating themselves as genuine outfits contributing to Hull’s underground music scene. Testament to Hull’s consolidation as a city with a flourishing nightlife, over the next month artists such as Richy Ahmed, Bill Patrick, Kevin de Vries, Cristoph, Ross from Friends and Scuba all make their way to the UK’s City of Culture.
So, next time you think of embarking on a little musical jaunt, be sure to consider Hull as a destination that shouldn’t be so surprising anymore. Go on Hull.