Last Thursday night saw Red Bull bring their famous Culture Clash event to the north, where four crews battled it out for the coveted crown in Manchester.
Following on from the Bristol event, the sell-out occasion saw four of Manchester’s finest collectives grace the stages of Old Granada Studios in the form of Dub Smugglers, Levelz, Made In Manchester and A Guy Called Gerald Presents Basstronic.
Pre-event, it was always going to be hard to pick a favourite, so it was to be a level playing field as all went in to battle. A Guy Called Gerald was an obvious standout name on the line-up, with the house and jungle pioneer coming through with a new crew. Despite a large portion of the crowd being university students, there was also a number of hometown revellers, which was likely to play a part in which way the clash would swing.
Each collective boasted varying sound systems, bringing a wide range of sounds to the ears of all in attendance. Having used up all the drink tokens available to us, we were ready to take it all in as round one commenced.
As the famous Old Granada Studios started to fill up, the night was in full swing with insults being exchanged by all involved. The atmosphere inside was celebratory, with revellers crowdsurfing in rubber dinghies and many an object flying across the arena. With the crowd making their energy known, Made In Manchester managed to claim one of the opening three rounds. However, it was Levelz who stormed their way into the lead, taking ownership of the other two. This was now set up for a jaw-dropping final round with double points awaiting the victorious crew.
As we entered the Armageddon Round, things started to heat up even further, with a number of high-profile dubs set to come to the boil. Dub Smugglers managed to pull out a live performance “Incredible” dub from their special guest General Levy, which sent everyone into a mass frenzy. Just when I thought that couldn’t be topped, Made In Manchester dug deep to grasp a special Liam Bailey dub out of the bag, as he came on stage to perform his “Blind Faith” dub to the amped Clash crowd. This was incredibly grouped with a dub apparently from Morgan Freeman, and a Happy Mondays “Step On” dub.
After what was an electrifying yet energy-sapping round, the curiosity surrounding the potential winning group was huge. In the end, it was to be Levelz who left Old Granada Studios with the prized trophy, thanks to inspiring dubs from the likes of The Prodigy and Sweet Female Attitude. However, they were quick to hand over the trophy to their rival crew Dub Smugglers, declaring them “their” winners, showing the good nature of the clashing art form. Strangely enough, Dub Smugglers failed to register a round throughout the entirety of the contest, which to me, was crazy. But as with clashes, it’s all based on crowd response and my feelings weren’t to be echoed.
Walking away from Manchester Culture Clash, I began to gather my thoughts whilst waiting for a bus in the freezing cold. There was a collective assumption that the Bristol and Manchester shows were to be the underwhelming warm-ups for the main event in London. However, those fears were put to bed as the other parts of England embraced the chance to experience the Culture Clash experience in their hometown. For us, it was an event worth its weight in gold, and provided a night to remember. Ultimately, the night once again showcased the brilliance of the precious art form that is clashing, but also its good nature. Witnessing clashes will always be up there with my favourite forms of entertainment and long may that continue. Fun was had in Manchester, but we now move on to London where it’s undoubtedly set to be another breathtaking experience.
Words by Jaik Bramley-Fenton
Photography: Marcus Maschwitz