Evolution of the Subcity Party
On Friday 20 March, Subcity Radio are hosting a party at a secret location in Glasgow. Fans will be transported in blacked-out coaches from the revamped Ivy bar to an undisclosed venue, where ghettotech legend DJ Assault will stand in position, fingers poised, ready to treat them to 100-decibels of booty, Baltimore and bassline.
Only a handful of people know what else is planned for this night. But those that do are pretty excited. Officially, the party celebrates the end of FM broadcast for the online station, with presenters enjoying a month on the airwaves from February to March 20. But really, the party marks a return to form for the student-based station, who have been putting on club nights for 13 years, and it's not always been an easy ride. Past events brought breakdancers, graffiti artists and unknown DJs to sell-out crowds at The Arches, and mixed DJs with live samba bands at venues such as the Renfrew Ferry. The station quickly gained a name for itself. From then on, there was an aura of cool surrounding the nights — the people involved seemed mysterious, talented and vibrant.
In the years when the station didn't run regular nights, there was a sense of anticipation for the ideas that would come out of the young heads who were coming up the ranks at the station. However, Subcity depends on volunteers' contribution of time and talent, and so excitement comes in waves depending on who is on board. The capacity crowd Block Party nights at The Arches involved covert missions of freezing flyposting and flyering outside the city's main clubs at 3am. The nights' success weren't only down to being mates with the best new DJs around — and knowing how to get them playing for a few pints — but also the blood, sweat and tears of people usually attempting to get a degree at the same time. This didn't always work but, if you were part of the team, it just didn't seem to matter.
Shaun Murphy, 24, became station manager in September 2004. His beats of choice on-air were happy hardcore, a genre balanced on the borderline of extreme naffness and ironic cool. At the FM Launch Party in February 2005, he got The Arches' third tunnel dripping with adrenaline in an old school rave DJ battle with DJ Mayhem, aka Hudson Mohawke, Glasgow's latest darling to emerge from indefinable hiphop/wonk/dubstep stable LuckyMe. As a twenty-year-old music and engineering student, and self-confessed geek, Murphy was able to do things with The Arches' massive soundsystem he'd only fantasised about before. The degree faded into the background, but it didn't matter. He was now among a group of young DJs looking to challenge the Glasgow old guard.
"Subcity is a community that’s always been home to incredible talent before they get big. The team and listeners are always changing, and always fresh. Optimo, Mungo’s HiFi, and Boom Monk Ben all had shows when they were starting out. I was doing a show with HudMo. Now there's new presenters who are already on the way to big things."
This month's event comes nestled between the monthly Subcity parties at the Research Club in Glasgow's West End, which took off in September 2007 as the station made a fresh start after the hangover of the Block Party era. These stripped down nights attracted young promoter Matthew Craig, 21, who got on board last September. Craig, who runs One More Tune (Blackfriars) and Cheap ‘n’ Nasty (Nice ‘n’ Sleazy), as well as DJing himself, said: "It was pretty exciting to get involved when the station was doing something new. I'd been to the Block Party nights myself and always thought they were one step ahead of the game.”
This month's booking confirms the station's obsession with the latest sounds. DJ Assault's style of bassline heavy, booty-shaking ghetto house is sneaking into the city's mainstream consciousness via nights such as Numbers and label Dress 2 Sweat. True to form, the station's Research Club nights were bringing the massive sound of the Baltimore ghetto into a listed West End town house.
Surveying the queue of Lycra-clad, electro-hungry generation-Z party people at the last event, Craig muses over the fact that most of them haven't heard of the Arches nights: “I'm lucky to be doing this, because Subcity is a blank canvas - the brand never gets old because the team graduate, get big or just move on."
Ben Coghill, aka Boom Monk Ben, the latest to join the Ninja Tune DJ team alongside the likes of Coldcut, DJ Food and DK, has been playing the Subcity nights since 2004, after starting out with a hip-hop show on the station. He still continues to make time for them despite increasing commitments as an international DJ, booking manager and producer. Ben, who currently hosts the Mixed Bizness nights at the Art School, is still excited after all these years: "I remember the massive nights at The Arches well but I feel these more intimate events are exactly what the station now needs. It's free of any pretence and macho posturing that often comes with the promotion of fresh sounds.
“The energy from the crowd is unrivalled and the nights always turn into an under-the-radar rave-up. I have played all over UK and Europe in recent months but these nights are still the most fun to be had."
The Research Club night on 27 March confirms it: the station's doing good. Bassline hip-hop from Boom Monk Ben, Arches party boy Johnny Whoop, and Armed Response, residents of Symbiosis, the city's primary drum ‘n’ bass outlet in the perfect dinginess of the Soundhaus. If there's another dip in years to come, it'll be a much-needed comedown from their current high.