*riffraff is one of the UK’s lengthiest running underground house and techno events pushing towards its 16th year. Starting out in small basements and other uncanny venues they have avoided the glitz and glam. Instead, favouring locations with rawness appeal. The music policy is the result of constantly keeping one ear, meticulously pinned to the floor listening to the beats of the underground.
As a brand, they thrive on showcasing cutting edge artists as well as pushing local talent which is one of the reasons it has lasted this long. When we were asked to attend and write a report of this hedonistic party, Graeme Stewart one of the event organisers who carved his name running Zoo Project for a decade but now managing artists such as Maribou State, George Fitzgerald, Lee Walker and DJ Seinfeld informed us we probably wouldn’t have been to anything quite like it; he was telling the truth.
The venue is called Disgraceland on Baker Street in central Middlesbrough, a road made up of Victorian houses that have been converted into shops, salons, micropubs and in true riffraff fashion proving they can put on parties anywhere a RAVE; which through the week is an art gallery.
We approached the house where the rumbling bass vibrated against the blacked out front windows and were asked at the door if our names were on the guest list, after telling the door staff who we were instead of a wristband the security managed to draw a nice penis on our wrists before opening the front door to the house and the onslaught of amplified electronic music which nearly knocked us back into the street.
After entering the porch we turned left into the packed living room to applause from the crowd that seemed to be cheering people who entered and booing those that left. Lee Walker from Defected Records just one of *riffraff’s residents was playing back to back with riffraff founder and Zoo project resident DJ Lee Pennington on a function one sound system whilst two transvestite dancers bust moves behind on the bay windowsill and the lasers bounced about the room reflected from an antique 70s disco ball suspended from the ceiling. It was at this point we realised it was either sink or swim, meaning we either joined in immediately with what had been presented to us or we got the hell out; we dove in.
The living room had graffiti on the walls alongside vintage paintings, toward the back of the room there was a makeshift bar selling cans of red stripe as well as vodkas and mixer. People say they are underground in this business but when riffraff say they are underground they don’t lie, this was one of the most subversive events we had been to and the music went hand in hand with the actual venue.
*riffraff also apply a strictly NO PHONE policy and it soon became evident why when looking around the room, Daniel Roxby one of the resident DJ’s explained that having no recording equipment puts people at ease allowing them to do what they want, like take their tops off to rave which he had already done in order to cope with the rising temperature.
The crowd itself was made up of all ages ranging from 18 up to full seasoned clubbing veterans, something that is rare to see in this modern era, it also seemed they were from all walks of life, but one thing was for sure and it was that they knew their music, especially when Lee Walker dropped his own track “Rock Climber” and the building actually shook.
It is important to note that this was only 8pm on a Saturday evening, so whilst most people were getting ready to go out, riffraff was in full swing as its doors opened at 12pm and were not closing until 2 in the morning. It was as if Pennington and his crew had taken the rule book to running a party and purposely broken every single one, Nicky Rafferty one of the resident DJ’s mentioned that it’s so wrong it’s actually right before offering us an ice pop.
After being drenched in sweat which was our own and other peoples dripping from the roof and running down the walls we needed to get some air, the back yard was exactly as you would expect any town house to be only crammed with people messing around with balloons and laughing intensely which we soon joined in with. After gathering our senses it was time to venture back into the vortex to be greeted with our very own resident DJ Sahar on the turntables being accompanied with a Sikh percussionist who goes by the name of Techno Turban and a guitarist named Carlos the Grape. It was at this moment that the entire madness of what this affair was somehow made sense, there shouldn’t be a guitarist alongside techno, yet there was, and there certainly shouldn’t be a percussionist playing bhangra, but there was, this shouldn’t be happening in someone’s living room, yet here we were living the full riffraff experience. Suddenly Southall a DJ who puts on raves in the seaside town of Redcar mentioned we should endeavour upstairs which we did to be greeted with a bedroom kitted out with lasers, decks, ravers and Glen Storey from Jupiter Records grooving it out followed by Karl Frampton owner of Off The Cuff Tracks, we were even told that Rees of Paradiso Records had made an appearance early doors.
As the party continued so did the debauchery which was a perpetual barrage of fun alongside good music. What was interesting about this entire episode was that *riffraff isn’t just only about the music but the full experience, the owners Pennington and Stewart clearly know how to program events and the crowd trust their choice of DJ’s, but its everything else on top that makes this a party which every clubber needs to journey into one time in their career. If you are someone that likes the pizazz of the clubs and recording every moment for Instagram then maybe this isn’t for you, if you are someone who wants to leave all troubles at the door, dance to good music and take home some funny stories which most people won’t believe then we suggest you buy a ticket and take the ride.