The lines between a party and a club night are often vague, but whilst even the best club nights can prove solitary, insular affairs, a good party is always a shared experience. Taking over usual home Soup Kitchen on the night of Manchester’s Pride, monthly LGBT+ night Kiss Me Again showed how the right party in the right place can transcend the dancefloor and become a self-contained haven for its guests, with music from Wes Baggaley and the resident selectors taking the audience from the dark of the night into a sun-kissed morning in the comfort of playing to a truly invested crowd.
The bare-boned basement of Soup Kitchen has long-been recognised as one of the best club spaces in the country, and with Wigan’s Wes Baggaley showing off his most powerful array of techno, house and party sledgehammers it took little time to see why the noticeably diverse group of attendees had flocked to fill its underground space. Holding only around 200 people, Soup Kitchen’s intimacy is increased by the proximity of the crowd created by its wide, short dancefloor, bringing everyone into the action as its rattling system surges through to the back of the room. Hotwiring each and every inch of the club, the engulfing sound is inescapable, drawing the crowd together into a single, electric pulse.
Firing off ferocious tunes with hefty bass lines and fracturing percussion, Baggaley’s penchant for techno stormers was balanced with the occasional foray into unexpected waters; dipping into modern Afrobeat like Ibibio Sound Machine’s “Let’s Dance (Yak Inek Unek)” or the classic time-warping naughtiness of Lil Louis’ “French Kiss”, the Synthia head and NYC Downlow favourite had plenty of tangents to offer, working his crowd into a frenzy with writhing acid lines and startling, mechanical percussion. On a night when pounding, industrial techno can give way to life-affirming moments like Abba’s “Lay Your Love On Me” and then venture into the more difficult sections of Bjork’s back catalogue, a DJ’s role is to challenge and to delight in equal measure, and this is where the dress-clad Wes Baggaley and his Kiss Me Again hosts came into their own. Familiar tracks avoided stepping into triteness, the wilder selections hit home and the hardest tunes never felt misplaced, but more importantly still, none of the DJs on show ever lost sight of the home crowd that they were playing to, reading and reflecting them throughout.
Nights like Kiss Me Again thrive on the connection that they create between strangers, breaking down barriers with relentless charm, implicit openness and an unyielding devotion to creating environments where people can be as they want to be. It is that palpable sense of freedom that pushes a party to become more than a sum of its parts, and it is that that makes Kiss Me Again’s atmosphere special. House music was born in the LGBT spaces of New York, Chicago and Detroit, and in an industry where the nuances of context is all too often overlooked, Manchester’s Kiss Me Again acts as a stark reminder that dance music is, at its very roots, a small taste of absolute freedom.
Photo courtesy of Wes Baggaley