inner city electronic 2019 – Review

With a strong emphasis on local talent old and new, inner city electronic returned to Leeds last month, rounding off the year in style through its 24-hour celebration of electronic music.

Early on in the festival’s proceedings, riverside venue Sheaf Street welcomed emerging talent Afrodeutsche for an Ableton Live masterclass that was both informative and wonderfully personal. The talk began with an insight into the origins of her name (‘Afrodeutsche’ meaning Afro-German) and its connection to her search for her father. This anecdote set the tone nicely, with Afrodeutsche’s endearing personality resonating throughout as she went to play both music influential to her work and some of her own tracks, all the while demonstrating her unique approach to production. With each track came some intriguing background as to how and why the piece was constructed, adding an element of openness and honesty to the masterclass that was most evident when she showcased a score she had written for the 1992 documentary Baraka or her deeply personal track, ‘Almost Home’. This was fitting as Afrodeutsche said herself that she saw music as a form of therapy and highlighted the importance of being honest with yourself throughout the creative process, as well as throughout life in general.

Image: Dan Needham

Outside, in the club’s Yarden area, Craig Richards turned out for the first of his two sets and, as expected, did not disappoint. Helped by some beautiful weather, the Yarden was packed out with dancers eager to soak up the vibrant atmosphere. In his two hour set, Richards proved his decades of experience at the forefront of the UK club scene, serving up some classic tech-house and tending to the crowd like the true pro he is.

Elsewhere, the new-for-2019 Festival Hub was bustling, with local legend Nightmares on Wax, who had given a similarly inspiring talk at Sheaf Street just hours before, bringing the energy. The Festival Hub, an only-to-be-used-once former school in the heart of the city, provided two levels of outdoor party space. With Motor City Drum Ensemble taking to the decks, the crowd did not falter as the sun went down to an assembly of coveted, soul-infused disco and house tunes in preparation for the night that lay ahead.

As day quickly turned into night, one particular highlight for The Gryphon came in seeing another local figurehead, Dan Shake, at the intimate Open Source Arts for Brotherhood Sound System’s takeover. The venue, relatively new to the Leeds club scene, was quirkily decorated with eccentric wall hangings and art that climbed the pillars up to the bar. With Open Source Arts at full capacity, Shake closed the party perfectly; satisfying the crowd with both classic and contemporary feel-good funk and disco tunes.

image: Ali Wilson

However, of all the venues on offer to see out the festival, it was Resident Advisor’s party at Wire that felt the most apt. With the club already packed out with sweaty, exuberant ravers, inner city electronic curator and local legend Ralph Lawson opened the proceedings with some luxurious electro for his final set of the day. Next up, and perhaps the highlight of the whole programme, was Bristollian DJ Shanti Celeste, who’s hugely impressive set moved through detroit house, UK bass and speed garage; her two hour epic culminating with the 1990s anthem ‘All Massive’ by Tail Spin. Ben UFO, another Leeds favourite, then stepped up at 3am and, despite having initially misjudged the vibe, quickly picked up where Shanti left off. Following on a similar path of 90s-influenced breaks, acid house and garage, the Hessle selector undoubtedly delivered; his selection of Andreas Ghem’s ‘123’ typifying the sound of the night.

Throughout both the day and night programme, it was clear that inner city electronic 2019 had really pushed on from its first edition, whilst continuing to provide a vital showcase for the best the Leeds scene has to offer. With the wheels already in motion for next year, inner city electronic has cemented itself as one of the most urgent events in the UK’s festival calendar, and we are beyond excited for what’s to come.

(Main image: Jody Hartley)