Having just completed a run of stellar, sold-out shows to commemorate its fifth anniversary, club night ABANDON SILENCE can rightly claim to being one of Liverpool’s biggest clubbing success stories, certainly in recent times. A who’s who of the decade’s best electronic music artists has played to an Abandon Silence crowd over the past five years, from early performers Disclosure, Joy Orbison and James Blake to more recent alumni Four Tet, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Levon Vincent. Promoter Andrew Hill looks back to where it all began…
In the summer of 2010 something amazing happened in Liverpool, quite by chance. A selection of today’s most established names in Liverpool’s creative community – The Shipping Forecast, Bold Street Coffee, Waxxx and Bido Lito! – all launched in the same six-month spell. It was something of a purple patch and, without being too brazen by putting it in that pot, my own venture, Abandon Silence, began in the same period. It would be intriguing to speak to all of the founders and see how many believed they would still be here in 2015: I know I didn’t.
At that time, I saw Abandon Silence the club night as a temporary excursion from a blog of the same name, rather than the other way round. I was halfway through a Journalism degree at LJMU and I had set up a (now-defunct) Blogspot page as a means of getting my writing ‘out there’. With five years of accumulated hindsight, most of the articles on the blog are embarrassingly naive as I seemingly decided that, as a 19-year-old student, I knew the ways of the world and just how electronic music has and will progress. I’m sure if I come across this article in five years time I’ll react the same way.
One such article I wrote was printed in Issue 1 of Bido Lito!, and was an attempt at dissecting where ‘dubstep’ had come from and where it was going… Most of the predictions made in the article were hugely inaccurate, though some did come true – such as the genre’s downfall as acts like Rihanna and Britney Spears decided to take it on. One main part of that downfall that I hadn’t considered, though, was the idea that it would become such a behemoth in the US and contribute to the creation of the current EDM culture.
At that time I was churning out several articles a week for the blog and regular reviews of other club nights for Bido Lito!; though, as the club night started to grow and my final year assignments took up most of my writing time, my writing began to take a back seat. By the end of the 2010/11 year the blog had gradually receded to a stream of promotional posts, with original articles few and far between. That gradual recession lead to the freezing of the blog, and it has sadly sat dormant ever since as my time and energy have been dedicated in other areas. Indeed, this article is the first original piece I have written in a good few years, and it’s definitely not like jumping back on a bike!
That year was probably the toughest but most fun of my life, as I begged and borrowed my way from show to show as I attempted to live off a monthly 200-capacity club night – which, I can assure you, is not possible. The final show of that year was, in my opinion, the major turning point where both the club night, and my outlook towards it, matured. We managed to book Julio Bashmore (a huge coup to get him for his Liverpool debut) and Midland (now almost part of the furniture at Abandon Silence) in the Shipping Forecast. That show was a huge sell-out and was the first time I really felt like Abandon Silence was a party that people “were talking about”, and that it was set up to become established in the city.
One question that I was asked when I first started the club night was “What are you planning to do that is different to what is already out there?”, and despite its basic nature it is probably the most important question for any potential new promoter. Indeed, I feel like this should be put on one of those A0 poster boards you see around town, as a lot of new promoters don’t seem to ask themselves this before jumping head first in to a project that has already been done elsewhere under a different name with slightly different artists.
I was lucky enough to be able to answer that question when I started, and I genuinely believe that if I’d have faltered on an answer then I would never have started Abandon Silence. My validation was that we were booking artists that hadn’t been to the city before and were looking at genres and sounds that had never been heard here. The first run of shows included now established artists such as James Blake, Sbtrtkt, Koreless and Mount Kimbie – all artists who were developing new sounds under the future garage banner.
This speculation is one of the key aspects that has shaped the club night’s musical policy down the years – trying to predict what’s coming round the corner. Examples include booking Disclosure for an early support slot when they were too young to even get in The Shipping Forecast; booking Sbtrkt for a similar fee off the back of a Goldie remix before any solo records had come out; to more recent times with Max Graef, Seven Davis Jr and Jasper James, artists I believe are going to be huge in the next couple of years. On the flip side of those examples, this speculation has lead to the odd fail (which I respectfully won’t mention here), which often leads to some serious soul-searching.
As previously mentioned, I hadn’t intended to still be running the club night half a decade down the line, but as each show went by successfully there would be another one or two planned, building to a point now where I try to know what Abandon Silence will be doing in up to twelve months’ time. The speculation over those plans must now take in to account another raft of changes within the city’s clubbing scene. Sadly it is impossible to have a chat about the future of Liverpool without discussing the impending Kazimier closure.
It is a sad indictment of our city’s progress that as soon as we have a venue beginning to get national acclaim across the board – indeed, Motor City Drum Ensemble called it, “The best venue I have played in the UK” – we find it being engulfed by the never-ending city-centre student accommodation blitz. How very Liverpool.
The next step is something that I am being asked about more and more often as that fateful Kazimier closure nears. I am lucky enough to have something up my sleeve – sadly I have to keep that to myself for now – but if I hadn’t been able to plan this move in advance of the closure announcement, I am pretty low on ideas on where it could move to with the same atmosphere and fit. However, as many have pointed out, Liverpool has lost its focal club/venue on many occasions, as when Eric’s, The Cavern and The Masque closed, Liverpool endured. Gigs will still remain busy, clubbers will continue clubbing, amazing artists will come and go. Sadness is a dangerous slope but thankfully there are more than enough creative individuals in Liverpool who will come to the fore in the coming years, just like that group did back in the summer of 2010. Now the question is where the next Kazimier will pop up or who will be behind it. Who knows – maybe it will be you?