One of the most exciting nights to emerge in Leeds this year is IN/ON/UP/DOWN, which brings a darker side of electronic music to one of the newest and most endearing of Leeds’ venues, Belgrave Music Hall. Ahead of the opening night, we spoke to the man behind the movement, Adam Dabrowski, to find out more.
‘I think there’s nothing like it’, he muses, as we ask him about the ideas which drove the creative bookings which have made IN/ON/UP/DOWN so distinctive. ‘The idea was basically to do something fresh, which Leeds needs.’ Having lived here for the last nine years, Adam is better placed than most to pass judgement on the scene in which he hopes to craft a position. ‘Leeds is always the same, and that’s the problem. It’s been house music for 9 years. Of course there’s Canal Mills, and house and all the dancey stuff. But I’m not bothered about these places.’
These places, such as fixtures like Canal Mills and Wire, ensure that every week the city is well stocked with big-name acts, but the market is not without its gaps, and it is refreshing to hear somebody so intent on filling them. ‘I’m planning to put some gigs on at Canal Mills and other places around Leeds at some point, but still it’s going to be darkish electronica. I’m not trying to shout about a night, the idea is ‘less is more’. Some people don’t like that but I’m proud of it all the same.’
This fondness for the more left-field elements of dance music was a leading factor in the selection of WIFE (pictured above) and Luke Abbott (pictured left ) as co-headliners at the first show, which was to be the culmination of six months of hard graft. ‘It took me a lot of time. Putting on nights is time consuming and stressful. I’m knackered because of this night. Just ask my girlfriend.’ The time spent made for an astute booking though, with WIFE’s ambient and soulful electronics balancing Abbott’s noisier, more dance-orientated performance. ‘WIFE was my first booking for that night, and then I thought ‘let’s do something a bit more dancey’. It’s proper electronica, which I love. It’s an area of electronic music that’s been neglected, and like I said earlier, I just want to do something different.’
Naturally though, every new night takes a little while to get off the ground, and Adam is realistic in his assessment of the trajectory. With little hype to ride, first nights tend to be quiet, and the first instalment of IN/ON/UP/DOWN suffered the late summer hangover of a student population yet to resurface for the new term. Speaking after the show though, Adam was in high spirits despite admission that the crowd was never approaching capacity. Next time round however, when Lone and PhOtOmachine play on 11th October, should avoid such issues, with term time bringing a new audience. ‘Leeds is full of cheap house music, but it’s also full of students – young people who come and see the good gigs as well. I prefer to do something new, and young people need something like that.’
It’s students who lead the charge, and prolific Nottingham producer Lone will certainly be a big pull to such a party-centric crowd, given the popularity of his hip-hop influenced sets and the success of recent albums Galaxy Garden and Reality Testing. Less mainstream in appeal perhaps, the November show excites Adam even more. ‘The Nathan Fake and Wesley Matsell night is really cool because they have just released a single together. I didn’t know about it. I knew that they knew each other, and that they played together sometimes, but the joint release came as a surprise.’ Like Lone, Wesley Matsell will be DJing, whilst Nathan Fake follows the openers in bringing a live set to Belgrave’s first floor. The focus on live performance is another element that sets IN/ON/UP/DOWN apart from the more established club nights around, perhaps harking back to Adam’s time working with Destroy All Monsters, an alternative music promoter that put on the likes of Shigeto and have recently expanded to put on shows in Brighton. ‘I started with metal…’ Adam explains, when asked about his musical influences ‘but then I got bored. I started listening to everything from jazz to progressive metal. It was Radiohead’s Kid A that turned me to electronic music. I evolved’, he laughs.
The music speaks for itself, but it’s not just the audio that has made IN/ON/UP/DOWN so distinctive. ‘The artwork was made by Sam who does visuals for Forest Swords, and also for Liverpool Psych Fest. He’s really good. I met him at a gig and we became friends, so I asked him to do this. He’s also going to do visuals for the nights but I’ll keep those as a surprise.’
With more shows to be announced in the near future, the surprises will definitely keep coming, and we at In The Middle believe that these are the kind of surprises worth savouring.
photos: Tom Thiel