A cold night in an intimate venue, warmed by music that was defiantly ice filled.
Arriving at the Hope Works is always mildly surreal. It’s situated in a classic red brick industrial area, a solid distance from the sick-drenched, and dreaded West Street where most of the bars and venues in Sheffield can be found. This separation from the city's typical nightlife is appropriate since the club provides an experience that nowhere else can ever quite match. As I’m fully aware, Sheffield isn’t typically considered the best place for nightlife in the country, especially within circles of people who enjoy dance music with a backbone. Having said that, Hope Works has provided a decent dose of well-run events since I began living here a year ago, and rivals many high quality venues (in my humble opinion) in the ‘major’ cities such as London, Bristol and Manchester.
Hope Works recently celebrated its fourth birthday with a night of DJ sets from some of the most prominent and respected techno artists around, including: James Ruskin (head of the somewhat mythical Blueprint Records), Tessela, Sunil Sharpe, Lee Gamble and Hodge. This event was held in what usually serves as the second room, situated across a spacious courtyard from the main warehouse building, and obscured by a curtain rather than a door. This space often feels like an afterthought to the main room, which boasts a large Void sound system and usually houses the headliners, leaving this second room, referred to as ‘Little Mesters’, somewhat neglected. This isn’t due to any particular mistake by the organisers, but is simply because attendees seem to find the main warehouse more enticing. I recently attended an event where Edward (of Giegling fame) did an incredible live set to a handful of us, whilst the main warehouse was full to the brim. However, on another occasion when Objekt stepped up, it was this second room which boasted people spilling out of the door (or rather curtain).
The atmosphere in Little Mesters is undeniable. As I walked in past the curtain I was engulfed by darkness, with the majority of the lighting provided (as usual) by one small laser, immediately creating a very special atmosphere. I arrived about an hour into the event, towards the end of Linemann’s set. He provided a final twenty minutes of utter belters, ripe with UK tendencies. The occasional cheeky amen or breakbeat between pounding kicks, provided a damn fine warm up dance, and a much needed one, with temperatures the other side of the curtain reaching the minuses shortly after.
Next up was Veronica herself, the main event. Having only been given a vague description of what to expect from her whilst having a beer beforehand, I’ll start by saying I was FUCKING BLOWN AWAY! I knew from a number of people that she was a very sought after booking, but had never been informed why exactly. It was during the third track she played that I realised what was so interesting about her selection. She was chucking together some of the most interesting New Wave and electro-tinged techno tracks I’d ever, and refreshingly never, heard until this fateful night. Sounds in this eclectic mix included: distorted New Wave vocals, euphoric but arguably sinister chord progressions, aggressive, almost twanging acid lines and unmistakable rolling electro kicks scattered here and there.
I’ll be the first to admit that, though I danced my arse off, I did get Shazam out on occasion, as I simply couldn’t help it. The only track it was hard not to recognise, was Bjarki’s unavoidable anthem ‘I Wanna Go Bang’. Shazam found me some gems, including the disorientating yet danceable ‘Headhunter’ by influential 80s Belgian electronic band Front 242, and Nitzer Ebb’s ‘Shame (Mix Two)’, a track that is almost comically New Wave, but undoubtedly a belter. She also delved into the Soma Records 25th anniversary releases, in the form of Norman Nodge’s rework of ‘Dark Manoeuvres’ by Envoy.
Also found therein was Marie Davidson’s ‘Naive to the Bone’, from her album Adieux Au Dancefloor, released on Minimal Wave last year. A powerful spoken vocal played over a looping melody and pumping beat makes it an astonishingly groovy DJ tool. Truss’ ‘Redbrook’ was another prominent anthem, and with a similarly anthemic tone, Robert S’ ‘Space Illusion’ kept the dancefloor’s momentum. The final stretch of her incredible three hour ‘extended’ set came to a final peak as she threw in ‘Baby, Baby’ by Robert Hood, released under his more recently prominent alias Floorplan. The one disappointment was that during the electro sections of her set, she didn’t play ‘Spacer Woman’ by Charlie. The singular can of bucky tonic I consumed led me to believe she was mixing it in once or twice, before realising my mistake, and also questioning my sanity. In the end I put it down to my mildly inexperienced ear, combined with quality blends from a next level disc jockey.
Resident and Hope Works founder Lo Shea rounded off the night, once again proving that he is one of the best residents in the UK, with a solid serving of dark techno that got the whole crowd bouncing and swaying. A track he played that really got our knees up was ‘Submissive Holyness’ by Hail Blk. Obscured by that infamous curtain, this tiny venue staged a night of epic proportions. Arguably this was helped by the fact it was too cold to even go outside for a smoke, but the momentum of each set definitely had something to do with it. It’s nights like this that make me dread the end of exam season, as the band-wagoners will once again descend upon what is definitely one of the best event spaces I’ve ever stepped foot in.
Look out for more events curated by Hope Works for Hope Works in the future; they come highly recommended. Also, check out the link below to a mini-documentary where Veronica Vasicka talks about what her label Minimal Wave is all about, with some help from some artists on the label.
By Joel Baker | Loose Lips