Any party that exercises a right to host not one, but two 21st birthday soirees is obviously one that holds itself in pretty high esteem. But then Back to Basics isn't your average club night. Their second instalment of birthday celebrations took heed of the fact too, with a suitably influential cast of both local and international guests soundtracking proceedings at fledging city nightspot, The Garage.
Amongst the latter group, it was Chez Damier's impending appearance that proved the cause for most excitement. The Chicago legend maintains a longstanding relationship with both the party and the city. (Basics promoters Dave Beer and Ralph Lawson were among the first to champion him in the UK.) The Garage's adjoining record store, Waxwerks, thus proved a fitting setting for an extensive Q&A with the man himself earlier in the evening, as Damier, amongst other things, discussed his gratitude toward the city of Leeds and his unrelentingly positive outlook to both life and music.
Photo credit: Alex Daniels
The friendly and jovial atmosphere stirred up by Damier's poignant interview made for a welcome and contemplative start to the night, after which point the crowd momentarily dispersed before the celebration's foremost occasion. From an outsider's perspective, the chat also seemed to neatly encapsulate a scene that instantly struck me as lively, passionate and (perhaps most importantly), humble and void of pretension.
Such themes coursed throughout the later extravaganza too, although with four rooms (two of which upstairs, were temporarily opened for the party) transformed into "a post apocalyptic playground," they were far from the night's only striking characteristics. Futuristic fancy dress duly played its part then; with Basics devotees both young and old keen to highlight their unwavering support for a party that's become inextricably linked with Leeds' scene.
While the concept of fancy dress isn't one I typically embrace, it seemed entirely appropriate for an occasion curated with such a celebratory aspect in mind. This was not a party keen to make a subtle musical impression, but rather one keen to hit the ground running, and James Holroyd's early set (featuring the likes of Marshall Jefferson's "Move Your Body" no less) was especially indicative of the fact.
Photo credit: Alex Daniels
A saunter throughout the other three rooms made for an onslaught of similarly energy-laced sounds, with everything from disco to techno to house all finding favour. Upstairs, Luke Solomon (complete in nutty professor outfit) was busy laying down a typically astute set of well, "classics," while back in The Garage, Chez Damier wove through two hours of expertly selected thoroughbred house fare, with cuts from Levon Vincent, The Funky Soul Brothers and indeed, The Nightcrawlers all rapturously received. And while Ralph Lawson's set unfortunately clashed with that of another Leeds-based house music export, Laura Jones, the 20:20 boss proved once again why quality residents are always at the core of a great party.
Back to Basics 21st birthday was a pretty monumental night. From Buckley on the 1st floor to Maurice Fulton in Waxwerks to John Woodall in the YouTube room, every DJ involved played their part. So too did The Garage, with its many retro hues (not least its DJ booth built into an old school Chevy). And then there was the crowd, one that was as knowledgeable, as accommodating and as colourful as anything I've encountered before.