Photography: Fin Reed / @finlayreed

Baltic Weekender

Various venues, Baltic Triangle 27/9/19

September has always been a standout month. It signals a particular new starting point. More so than January. At least a more realistic one. This starting point is not static, but very much in motion, bridging two seasons and taking place at certain crossroads in people’s lives. Be it the beginning of a new academic year, a new work environment or simply a revitalised perspective after glorious summer holidays, September is a month of promise, anticipation and excitement. It seems only right that the organisers of BALTIC WEEKENDER have chosen this period to take the next step forward in the festival’s development.

Baltic Weekender is a two-day, multi-venue event which, until now, has taken over the whole of the Baltic Triangle during the last weekend of May, or the first weekend of June. Upon launching in 2017, it instantly became one of the most important dates in Liverpool’s electronic events calendar. The musical talent collated by Andrew Hill of Abandon Silence and 24 Kitchen Street’s Ioan Roberts is vital to the existence and quality of Liverpool’s electronic scene. Baltic Weekender is a celebration of the musical flavours that have graced the Baltic Triangle throughout the academic year, bringing many genres of electronic music to the fold including house, techno, disco, grime, bass music and more. Showcasing renowned pros of the game as well as the new generation breaking in, Baltic Weekender September Edition displays a renewed awareness and thirst to place Liverpool on the electronic map.

Baltic Weekender Image 2

To start off, we head straight to Constellations. The garden is beautifully lit, refreshingly vacant and extends a mellow vibe. There is a modest gathering around the far left corner where good friends GIOVANNA and SOFIE K are going b2b. Both having a penchant for cosmic sounds; the DJs flood Constellations with tumbling melodies, harmonising their mix with the setting in which they are playing. But this is a short-term harmony. A rapid yet seamless switch-up takes the crowd by surprise as some infectious UKG filters its way into the speakers. Shortly, a mixture of Italo and Balearic house flows in, syncopated by powering basslines. I turn my attention to the two selectors as my view of them begins to be obstructed by committed dancers. Whether it’s an approving smile at the other’s drop, animated talk concerning the queued track or cheerful and carefree dancing, Giovanna and Sofie K are in constant interaction with each other which helps establish the general atmosphere as intimate, unentitled and groovy.

I leave the warm revels of Constellations Garden to check out how different the atmosphere is at Hangar 34, where bassline dons MY NU LENG are in the process of obliterating the crowd with their infamous wobblers. Queuing for entry, I wonder how many people bought their tickets just to see My Nu Leng. Once I’m in, I realise probably quite a few. Hangar is rammed with people dishing out gun-fingers to every wob they hear.

Returning to Constellations Garden, I’m greeted with a crowd dancing to a twinkling 4/4 beat on top of the venue’s chairs and tables. It’s not even 12 yet, so we’re all good here. As I head in to get my spot for the upcoming boogie marathon courtesy of DAN SHAKE, I catch the end of ANDY GARVEY’s set. Playing to a gaggle of about 15 dancers, the Australian producer and label boss of Pure Space instils an extra-terrestrial soundscape composed of leftfield techno, breaks and acid rips, all lending from the darker spectrum of musical tones. The change that takes over as Dan Shake steps up to the decks is mind-blowing. The dancefloor is packed and sizzling within mere minutes of his mixing. The crowd is electrified with funky disco and jackin’ house overlaid with blaring trumpet solos and roaring vocals. The groove is infectious. Dan Shake knows it and we know it. As he alternates between galvanising acid house, rolling percussions, disco classics with euphoric screeching vocals and more, he does justice to the latter part of his name. It’s 30 minutes before the end of his set when he delivers his biggest weapon: The Chemical Brothers’ Mah. I see Dan Shake turn the volume up to its fullest with a grin as the build-up progresses towards its pinnacle. The track’s infamous swirling acid rips zero in on us through the speakers – we are all floored. I look around in disbelief asking my friends, “Did he actually just do that?” It’s no surprise that people are still present when the lights come up at 4am. We leave Constellations reeling.

“Baltic Weekender is vital to the existence and quality of Liverpool’s electronic music scene” Ambre Levy

Stretching into day two and I’m drenched. Aside from being cold, the main nuisance caused by the unrelenting rain are the venue changes. KORNEL KOVACS is on duty at Blundell Street, superimposing his trademark tropical house with some far-reaching trance, but is shortly moved inside as a result of the weather. A chaotic rush ensues as everyone attempts to secure their spot in the venue. I make it about three metres in before I’m pushed out. I check the set-times and head to District to get a healthy dose of jungle and DnB instead, courtesy of NICANDER HI-FI b2b OUTHOUSE SOUNDS.

Conscious of time, I make my way over to Kitchen Street in order to guarantee a spot for HELENA HAUFF. Apart from the Kitchen Street sign that is lit up in ruby red, all the lights are out. The queen of electro appears behind the decks seemingly out of nowhere. She is ruthless in her takeover. She unleashes unto the under-prepared crowd overwhelming pieces of dark electro punctuated by rugged industrial clanging. Thrown into the mix is barbed acidic techno and apocalyptic breakbeats which engulf the room in a paradoxical sense of exhilaration. Paradoxical because the particular thrilling sense of release experienced during her set is achieved through exposure to fierce intensity. For some, this is too much. I notice people are restless when a man shifts his attention to the giant disco ball which hangs over the centre of Kitchen Street and begins to swing it. Others join in and it becomes clear to me that this is an attempt to distract and regain control of themselves, finding the absorption into Hauff’s nebulous world too extreme.

Baltic Weekender Image 2

It’s 2am and I’m enveloped in Hauff’s murky mystique, unsure of where to go next. I set my sights on Constellations where L U C Y is set to take us through to the end of the night with dashes of footwork. The room is just under half full, with the lights erratically projecting colours across the room. As I make my way to the front I stop short and stare at the DJ. Her face is hidden by a surgical mask – an accessory that she always wears when mixing – upon which is drawn a disfigured nose and mouth, with a bright red tongue dangling out of it. Amid the multi-genre 160-190 bpm chaos she’s playing which encompasses bass, breakbeat, grime, dubstep, happy hardcore, and genres I’m pretty sure only exist in a post-apocalyptic world, I’m taken by her contrasting tranquil composure. Despite her lashing out disorientating bass, L U C Y seems introspective as she slowly sways to the insane voltage she’s mixing. She throws quick glances to the crowd as she unfurls a universe of sounds accompanied by jagged and pitched-up one-word vocals, distorted sirens and old school arcade sound effects. By the end of the set, the expression drawn on her mask is the expression I found on every face in the dance – including my own.

Returning to new beginnings of projects already in motion, Baltic Weekender September Edition marks a turning point for the series in terms of musical tone, diversity and crowd. What I experience is not the summer social event that everyone goes to once exams have finished; instead, Baltic Weekender hosts an event wherein burgeoning lovers of electronic music ae given a chance to get what they really want: the discovery of new sounds and new perspectives on those that are familiar. These dual toned editions are the best way forward for the future development of Liverpool’s electronic scene, alternately offering visibility on the one hand and an indulgence in intricate musical curiosity on the other. Baltic Weekender is the tangible proof of Liverpool’s power of community; the city’s ambition and its ever-growing passion for dance music – whatever the season.

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