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Circus Liverpool, 29th November

Circus proves why it's the most popular choice for Liverpool's house and tech heads.

Thinking I was unfashionably early, I arrived at Circus just after 11pm to find that Matthias Tanzmann was due to play any minute. ‘I don't think we're in Ibiza anymore Toto,' I murmured to a nearby supporting column, making a mental note that rocking up to a party at 2:30am was probably not going to be OK anymore.

Most of the action for me was in the Theatre that night, and that's where I found Tanzmann - making his Circus debut - knocking out deep sounds with a comfortably held back beat. Behind his head loomed an inescapable large LED screen, a pet hate of mine I'm sorry to say. Do we not experience life through screens enough, that we must also do it when we party? The back half of the room was tiered, sculpting the perfect vantage point to observe the early rave birds stomp away below, watch the energy spark when Tanzmann threw in the odd splash of tribal vocals and contemplate the right moment to descend into the floor and join the party proper.

The moment came towards the end of Tanzmann's set, when a growling bass line coupled with a badass hi hat shamed me off my lofty perch and into the thick of it, hips and elbows flailing. Just as I was starting to really get into the groove, Tanzmann was done, superseded by long time Circus resident Lewis Boardman. Boardman was on pretty good form, delivering a mostly jacking house set which kept the crowd energy up but relied a little too heavily on frequent drops. We took the opportunity to bounce upstairs and see what Patrick Topping was up to in The Loft, but our plan to slide in quickly was foiled instantly, as bodies were packed in right up to the entrance, showing Topping's busy summer and newfound handle on Ibiza has paid dividends already. Leaking through whatever cracks presented themselves briefly in the crowd, we found a decent spot to catch a long, industrial build up from Topping which dropped into old school, staccato rhythms and synths.

We returned to the Theatre downstairs to catch one of Boardman's final tunes, the flat thudding bass of Radio Slave Don't Stop darkening the mood for the act to come. Ten Walls (Lithuanian Mario Basanov) opened with mysterious and atmospheric synths, anchored presently by a steady thump. It was now that the LED screen began to earn its keep, I'll concede, as mesmerising patterns zoomed forward from the depths of the screen in a creative display which went some way to silencing my gripes. Screens in clubs will never be my bag, but when used properly, like during this set, I can understand the appeal. So we followed Ten Walls and his trademark walking bass lines wherever they led, inevitably ending up at the plodding advance of his hit Walking With Elephants, which received the roaring applause you'd expect from one of the biggest techno tunes of the summer.

Circus creator Yousef took up his familiar throne around 2:30, initially taking it down a little with Aphex Twin's Polynomal C (Maceo Plex edit). It was quite a progressive first half, later perking up after 3am with bouncey tracks like one of my favourite releases from this year, Damian Lazarus and The Ancient Moons, Lovers Eyes (the Dixon re-edit). We left just before close to beat cloakroom queues (rock'n'roll lifestyle baby), leaving Yousef in charge of a jumping Theatre, his Circus going strong, twelve years and counting.

WORDS | Jordan Smith PHOTOGRAPHY | Gary Brown

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