The antithesis of shiny, characterless superclubs, generic music policies, and door prices that empty your week’s budget in one hit, the secretive and sporadic KABAL parties drive at the heart of much of Sheffield’s underground musical activity.
The central hub of Sheffield’s current bass culture, a local pride and the party where Toddla T cut his teeth both as a raver and then a DJ, Kabal’s house party-style sessions have taken over warehouses, old churches and pubs, with three generations of Sheffield DJs as residents —former Warp artist Winston Hazel, local DJ legend Pipes and the unstoppable Toddla T — and an eclectic soundtrack of heavy disco, house, bleepy techno, reggae, jungle, UK funky and the digital dancehall sound that Toddla champions.
“It’s a party, it’s not a club night which is why we’ve never booked big names —there’s enough talent in Sheffield,” explains Kabal promoter Ralph Collis.
Promoter of anything-goes indie-disco session THREADS, James O’Hara believes that this community vibe is integral to Sheffield’s current creative melting pot.
“Sheffield’s scene is like a little village really, everyone that’s doing something in music seems to know each other and it all gets mixed up along the way,” believes O’Hara.
Held weekly on Saturdays at the 400 capacity DQ (Fitzwilliam St), Threads has witnessed everything from local boy Matt Helders from The Arctic Monkeys dropping sets of old school garage, Toddla flicking the needle on Notorious B.I.G. classics and Parisian nu-disco king Pilooski getting deep and cosmic.
Another essential DQ party is CLUB PONY, which causes a monthly electro-fuelled ruckus on the first Friday of the month with names like Shadow Dancer, Riton, Brodinski, Little Boots and Filthy Dukes.
A big student city, Sheffield also houses one of the UK’s longest running midweek parties in THE TUESDAY CLUB at Sheffield University’s FUSION AND FOUNDRY (Glossop Rd). Their bass-heavy remit reigns over dubstep and d&b biggies like Caspa & Rusko, Sub Focus, Chase & Status and Joker but readily dips into the eclectic beat-freakery of Yoda, Gilles Peterson and hip-hop ledge Roots Manuva.
Also gaining plenty of props for their low bass blows are the ROUGH DISKO crew who inhabit THE HARLEY (Glossop Rd) on the first Friday of the month with dark garage, disco, baile-funk, wonky techno, booty bass, glitchy bass experiments and Warp-esque electronica getting stirred into the mix. It’s usually free, too.
The monthly DIASHA at the cosy PENELOPES (Arundel Gate) caters for the deeper shades of house, with the likes of Fish Go Deep!, James Priestley and Charles Webster, while the nearest thing to a superclub — PLUG (Matilda St) — continues to pull in big city names (read James Zabiela and Dubfire) at Sheffield prices (prices generally an affordable £8 adv), as well as offering a wealth of quality live sounds.
But no discussion of Sheffield’s musical pulse could take place without focusing on UK bassline (or speed garage 2.0 for anyone under 25), which was born here through clubs like NICHE (now called CLUB VIBE, Charter St). Unfashionable amongst the purists, the bassline sound has fed directly into the productions of Toddla T and weekly bassline sessions at Club Vibe continue to pack out and pop off to DJs like Jamie Duggan, DJ Q and Jamie Ferguson.
If you’re flexible about travel times and book a month in advance, you can get a weekend return train journey from London Kings Cross from under £40 return. Or you can slum it out with a four hour Megabus journey for just a tenner.
Situated in the heart of the city, a decent bet for a bed is the Jury’s Inn on Eyre’s Street where you can get a double room for just over £50 a night.
Fresh Fruit Fridays at the trendy Bowery on Devonshire Street is an essential warm-up session with ultra-cute residents Vanhessa Fruits and Dane Fresh dropping everything from French fuzzy electro and disco to Sean Paul and ’80s power ballads.
Bungalows & Bears on Division Street offers more eclectic musical offerings, with occasional DJ sets from the likes of Matt Helders, Andrew Weatherall and Late Of The Pier. On a more classic Northern boozer tip, Fagan’s on Broad Lane serves solid ales and occasional live music.
01. TODDLA T VS TROJAN SOUND SYSTEM ‘Revolutionar’ CDR
02. THE NEXTMEN FEAT MS DYNAMITE & ANDY CATO ‘Lions Den’ Universal
03. STUSH ‘We Nuh Run (Sirens Riddim)’ CDR
04. TODDLA T & SKREAM FEAT BAMBOO MAN ‘Untitled’ CDR
05. VYBZ KARTEL FEAT SPICE ‘Ramping Shop (Jungle Remix)’ VIP
06. CRAIG DAVID ‘Rendezvous (Sunship Mix)’ Wildstar
07. UKJ’S ‘Lundunabundun’ Knuckle
08. BUBBLEZ ‘Loser’ White Label
09. DONAEO ‘Riot Music’ Unknown
10. SUGA DEE ‘Pipes Dubplate’ CDR
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