- Five of the best from the dynamic event at the heart of Sheffield's resurgent electronic scene.
- Sheffield nightlife is "healthier than ever," said Toddla T last year. Thanks to venues like Hope Works, party crews like Off Me Nut and community-minded promoters like Liam O'Shea (AKA Lo Shea), the Steel City's electronic music legacy is still evolving—and there's currently no better place to experience it than No Bounds Festival. Launched by O'Shea last year as a continuation of Mixed In Sheffield, an ambitious project that has been nurturing the city's art and music scenes for a decade, No Bounds aims to present Sheffield's most vital contemporary talents alongside figures from its storied past. That's how the local legends Rob Gordon and Winston Hazel ended up sharing the bill with artists from CPU, a modern label inspired by Warp Records and the sound of '90s Sheffield.
Since opening in 2012, Hope Works has become a hub for rave culture in Sheffield. This barebones warehouse with exceptional sound promotes unpretentious partying, a space where everyone is welcome to come together on the dance floor. It served as No Bounds' raving basecamp for the weekend. The festival used other venues throughout the city, too, including a pub, a cultural centre and a swimming pool.
Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
"You're gonna love this one trust!" So claimed the Facebook blurb about the "Very Special Guest" opening Friday's Off Me Nut takeover at Hope Works. The night would eventually explode into raucousness, soundtracked by one of Sheffield's greatest musical exports of the past ten years––bassline––at the hands of the city's brashest and best-loved label and party crew. But not before a pithy 30-minute masterclass in breakcore, IDM and jungle from a pioneer that never really fitted into any of those genres: Mike Paradinas. Unfortunately, nobody was there to see it except me. Anyone who ventured into the tented Courtyard around midnight will have seen someone in a neon GABBA T-shirt bopping around like a lunatic to a medley of Paradinas's own productions, from the ebullient sounds of Royal Astronomy and Challenge Me Foolish to more face-melting fare. Afterwards, Paradinas packed away as quickly as he could and rushed next door to catch the last 15 minutes of his wife's live performance as Meemo Comma.
By 5AM, the Off Me Nut stage had hit its peak. Ben Suff Donk was rinsing those Wigan Pier classics that the rest of the world might shame you for, but which here, while you sploshed about in giant puddles and near-total darkness, gave you a sense of belonging. Through a large fire door, into the Warehouse stage, the vibe was completely different. Dillinja had just finished one of his macho drum & bass sets to an uncomfortable crush of students and DJ Storm was now on the decks. Calm and composed, her selections were deep and twinkly, peppered with vintage Metalheadz, such as Adam F's epic "Metropolis." For the final hour of Friday night, the girls (and the heads) reclaimed the dance floor.
In 1994, Winston Hazel took a mindfulness trip to Jamaica. It turned out to be a personal and musical revelation for the Sheffield bleep pioneer. In a RBMA lecture, he described the music he found there as a "massive sonic explosion," sounds that resonated with the industrial Sheffield klang of his youth. "It just felt like I'd landed back home again, but far away, in a very, very hot place," he said. On Friday, Hazel showcased those home-away-from home sounds at Hope Works, bringing the fire to the Warehouse stage. He played dancehall 7-inches and 12-inches like Crissy D's "Here Comes The Rain Again" and "Don't Dis the Jungle" by Tenor Fly. The whole room was swaying—even a guy on crutches was getting stuck in.
On Saturday, following a daytime programme of workshops and artist talks, Mark Fell curated an early evening concert of experimental music housed in a modern warehouse space. The event began at 4PM with a live performance from Sarah Davachi and ended with a DJ set from the Nyege Nyege Festival affiliate Kampire. In between, the sound collage artist Klein transposed the room into a kind of immersive house of horrors with her multi-sensory audiovisual show, which was based around her most recent EP, cc. Combining churning melody loops and vocals (some sampled, some her own) with strobes, smoke, invasive coloured lights and obscure visuals barely detectable through the fog, she delivered the most piercing and unsettling set of the weekend. At one point, the union of throbbing sound and colour became so overwhelming that I thought I was going to be sick. It was amazing.
Any unsuspecting ravers who chanced upon the tiny High Density Energy Chamber after midnight on Saturday may have run straight out of there screaming. Set away from the other two stages at Hope Works, the claustrophobic third room––more of a corridor, really––was intimidating at best. In there, Ewa Justka, an artist whose BPM count would make the Thunderdome crowd quiver, played one of the most extreme—and best—sets of the festival, pairing pummelling sonics with a searing strobe light. Having hosted a well-attended workshop earlier in the day, she was now blowing up High Density Energy Chamber with her ferocious style of gabber-acid, powered by a local high-fidelity soundsystem. The room was never quite the same again after that, and neither were we.
Photo credits /
Jody Hartley - Mike Paradinas
Frankie Casillo - All others