Back To Basics 24th Birthday
Saturday 21st Nov
The Faversham, Leeds
“It's cold up North, isn't it?!” a playboy bunny rabbit squealed with a London accent, as I queued alongside the Faversham building around 11.30pm. The party had already been in swing for a couple of hours, and the sudden Baltic turn of weather over the weekend had neither dampened the spirits or the desire to show off as much flesh as possible, at the erotic themed celebrations of Back to Basics 24th year anniversary.
A party in the truest sense of the word, being met with a whirlwind of balloons, fancy dress, French kissing and disco music upon arrival, it had all the birthday boxes ticked from the get-go. Early highlights included a special 'Jenna Jameson' based cherry sour cocktail, and a rather saucy Barbara Markay edit, with the only discernible vocal being “it's alright/to f**k all night/it's okay/to s**k all day”.
Now when nobody bats an eyelid at lyrical choices like that, you start to get the idea of what you were letting yourself in for. Basics has always prided itself on a well mixed crowd, but in these particularly celebratory circumstances, the spectrum of age, sexuality, and skin on show began to feel just right. It was with this kind of wild abandon for most prudish club norms, that the standard was set for the wide-eyed, yet good natured debauchery that was to follow.
With Burnksi and James Barnsley setting solid foundations in the other room, Craig Richards was the second DJ to step up around around midnight, beginning with some house cuts to warm up any stragglers that were still feeling the cold from outside, before the fabulous Mike and Claire from Manumission joined on stage to begin their hosting of the evening. Huge cheers erupted for a catwalk of club legends, with of course, Dave Beer, raising the roof with his now infamous microphone antics. The hour that followed, began to slowly morph into a drag show-cum-dance off on stage, with Craig expertly swerving into the sleazier territories of his record bag, cutting in big chunks of robotic electro, much to the delight of the crowd up front.
Suitably explicit teases of Lil Louis French Kiss and Aaron Carl’s Down set up Block 9 head honcho, Gideön, to slam dunk it (and steal the show in my opinion) with a selection of big, ballsy house records that had the energy peaking from 2am onwards. A huge shout out must be given to the whole NYC Downlow crew that made the trip up, who on top of being fantastic people, encapsulated everything that is good and right with the world of dance music culture. That's culture with a capital 'C'. Fun with zero hang-ups. Because it is often forgotten - with the kind of collective amnesia that appears to have descended over the shiny, cookie-cutter cloned variety of commercial dance music - that we will always be forever indebted to the kaleidoscope of sexuality, gender, race, fashion and music that paved the way for House Music as it is today. They really are the most exciting reminder of that I have seen in quite some time, and for Basics to invite Gideon and co. for their first UK gig outside of London, proves just how much of a finger they still have on the dance music pulse.
Moving onwards and skimming past a trio of pole dancers, was the entrance to Room Two, where Tristan and Brawther of Dungeon Meat were doing the damn thing as usual, whipping up a total frenzy with Moodymann classic, Shades of Jae. PBR Streetgang followed suit shortly after, setting a compact group of dancers alight as the hour grew later, with a signature brand of funk.
Leaving around 5.30am, I reflected on how Basics continues to be such a galvanizing force of all those good and slightly strange things that come along with a decent, genuine party. It felt retrospective without being clichéd. Self-referential without being corny or kitsch. And with such a wealth of knowledge and history to draw on, who can be surprised that they still set the benchmark for others to beat? They were celebrating their 5th birthday while I was still in nappies and yet they still manage to push the boundaries of what we expect from a club night all these years later. Nobody else could probably get away with even half the stuff that went on that evening, and it is all the more reason to love them for it. People were just free to express themselves and have a good time, with a no-nonsense soundtrack to boot. Which is surely what all proper parties should be, right?
Many happy returns, Basics. It's 25 years next. My hunt for a silver anniversary gift begins.
Words by Ethan McNamara
Photos courtesy of Elspeth Moore