Last Saturday, me and The Courier’s very own Culture Editor Jack Parker were given access to Mr Scruff’s sold out 6 Hour super-set in Newcastle. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr Scruff, he’s a British Electronica and Soul DJ renowned for his marathon performances, scruffy appearance and signature quirky illustrations. The tracks that made me aware of his work were probably the two most famous, ‘Music Takes Me Up’ and one of the defining tracks of the Electro Swing genre, ‘Get A Move On’. If you’ve owned a computer with Windows 7, you may have also heard ‘Kalimba’, one of the sample songs on that system. What I love about Mr Scruff is his seamless blending of the vintage and modern in his music and live show at Wylam Brewery; old skool Soul and Swing instrumentation gives way to House beats, a retro Disco ball compliments an entrancing visual light show, and Scruff flits between vinyl collection and Apple Mac.
“hypnotic House earlier on in the evening gave way to feel good uplifting Disco hits”
I don’t need to tell you that Mr Scruff is brilliant. You either already know or you can go and find out for yourself. What I do desperately need to tell you about is Newcastle’s best emerging music venue, as it was Exhibition Park’s Wylam Brewery that really made this night memorable. To get to the Brewery, you have to enter the park by foot and navigate your way through pitch black darkness towards the glowing building past the pond, without falling in. It’s a mystery why there isn’t a single light in the entire place, but it’s almost as if they want you to get mugged. After making it safely to our destination and accepting the price of £4.80 for a berry cider because we got free tickets, Jack and I had time to take in our surroundings at around 7pm before the place filled up. The small stage that Mr Scruff inhabited felt like background furniture compared to the spectacle of the domed roof which provided exceptional acoustics for the music, or ‘noise’ as Jack preferred to call it.
“It feels like an insult to culture itself that we ended up in Sinners and Rusty’s after this”
At first we were the youngest people in the room, as the demographic was mainly middle-aged bald hipster male with glasses, scarf and occasional flat cap. But as the night wore on we bumped into a few of our student friends, and the subdued older crowd loosened up. This was aided by the mood of the music, as hypnotic House earlier on in the evening gave way to feel good uplifting Disco hits like Chicago’s ‘Street Player’ and Roundtree’s ‘Get on Up (Get on Down)’. Other aids were visible in the crowd, as we spotted people keying substances with no inhibitions, but luckily Jack permanently carries a bottle of Poppers so we were sorted for the night. The show just built and built, with the lights gradually getting more intense as Scruff’s own animations of cute characters drumming and slapping bass were also projected behind him. If I had to criticise one thing, it would be the “Incoming Bassline Warning” that started flashing before a bassline that wasn’t as heavy as that might have suggested. Maybe my expectations as a bass player were just too high.
It feels like an insult to culture itself that we ended up in Sinners and Rusty’s after this – a pilgrimage to Newcastle’s so-called ‘Palace of Arts’, for 6 hours of losing yourself to an eclectic array of sounds from one of Britain’s best DJs. If you want to recreate the experience from Brewery to bedroom, the full set is available to download on the Facebook event page.