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In the beginning there was...

Leeds' Back to Basics celebrates 21 years in the game...

Few parties in the whole of the UK are as established – or indeed, as revered – as Back to Basics.

Established by Dave Beer and Ralph Lawson over 21 years ago, the party has become a byword for Northern clubbing, although its influence has proved both national and international over the years. Tonight's 21st birthday celebration then, is never the sort of party going down with a whimper. In fact, it's the opposite. In typical Basics fashion they go all out too, hosting not one, but two birthday bashes.

Despite the first party hosting the likes of Basement Jaxx, their second shindig, with Chez Damier, Laura Jones, Luke Solomon, Maurice Fulton and a host of local DJs (not least Ralph Lawson, Burnski and Tristan da Cunha) is the more anticipated. Centred around Leeds’ latest bastion of cool, The Garage (a recent nominee for ‘Best Small Club’ at our Best of British awards), the venue made smart use of its surrounding facilities, with its adjoining record store, Waxwerks (a nominee in the best Record Store category no less) transformed into room two and the upstairs bar, OK Karaoke, hosting two further rooms; the larger of which is suitably fitted with a host of Function One rigs.

With ‘futuristic fancy dress’ the order of the day, Basics devotees arrive in their swarms, with the most dedicated of the bunch donning their outfits like a badge of honour that associated them with the party’s illustrious past. Indeed, the past as well as the future is both aptly celebrated, with celebratory records such as Cajmere’s 'Acid House' and Marshall Jefferson’s 'Move Your Body' contrasting wonderfully with a host of space-themed outfits.

The best set of the night however, almost inevitably went to Chez Damier, who just earlier that evening left a select few of us enthralled in Waxwerks, as he sat down with Basics resident Tristan da Cunha for a lengthy Q&A session. That proves a welcome starting point to proceedings, while the night in question only paid testament – in my eyes at least – to a scene that seems bulging with positivity and creative vibes. Damier (playing in a DJ set built into an old school chevy no less) ploughs through a set of bonafide classics, combining the new (Levon Vincent) with the old (The Nightcrawlers) and the more obscure but equally welcome (The Funky Soul Brothers, Jochen Pash).

Elsewhere, Luke Solomon lays down a set of, ahem, “classics” upstairs, while Ralph Lawson emphasises his standing as a resident of some repute. Unfortunately, Lawson’s set clashes with Laura Jones’, another Leeds-based house music export still making waves. Basics too, has travelled a long and heady road over the past two-and-a-bit decades, leaving its mark on countless DJs, clubbers and promoters during that time. It’s also worth noting that The Garage (a retro fitted club draped in nostalgic hues) is a venue that complimented the celebratory and reflective mood with ease, and is one that certainly deserves the praise heaped on it by ourselves and countless others. Sure, Back to Basics might have moved with the times, but at its purest level, it continues to be its discerning musical output that marks it out as a party of such distinction.

Words: Stephen Flynn