A Few Reflections on The Soup Kitchen, Joy Orbison and the Mighty ‘meandyou’

Deep in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter district, lies the Soup Kitchen basement, which every two months or so hosts one of the most innovative and forward thinking house and techno collectives in the UK – ‘meandyou’ – for a night of music and general fun. ’meandyou’ have two of the finest DJ’s on the club circuit, with  Joy Orbison and Juniper as residents, and their events are of such quality they inspired me to share my thoughts on what is one of the best nights in the North, if not the country.

The brand of ‘meandyou’ stretches far beyond the regular club night. They operate a blog, a monthly slot on heavyweight music radio station NTS (whose other shows include Ghostpoet and ‘Global Roots’ with the co-founder of Boiler Room, Thristian Richards aka bPm) and in the near future, a label also. The emphasis of what they do is on underground electronic music, with techno and house in particular. Tune into one of their shows on NTS or check them out on the NTS podcast page and you will understand their music ethos more fully, as co-founder of the collective Andrew Lyster takes to the decks to provide a masterful lesson in mixing vinyl and track selection, usually with guest mixes too.

Given the type of deep, minimal techno and house they support, it is unsurprising to find out they have links with German label ‘Workshop’, who have released music by such names as Move D, Kassem Mosse, Even Tuell and Lowtec. ‘Workshop’ has had showcases for ‘meandyou’ in the past, on NTS radio as well as in a club environment. This close affiliation to ‘Workshop’ led to leading UK DJ and producer Joy Orbison getting involved in the project over the last 18 months. It was probably only a matter of time before he got stuck in with ‘meandyou’ as Madteo, an artist on Workshop, released the first 12” single on ‘Hinge Finger’ (the label Orbison co-founded with Will Bankhead of Trilogy Tapes about a year ago). Boddika, Joy O’s long term producing partner, has also had long ties with ‘Workshop’.

As a result of playing in the Soup Kitchen for ‘meandyou’, Joy O enjoyed it so much he asked how he could get involved more and was consequently made a resident at the start of 2012. He even said in an interview attached to his October Resident Advisor mix that a main source of inspiration for the way he structured the mix came from his sets at ‘meandyou’. Joy O’s partner in residency at ‘meandyou’ is one half of Juniper – Dan Mumberson. Dan has played as a resident for most nights at ‘meandyou’ since the collective was formed nearly five years ago, and his talents cannot be understated. With a number of releases on various labels including ‘Smallville Records’ and ‘Underground Quality’, Juniper have established themselves as part of the furniture in terms of the Mancunian house scene. They have gained respect throughout all the UK, with one of their tracks “Jovian Planet” featuring in Ben UFO’s recent FabricLive mix, a nod from one of the UK’s most influential tastemakers recognising their remarkable recent success and exposure. Specialising in deep minimal house with an acid flavour, Mumberson is a captivating DJ who I would recommend seeing at any opportunity.

Generally seen as the creative hub of Manchester, the Northern Quarter seems the perfect place for ‘meandyou’ to flourish where the parties range from themed electro-indie nights to huge reggae sound-system showdowns. By day, the Soup Kitchen operates as a Canteen and bar, serving rustic Lancastrian food to the hipster masses. But it’s by night is when the Soup Kitchen opens up its basement and really comes alive, welcoming up to 200 people to come and share positive vibes in an intimate area. Simplicity is the name of the game and it doesn’t get much more basic than the Soup Kitchen. A door opens on Spear Street right down a flight of stairs and into the single room that makes up the club space. With just a table in the corner with the decks on, brick walls, dim lighting, a single bar, a single toilet and a few seats set into the wall round the edge of the club, you gain a real sense of being below ground in a really minimal, closed personal space – the perfect anecdote for those who want a change from the busy hustle of the larger clubs in Manchester such as Sankeys or The Warehouse Project. It’s this minimalist setting which makes the Soup Kitchen the perfect host for the ‘meandyou’ project, as the music itself suits the environment. A potent mix of deep techno infused with acid house are the usual genre’s of choice and I can honestly say that some of the best moments I had in 2012 were dancing through till 6 am with a room of complete strangers listening to the intricate layers that were being built up and down by Joy O, Juniper, and the founders of ‘meandyou’ themselves alongside a plethora of special guests, most of whom are complete debutants to Manchester or in a lot of cases the UK.

The first event ‘meandyou’ put on was all the way back in 2008 which featured current resident Juniper alongside Arnaldo, Pigon and Joseph.  These artists might not strike you as household name’s but the way ‘meandyou’ operates has always been a strictly underground policy.They aim to educate and give us a feel of their own tastes as opposed to pleasing the masses. Every four to eight weeks they take over the Soup Kitchen showcasing the best in global house and techno. Previous guests have included Norman Nodge, Zomby, Kyle Hall, 2562, Move D, Ben UFO, to name but a few of the more ‘well known’ artists. Usually these artists,as aforementioned, will be interspersed with a diverse array of producers and DJ’s who I’m sure the majority of the crowd will have never heard before, but the reputation of ‘meandyou’ is such that they will sell out regardless of the DJ’s booked as they are guaranteed to put on a good show every time.

These DJ’s will often come from across the world to play for ‘meandyou’. Their next event on March 16, features Vakula all the way from Ukraine for his Manchester debut. Had I heard of him? No, but after looking him up I can safely say his productions are unreal and I can’t wait to see him play. ‘meandyou’ is a wonderful way to find out about great new music. Artists worth checking out from recent events include Conforce, XDB and Frak. A techno act operating since the late 80’s, Frak were ‘meandyou’s most recent booking alongside Ben UFO.Unfortunately I couldn’t make it that night to see them, but there is some footage of the 3 Swedish producers playing their full analogue live show whilst wearing their standard attire of foil bags on their heads and suits, which you can watch here.

Having been born in 94’ I am sad to say I have never experienced FWD in London, the night where dubstep really evolved and thrived over the last 10 years. From my knowledge of the night, it was small, dark, and about the musicThe crowd were all regulars and there for the right reasons. Sadly this element seems to have been lost for many clubs in the UK, as promoters now stack line-ups to compete in an ever-growing market. From my own experience, too many nights loose there vibe as the clubs are too often oversaturated with people who don’t know or appreciate the music. This is where ‘meandyou’ have really flourished as the crowd they attract is regular and always up for it right into the early morning. Essentially the same as what I imagine FWD to be like back in the day at Plastic People – groundbreaking underground music being presented in an amazing environment with a crowd which is akin to a community. The first ever night I went, I got in when doors opened at 10pm and found Joy Orbison standing at the bar in a near empty room, we then proceeded to have a 10 minute chat about music and clubbing in general. Where else would you be able to do that? It sounds just like my mates’ description of seeing Skream at FWD back in 2005 and meeting him on the dancefloor afterwards. I cannot rate what the guys at ‘meandyou’ do any more highly and if you wish to hear some amazing music in a special venue, make a change from the bigger city clubs, and meet some wonderful people with truly impressive moustaches and shirts, then come along and share the energy!


‘MEANDYOU’ PRESENTS: Vakula with Joy O & Juniper. March 16th @ the Soup Kitchen (Manchester)