Helena Hauff

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The Wonder Pot @ 24 Kitchen Street 27/8/21

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24 Kitchen Street: If you’ve not been back, it still feels like home. Entry is less building site than 18 months ago and there’s a welcome increase in the chill area’s vegetation, but a quick jaunt up the steps, through the double doors, and you’re into the night.

Kitchen Street remains very dark, eschewing glitz. Hello again huge disco ball, the bar’s red glow. The new Sophie mural is present, although it’s tricky to appreciate its quality at a night. Its position within the aesthetic of the venue is understated, matching the overall ethos – we’re here for the music and to be with others here for the music. What’s immediately different aurally is the massive bass – an augmented bottom end that takes me by surprise, especially before absorbed by a full crowd. There’s also air conditioning. It’s still sweaty but even at the peak of the night I can feel it working.

There’s a distinctively local and more mixed feel to many Liverpool club line-ups post pandemic. Three of the DJs are at the decks immediately, mixing it up and playfully freestyling who’s selecting next. Members of the informal ‘Northern Powerhouse’ of female promoter/DJ collectives: LUPINI and BEN SLEIA from Liverpool’s ATHE (though Ben Sleia now operates out of Berlin) and PHOEBE VALENTINE from Manchester’s B.L.O.O.M. They’re evidently friends and there is an infectious light-heartedness to the b3b format. You can sense their enjoyment of selecting tracks to amuse themselves, and to get the dancefloor moving. The set flows and morphs through two-step garage-esque beats, overlayered with ambience, there is trance, techno, bass… Yet they manage to exert control over the tempo, steadying the early leg of the night – not too much too soon – before capsizing that with a truly euphoric ending, mashing Get Ur Freak On into an uplifting string-filled breakbeat track.

“[Hauff] has an unerring ability to sustain and increment the energy levels even five hours into the night”

Next up is Wigan-born WES BAGGALEY who’s held in high esteem from his selecting at Manchester and London’s queer clubs and extensive radio slots on Netil Radio and Rinse FM. From the school of ‘head down, play the selections’, Wes’ set starts with dark, low end, pounding 4/4 acid vinyl selections, getting seriously deep as the night progresses.

As the space fills there’s a great mix of people. Lots of happy faces seeing each other again. This isn’t my first time out and, in talking to other dancers, the general experience is that rather than the anticipated rush of amazement at getting back, the buzz is more of a slotting back into things, a naturalness to dancing, to being in a crowd, a return to sharing regular fist bumps and smiles with strangers.

The Wonder Pot themselves describe Hamburg’s Helena Hauff as an “all time 24KS favourite”. Consistently unpretentious and rejecting social media, Hauff’s presence is entirely about the music. As is typical of her sets, it opens with electro beats. She cuts a figure of serious concentration at work, occasionally raising her dark-set eyes to check the dancefloor dynamic. After wonkier, bleep laden electro her first hour eases towards harder and faster acid and arpeggio laden basslines. Unlike nights characterised by excessive, exclusively percussive techno at the expense of the swing of acid, Hauff’s set delivers a very danceable bassline heavy party. On this showing it is evident as to why Hauff remains one of the most in demand techno DJs. She has an unerring ability to sustain and increment the energy levels even five hours into the night. The close proximity of dancers to the DJ allows for mutual revelling and it is great to watch her own dance moves increasing as the set builds to a climax. Hauff’s focused, undecorated approach reflects Kitchen Street’s sparse understated demeanour. The music is what matters here, for both venue and performer.

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