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Review: VIVa Warriors closing party at Sankeys, 2014

Steve Lawler enlists us into his Sunday night warfare one final time.

Viva Warriors has remained a Sunday night staple at Sankeys this summer for a third year running. The no frills, music focused stomping ground, was a worthy alternative to Space's long faring spectacle We Love. Last night both parties were pulling out all the stops for their end of season closings, and despite commercial fly-trap Rudimental cropping up on the We Love billing, there were still impressive queues outside Sankeys from the offset.

We headed in as main man Steve Lawler took to the decks for an extended 5 hour set, and despite the early hour there was no warming up for this house stalwart. Going full throttle from the outset, he hit the crowd with a barrage of bass heavy, chugging house cuts like Gorge's La Angels (DJ Leroi Lax Remix). Lawler's invaluable ability to hook a room with a persistent beat whilst keeping things interesting with slices of vocals and percussion, was illustrated perfectly with tracks like Filsonik's new release Dogfish, its penetrating synths and shuffling break-beats enlivened by a chorus of children singing.

The basement itself was its usual inky black self, lit only by the few strips of light lining the low slung ceiling giving the sea of hands a dim red glow. It's no surprise that after three seasons Lawler - arguably better than anyone - knows how to shape a set to suit this cave like space; his cuts, the darker and dirtier the better, consistently flooding every shadowy corner of the room.

Wandering why on earth I'd thought jeans were an appropriate outfit choice for a busy club, we headed upstairs to the salvation of the smoking area, which as usual was a social hub of activity. With its roof top positioning, resident graffiti artist and lengths of coloured bulbs strung over the tables and stools, it's definitely one of the island's more inviting ash trays, and one which seems to encourage interaction between fellow club dwellers.

A door off the smoking area, which isn't utilised nearly as much as it should be, the gateway to the ingenious little chill-out-room-come-cinema, was last night open for business. Painted floor to ceiling in black (a 'Sankeys special'), sofas lined the back wall ready for weary feet to re-coup to last night's flick of choice, Beat Street. With the graffiti stall positioned right outside the cinema door, the eighties classic was the perfect choice as the old school hip-hop drifting out sounded as if it was there solely for the benefit of the street art.

We moved inside to the Lab where tech-house duo Zohki & Roozle were keeping energies high with the buoyant melody and chunky drops in Mr Magoo's Remix of Black Box's Fall Into My Love. An entirely different vibe than the adjoining Basement, here in the Lab you were able to get fully involved in the thick of the crowd without feeling as if you'd stumbled into a sardine tin - something which for Lawler's bass heavy rampage can undoubtedly add to the atmosphere, but can just get down right annoying when trying to belt out big name classics from Fatboy Slim or Chase & Status.

Following Zohki & Roozle was a live set from head liner Mathew Jonson, who gave the crowd a taste of his unique melodic techno. He expertly mixed cuts from his own catalogue, like the sporadic synths in Dayz and the stripped back Marionette (The Beginning), with steady grooves from the likes of Gabryel & D-Vince It. Keeping the crowd on their toes, he also threw in the odd curve ball, like hip hop production Alpha from The Earlyman, a slick rap from MC Kombo layered up with a strong beat and flute melody. A far cry from some of the techno tracks it proceeded, but nonetheless a welcome addition.

Well into the thick of his five hour set, Lawler was busy pumping out the very finest in low, heavy house and techno. The low drawls and futuristic synths of DJ Le Roi's Black Shine chugged out of the speakers as crowds swelled into every corner of the room. Picking up the pace, he then dropped Onno & Okain's new release on Upon Your records, Set Me Back, its crawling bass falling into a faster, funk laden beat, energising the crowd with each drop. The highlight of his set had to be during Mendo's remix of Hunzed & Harvey's summer smash Sheeta, in which the Basement crowd went wild as the recognisable hook came blasting through the speakers, so simple yet so infectious.

With VIVa Warriors at Sankeys done for another year, we left on a high and with the hope that we'd be back again next year at Lawler's Sunday warfare, the island's go to place for intelligent, well rounded house and techno.

WORDS | Joanna Wright PHOTOGRAPHY | Justin Gardner

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