Red Bull Music Academy arrived in Leeds for the last leg of its October UK city tour that came to Liverpool, Glasgow and London. As with the other shows – which included a Rezzett performance at the smoke-filled South London Gallery – the Leeds weekender hosted an eclectic range of artists spanning grime, rap, disco, house and techno.
Thursday night saw Giggs, undoubted godfather of UK rap, sitting down with Hattie Collins for an in-depth discussion as part of RBMA’s lecture series. He later performed at small city centre venue Park Cross St alongside a handful of grime’s rising talents.
Jordan Curtis Hughes
With the expanding crowd warmed up by 1Xtra DJ Sian Anderson, east London MC Jammz stepped up, backed by Grandmixxer on the decks. With delivery and stage presence beyond his years, Jammz performed popular tracks like ‘Hit Then Run’ and his 2015 collaboration on Local Action with Finn & Fallow, ‘Final Warning’. His short session brought back memories of grime’s early pioneers, condensing a frighteningly focussed energy into under half an hour.
The venue was jam-packed as Giggs unleashed a horde of cuts from his latest album, Landlord. Older numbers like ‘Monsta Man’ and his breakout ‘Talking Da Hardest’ were popular but it wasn’t until his hit with JME, ‘Man Don’t Care,’ came on that the crowd erupted with a synchronised bounce – prompting at least three reloads.
Jordan Curtis Hughes
Nadia Rose was the final live performance of the night – an assured display that incorporated recent jam ‘Crank It’, and ‘Mufasa’ – a slick rework of Wiley’s fabled ‘Igloo’ instrumental – before spitting over classics like ‘Rhythm ‘N’ Gash’ and ‘Forward Riddim’. Slimzee and Grandmixxer were on hand to spin abrasive grime cuts till late, at which point it was time to leave in preparation for an evening of thumping house and techno.
Friday was the night of Form & Function at The Wire – a small underground venue in Leeds city centre that is often praised for its crisp sound and quality bookings. Following an early set from Laurel Halo, Call Super and Objekt went back-to-back for three hours to a packed crowd that were in full sweat mode as the pair explored a profusion of jacking house and techno.
Whilst The Wire creates an intimate setting with its size, its layout also creates a vacuum that condenses only the most dedicated dancers at the front, leaving the prospect of entering the main scrum rather daunting. Yet this didn’t stop the vast majority from staying on to watch Marcel Dettmann play into the early hours.
Saturday night’s Discopolis was by the far the biggest spectacle, held at Canal Mills, a converted textile factory that books Leeds’s biggest electronic lineups to a capacity of over 1000. Room 2 played host all night long to Lobster Theremin and Dekmantel affiliated producer Palms Trax. His set kept momentum with feel-good disco and boogie, a staple of the Leeds student population.
In Room 1 DJ Harvey was the main attraction, making his return to Leeds after two decades. As a disco ball rotated slowly over a growing crowd, he journeyed through breezy disco and ’90s house records – never quite letting loose into a full-on dancefloor assault.
That was down to Leon Vynehall, who arguably played the stand-out set of the night, unleashing the kind of colourful, fluttering house excursions you’d expect from his albums – keeping people going until the lights came up at 5am – and marking an end to three nights that certainly held their own.
Featured image: Steve Stills