Sunday 5th May
Canal Mills is fast becoming Leeds’ go to place for big-name DJs, and for this we can be grateful if Sunday’s Mr Scruff show is anything to go by. The Manchester resident has been quietly supplying tracks for all walks of life for over a decade, but his five hour set had all the skill and poise of someone who has been working the decks all their life. Switching effortlessly between a vast variety of genres – from house to hip-hop, from jungle to jazz – Scruff’s mastery comes not just from exquisite technique, but from a crowd-knowledge that even the very top DJs of today would envy. His focus is set firmly on dance, but his instinctive feel for dynamic and tempo control means that he is able to sustain energy for the duration; when it came to closing time, Canal Mills was as packed as it had been hours before, as clear a sign as any that the night was enjoyed by all.
It’s not often that you find space to hang out whilst drinking a cup of tea on a big night out, but Mr Scruff’s signature brews made the night all the more wholesome, and the friendly setup was replicated perfectly by those in attendance. In fact, the crowd itself was to be commended, as the normal frantic energy of Canal Mills gave way to more laidback vibes without any loss of excitement. This was in part down to the eclectic mix of guests, with the usual university goers joined by a substantial portion of the older James Murphy generation. Perhaps the unusually warm night helped, but Canal Mills was also more accommodating than I’ve experienced at any big venue in England, with ample space to move around and the normally crowded seating area becoming more of a social space with the absence of a second-room crowd.
That’s not to say, however, that Scruff’s set ever retreated into background music territory, as many of the finest sections were the nu-jazz and brass breaks. In a sub-frequency led market, such creativity in his track selection made a welcome change, as did the presence of the far-too-underused Latin hip hop beats that graced much of his third hour. Being able to mix such differing genres without losing momentum means he is able to keep his crowd guessing, and so it is almost surprising when his own hits are brought in. Amidst a selection of hugely popular tracks, ‘Spandex Man’ and ‘Get a Move On’ delighted all, really coming to life on the huge sound system.
Overall, one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve been to in a while, and Leeds had already set the benchmark high. ‘It’s not that I want to dance… I NEED to dance’, a hazy eyed friend declared. Within those walls, the necessity was universal.
Review by Andrew Kemp
Images courtesy of Canal Mills