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Bassline Festival Proved the the Scene's Less Niche Than Ever

Last month's massive party in Manchester was proof that bassline is still going as strong as ever.
October 26, 2015, 10:40am

When DJ Q and MC Bonez released "You Wot" in the summer of 2008 a it was arguably bassline's last hurrah. Bassline — speed garage's hyperactive younger sibling — had a pretty limited commercial breakthrough in the form of T2 and Jodie Ayesha's "Heartbroken" in 2007, and H "Two" 0's "What's It Gonna Be?" reaching highs of number 1 and 2 respectively in the UK singles charts. "You Wot" didn't quite reach those heights but heavy rotation on the likes of 1Xtra and major club play alongside his DJing meant that DJ Q became perhaps the most recognisable name in bassline. Bassline ended up being even shorter lived than garage, however. The Niche club in Sheffield, seen as the central hub for the birth and growth of bassline, was shut down in 2005 in a police raid and from then onwards the association with crime meant that many clubs were unwilling to host bassline nights.

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That enforced lack of popularity within clubs meant that, eventually, bassline gave way to both a 2 step revival and the birth of harsh, midrange heavy dubstep (or 'brostep' if you'd rather). Given that, it might be somewhat of a surprise that last month saw the second Bassline Festival of 2015 — curated by DJ Q himself, no less.

If bassline became a (sorry) niche area of interest south of Watford, the north of England's appetite for the stuff is as strong as ever. Taking place in the gargantuan Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Trafford, west Manchester, both events have been near-sell outs, drawing 5,000 strong crowds. Due to geographical and generational reasons I'd pretty much completely missed out on bassline the first time round, and when I did eventually discover it, aged 18, it'd had just about died out totally. There was never a huge scene in Ireland anyway. Given that, the chance to see such an incredibly stacked line up was ridiculously exciting. The key to any festival like this is making sure that it isn't a totally nostalgic experience, and Q had booked plenty of post-Niche DJs and artists — the most prominent of which was Boy Better Know's Solo 45.

So it was that I found myself trekking to Trafford — a journey that required both a bus ride and a 20 minute walk down an overgrown path bolted onto a dual carriageway. When I managed escape the main road, I was greeted by the sight of a massive hangar-like structure in the middle of an industrial estate. So far so standard. Then I noticed the fairground rides. Anyone up for a go on one of those massive bungee rides that throw you several hundred feet into the air, readying you to launch your predrinks?

The interior was just as impressive. Bowler's main room is gigantic, a massive high ceilinged, exposed brick and sheet metal roof'd pleasure palace that made me feel like I was in one of those warehouse rave videos from 1992 watching Carl Cox playing. There were pyrotechnics, stage dancers, people dropping £50s worth of drinks tokens on champagne. Of course, as it's 2015, there was a drone buzzing around, filming the crowd during Jamie Duggan's set. Stories of the violence associated with bassline in its heyday are well documented but there wasn't an ounce of aggro in the place this night. Instead we were treated to set after set of relentlessly enjoyable music and a crowd — shipped in, largely, from across Yorkshire — who were willing to absorb every last beat of it.

Read more: Bassline: The UK Dance Scene That Was Killed by the Police

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Given the sheer scale of the event, getting to see everyone you wanted to was always going to be pretty much impossible. The line-up itself was stacked from top to bottom and the lack of clearly displayed stage times meant that guess work played a bit part in figuring out who exactly you were listening to along with the hope the MC would mention a name. It added a bit of mystery, and definitely some confusion, to the night, but it also meant that your enjoyment was concentrated solely on what music you were hearing at that moment. I was keen on catching H "Two" O and Jodie Ayesha who was doing "Heartbroken" in full, but unfortunately missed out. I'm also assuming DJ Q played at some point as one of the unannounced headliners, but had no such luck in catching any of his set or the promised performance of "You Wot" by MC Bonez.

I did manage to identify sets by a few acts, though. Burgaboy's masterful silliness got the crowd as rowdy as it got all night and Shaun "Banger" Scott smashed a set worthy of his nickname. Royal-T and Flava D bought in some grimier sounds alongside all the wobble, which went down exceptionally well. The event's undoubted highlight, however, was Jamie Duggan. Catching him in full flow, it became perfectly clear to me why he's such a lionised figure in the scene. Even after years of playing out, his sets are packed full of energy and fun which is up there with the best, not only in bassline, but across all genres of dance music.

With a 2016 edition already announced, Bassline Festival has clearly been viewed as a success both by the organisers and the audience. It's difficult to tell how much of this success is down to a new audience or with original fans taking the trip for nostalgia's sake. In truth the balance of newer names alongside the veterans on the bill suggests that it's likely a combination of both, and there were certainly some faces younger than my own in the crowd fully embracing the music. Don't call it a revival, because it almost certainly isn't one, but Bassline Festival goes to show there absolutely still is a place for the music in clubs today.

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