It’s a warm Sunday evening in Manchester and The Ritz is packed to the rafters, a heaving crowd of 20-somethings, lapsed electro heads and stately rockers are patiently waiting for the arrival of Soulwax. As we make our way upstairs, to right there’s a makeshift DJ booth with the DEEWEE logo of two feet hanging from the balcony, the stage below is packed with Soulwax’s new stage setup featuring a giant mixing desk front and centre, two makeshift gazebos flanking either side housing two drum kits, and third drum kit further back, towering over Soulwax’s bulging new stage setup. The stage is empty, with just the group’s metallic manakin from the cover of group’s new album, ‘From DEEWEE’, pride of place in the centre.
In the DJ booth, DEEWEE DJs — including Bolis Pupil, Rodrigo, Emmanuelle, Aso Moto and Charlotte Adigéry — are all playing a selection of their own DEEWEE tracks, warming up the the crowd up before Soulwax take to the stage a little later on. The DEEWEE DJs deliver an assured warm up set with track likes of Emmanuelle’s killer disco cut ‘Free Hifi Internet’, Adigéry & Pupil’s new single ‘1618’ and Asa Moto’s ‘Wanowan Efem’, from DEEWEE 023, all doing the business with their lumbering bpms and mechanical disco aesthetic.
Just after 9pm, the new and expanded Soulwax take to stage, the three piece has now swelled to a 7 piece act, including Laima Leyton (Mixhell) on keys, Igor Cavalera (Sepultura, Mixhell), Blake Davies and Victoria Smith on drums. The inclusion of three drummers is the biggest change from the previous group’s line-up and they have a massive impact on the group’s overall sound. The new stage setup sees David and Stephen Dewaele in the centre controlling the humongous mixing desk and a variety of analogue synths that make their new live show the closest you’ll get to witnessing the brother’s new DEEWEE studio in the flesh.
The rejigged band wastes no time in bringing the noise with ‘Missing Wires’, a swingin’ cut of electro that sees all three drummers limbering up before the impending wall of sound they’ll produce throughout the group’s hour long performance. While everyone is here to see the Dewaele’s do what they do best, the crowd is more in awe of the drummers’ face-pummeling antics. ‘Missing Wires’ quickly segues into a ‘Masterplanned’ and then ‘Transient Program For Drums And Machinery’. All of which are heavy-footed, propulsive cuts of mechanical-sounding Krautrock with an electro veneer and taken from the group’s new album, ‘From DEEWEE’. And that’s when all three drummers finally let loose in perfect synchronicity with a tsunami of drum solos, something that happens throughout the group’s performance and it really adds to the theatrics of the new live show.
There’s a fair bit of fan service during the show, too, as Soulwax unleash fan favourites like ‘Krack’, which sounds even better with three drummers going to town on the track’s main groove before Stephen adds the track’s iconic gravely vocals. It’s a stunning thing to witness as the energy of the room increases ten fold as the band delivers even more fan favourites in the form of ‘NY Excuse’ and ‘Miserable Girl’. The stage setup then turns blood red for the band’s finale of ‘E Talking’ which ripples out around the room as the main dancefloor breaks out into heaving mass of arms pumping to the group’s breakneck electro groove.
As we leave the venue, with our ears still ringing thanks to the three drummers exploits, we walk past Gorilla and there’s huge queue snaking underneath one of Manchester’s iconic railways arches for a 2 Many DJs show that’s set to take place a little later on.
“Why don’t all bands have three drummers?”, we mutter to ourself.
Because not all bands are Soulwax, that’s why.
Photos courtesy of Babycakes Romero
(Please note, the photos are from Soulwax’s Brixton show and not the Manchester show ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )