I stepped off the National Express, got straight into a cab and gave the driver the address I was going to. My first moments in Liverpool were dark and cold, however lined with excitement as I was going to my first Less Effect.
Less Effect is a night in Liverpool that holds true to what a sound system night is about: good music, good DJ’s and of course, a fucking great sound system. This was not only my first Less Effect, but also my first real night that hosts this kind of variation of music. This wasn’t a techno, house, dubstep or drum and bass night; the whole point in Less Effect was to not be pigeon holed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of choir boy that’s wildest night out was supplied by the year 6 school disco (although, that did kick off). I’m no stranger to live music/events, but this time I was here because I had grown so fond of the DJs involved and the music being played. Three mates – Matt Pidgeon, Josh Hewitt and Toby Chang, created Less Effect. The main reason I had travelled up was to see Matt (Pidge), who is a long time friend of mine from the small village of Glemsford in Suffolk. I had seen Pidge’s progression as a DJ from making tiny mixes on YouTube, to collecting vinyl by the masses and crafting his art into an obsession. I’d never seen him play at an event, this was going to be a great night, I could tell.
As I had arrived fairly early, the venue was only crowded with a handful of people: The DJ’s, organisers and venue bar staff. RC1 were supplying the sound for the evening. I had heard from various people that RC1’s sound system was unbelievable, so much so that most people could not describe it. The closest I got to a description was: “The bass literally vibrates your rib cage and the clarity is perfect, it’s the loudest thing ever… But you can still talk to your mate without screaming in each others ears.” I’d love to come up with something better, but that really is spot on.
I had a perfect spot as they were sound checking. The venue is a derelict looking space, with an old bar squeezed in at the back corner, which leads out to a generously sized out door space. As a whole it probably fits about 200 people inside. It was when the sound check began that I started to get really excited. RC1 blasted through my ribcage, made the hairs on my head move, and left everyone in the room speechless for a moment, literally making crumbs from the ceiling fall to the floor. The bar staff couldn’t believe their ears, whilst everyone else that had heard them before stood with a knowing grin. Objekt was the headliner and I saw his face light up when he heard the system, the atmosphere in the room starting amplifying through the sound check.
After a few beers the crowd started to build up. There was a variation of faces from uni freshers to old school ravers to geeky music heads to full scale party-goers. The first thing that became clear was that there was no wave of testosterone you feel as you enter most UK nightclubs; everyone seemed, well…cool. Pretty soon my mates entered and we straight away hit the bar and started piling the drinks into ourselves. Before long, the venue was packed and I had a sudden realisation that my mate from home was one of three responsible for this. Although I knew it was going to be great, one still has that feeling of “they’re supporting your mate.” As the hours passed I forgot about all of that and the night became as good, if not better than any night I’d ever attended.
Toby was first on the decks and he eased the night in perfectly playing an insanely tight set that set the basis of the night and created the vibe of the night perfectly, opening up the dance floor. It felt like the night went from 10 to 100 in about 3 minutes, suddenly the system was cranked, everyone was having it and the place had packed out. Minus the occasional trip to the bar or the odd fag break outside I found myself glued to the floor. The atmosphere was completely infectious, everyone slowly became best mates. I know what you’re thinking… but save that thought, because the vast majority of people were just boozed up and getting high from this insane sound system, atmosphere and amazing music. By the time Pidge and Josh played, the place had gone up another notch: the genius move to open with ‘backchat’ from Pidge only amplified the atmosphere as the whole place erupted into madness. This was no cocaine fuelled, aggressive knife-welding rave you hear about in the papers – it really was quite the opposite.
The real point in me writing this is to help change the name of the rave/sound system/bass/whatever you want to call it culture. I was once ignorant enough to believe that these nights were just an excuse for chav kids to take a handful of biscuits and dance along to music they didn’t appreciate properly. This viewpoint could not be more wrong; I’d say that the sound system culture is one of the purest and most relevant examples of the enjoyment of music I’ve ever encountered. There’s no judgement, no fighting, no music snobs. It’s a load of people in a room, dancing along to and appreciating the music through an amazing sound system.
Minus the sound system, does this not date all the way back to cave men dancing to drums around fires? Surely there are some primal ties involved? The sound system culture was born in Jamaica by poor people who couldn’t afford to go to the live music events held specifically for the richer people, so instead they made their own huge sound systems and played music through them, giving the poor people a chance to witness a different kind of live music. Once brought overseas it spread like wildfire and pioneered near enough every electronic genre out there, also hip-hop. So next time you know someone who is getting on their high horse about the lack of live music and real musicianship in the sound system culture, know that it is about the people and what they feel when they hear the music.
As Objekt headlined, the crowd was still waving like a giant sheet stitched up of different faces rippling like water. The system was rumbling, the drinks were flowing, outside and inside were rammed; Less Effect was a complete success. However, like all good things, it did eventually come to an end, the lights came on and the music slowly died down. People started slowly leaving, walking outside to the deep blue sky slowly getting lighter. I jumped in a cab with my mates, and Objekt had to share a cab with us, who very patiently sat with us lot, a bunch of idiots from Suffolk, pissed up shouting about how good his set was.
The journey back was 8 hours of national express hungover nastiness, but I knew for sure I could not wait until the next night.
The Music Brewery caught up with Pidge for a chat about Less Effect and what it means to the organiser of an up and coming event:
What was it about the bass music culture that lured you in and what made you want to start DJing?
Funnily enough the first real connection I made with sound system culture was the night we went to for my birthday, FWD’s 10th birthday. I’d experienced a few club nights in my first year at uni that got me interested in the scene but after going to FWD I was really hit by the community feel in the room that night and it was the first time I’d heard a lot of those songs, there wasn’t any pretentious epic 3 minute vocal drops, just straight up bass music on a big system that made people dance. It was such an awesome vibe and I wanted to be a part of that.
So with DJing I think its just a progression from loving music so much and wanting to share that with other people as well as being introduced to that scene and I ended up hooked and started digging into the culture surrounding underground music and sound system culture etc
How did the idea for Less Effect come about?
It was a combination of us not having anywhere to play our music out and a lack of other nights in the city booking the artists we wanted to see. We felt there was a gap for a bass music night and decided to have a go basically!
What was your original intention for Less Effect?
To provide a night for people to be able to go and listen to fresh underground music on a good sound system with other like minded people. Like I said we felt there were artists we wanted to see in the city that weren’t getting booked so we wanted to bring some fresh faces to Liverpool. Charlie (Lack) and Josh both produce so it was good to give them a platform for their music and we also try to support local djs and producers with music played. As residents we’re actually quite diverse musically which works well because it means we can really mix up the sound on a night.
The other real key thing though is the sound system, we don’t just want OK sound, we want our sound to be awesome. By using RC1 and VOID I think that people will have left our nights wanting to come back for another bass fix every time!
Has that changed?
No our primary goals haven’t changed, we’ve had to adapt what we’ve done a little bit and we’re constantly learning how to progress the night but we still want to share the music and artists we love with people on a big sound system.
The scene has changed a bit since then to be fair, there’s now nights like Dot., Hotplate and Release pushing the bassier side of things which is great because it feels like Liverpool’s music scene is starting to become far less reliant on just house and techno which is what a majority of nights were playing when we started.
Less Effect is something that comes from your own pockets, this must add a lot of pressure in making sure people show up in numbers and it’s a packed night. How do you guys go about promoting each event?
It does to a degree because we need to pull in a certain amount of money so we can eat for the rest of the month after an event, but its good in a way because when your time and money is invested in something it means you have to make it work. It’s all good fun though and we love what we do so it’s always worth it!
Most of the physical promotion with flyers and posters is done by us and we also use social media and various channels on the internet like YouTube. Our website is launching really soon too so make sure you check it out next week!
How do you pick your headliners for your shows?
Me and Josh sit and create a festival style line-up of artists we want to book and then have to sit and be realistic about what we can afford unless we win the lottery and what will work in Liverpool. We try to think a little bit outside the box and I don’t think anyone would ever be able to guess who our next headliner is going to be! Last year we booked both Addison Groove and French Fries, two very different artists but they both fitted with the vibe of what we do.
What do you feel is the most important thing you want from Less Effect?
For people to turn up at our night and have a good time and experience music delivered on a sound system that you won’t get anywhere else in Liverpool. It’s great watching a dance floor of people lose themselves to the music in a dark room so if people walk away and have had a great night then we’ve done our job right.
Where do you see less effect in 5 years time?
In a studio in LA with Skream + loads of coke and some strippers
Do you one day see yourself being equal in stature to events like System, DMZ and FWD?
That’s the ultimate aim, those nights have so much history associated with them though and have been so pivotal towards the scenes they’ve been a part of so if we can achieve 1/10 of what they have we’d be really happy! FWD’s definitely a huge inspiration in terms of the diversity of sound represented and the community vibe but if we can continue to grow and connect with people then that’s all that matters.
How important do you feel the sound system culture is in keeping the spirit of live events and music going?
Very, without wanting to sound like a cliché hippy everything is so hugely commercialised and a majority of the music scene reflects that, people choose to take the easy option and usually the cheap option in order to make as much money as possible. It takes a lot of effort to get the sound right and create a consistent atmosphere at an event so for us it is important to build a night where people know what they can expect, people come to us because they want to hear great music from the best underground artists, on a big sound system with a good crowd of people. Sound system culture can’t be taken for granted and needs to be protected because it’s important there are spaces for nights to exist within cities. People will always want to go out and dance to music with other people, it’s not the same skanking out by yourself at home.
Can you tell us a bit about the next Less Effect?
Yeah, we’re using a 250 capacity basement with the same weighty VOID sound system we’ve been using for our last few events which should sound rather nice. We’ve got 3 artists booked within 5 weeks of each other and our next night is Feb 20th. One of them is an absolute legend as well and we’re really excited to have him play such an intimate show for us!
Watch Objekt warm up for the night below: