Saturday 25th July
The Digbeth Triangle, Birmingham
As a young electronic music fan, I’d always had a fascination with Birmingham, namely Adam Shelton’s recently retired club night, Below, and the works of techno veteran Surgeon, so when I was offered the chance to go to Digbeth, the creative centre for MADE Birmingham 2015 I couldn’t turn it down.
With a diverse lineup covering plenty of ground, MADE provided a wide range of electronic music, covering many subgenres for even the most discerning of fans. I felt refreshed by MADE and discovered some absolute gems, as well as being blown away by the quality of logistics and production on the day.
After a smooth entrance, the first thing you notice about MADE is the huge surge of colour. All too often clubbing can take itself a little too seriously, and for a culture that was born out of expression, extravaganza and debauchery – its glittery roots can often get left behind. Not at MADE. Local creative crew Fables were given the task of creating the visual identity for the day, adorning the mixture of outside and indoor spaces with oversized graphics – animals, doodles and letters etched in dramatic black outlines with blocks of colour. The pieces fitted perfectly with the already existing graffiti art on site, and you can see why the Fables team were picked for the job.
After entering the main arena to get the first drink of the day, we were greeted to the sounds of David Rodigan. Playing from the ‘Heavy Bass Champions’ stage, providing a suitably bass infused soundtrack; that combined with the unexpected good weather made for a great start to our day. Over the mic he announced ‘My first ever gig was in Birmingham in 1981’ and I’m sure he’s as happy as the dancing midlands locals to still be providing tunes to the city a staggering 34 years on.
Heading inside, we enter the ‘Underground Wonderground’. Immediately you are transported from open-air carnival vibes to a sweaty club, as the name suggests. Low ceilings, small capacity and strobe celling lights make it easy to forget it’s only 3pm and the sun is shining outside. Here, is where Dusky and Julio Bashmore play to a packed room later on, in what seems like a perfect setting, but it is Santero who welcomes us at this point with Tiga’s Let’s Go Dancing.
Stepping onto the sunset terrace, the soundtrack is provided by the local MOHO and Holiday DJs, with an upbeat selection of remixed classics. We definitely heard Gypsy Woman and Maya Jane Coles’ What They Say at some point. It’s a great spot to take in the city skyline. This coupled with the wide range of inflatables provided and glitter/fancy dress bar resulted in a fun interlude out of the main action.
After the Sunset Terrace, we head over to The Warehouse early doors. Large and airy with specks of sunlight creeping in, a complete opposite to the enclosed Underground Wonderground next door – both these spaces capture my favourite types of clubbing venues perfectly.
It’s hard work dancing all day, so we stop for some food at the ‘Block Party’ stage. Norman Jay provides the soundtrack, playing as we devour an incredible jerk chicken burger – quality food is often a factor left out at music events, but one which when done right, has lots of value. True to its name, the Block Party is low key – a wide open outdoors space covered in graffiti, the DJ ‘booth’ is precariously placed on a fire-escape stairwell. Ending his set on ‘Strings of Life’, it’s a pleasure to listen to a legend, and MBE infact.
Refreshed and back to The Warehouse we go for what I had been looking forward to all day, the men behind One Records, Adam Shelton and Subb-an playing back to back in their home town. As promised, Sub-ann played that raw, snappy, cut-throat house that caught my attention so many years ago, even playing that un-named tune brought to the community by Dan Ghenacia but Adam Shelton was no where to be seen. Never the less, Subb-an brought the noise and provided the highlight set of the day.
My day at MADE ended back at The Block Party, as non other than Nightmares on Wax opened his set with Bob Marley’s Is This Love. Soon, those who were resting on the curbs of the car-park type space gathered as they realised who was playing. A career spanning generations, his audience reflected this with a wide range of fans smiling, laid-back dancing and enjoying a chilled out end to a jam packed day. The feel-good factors were high as he played his signature, yet diverse set of drum and bass, northern soul and hip hop, finding room for the latin classic Mas Que Nada.
MADE Birmngham 2015 was a great introduction to the city, and the creative Digbeth quarter. A day that valued diversity, showed organisation but ultimately encouraged fun above all.
Words by Eileen Pegg
Images courtesy of Luke Dyson