Ultragroove and Telefunken: Edinburgh's House Nights
With Ultragroove reaching its tenth birthday and Telefunken celebrating five glorious years, David Pollock looks at the state of house nights in the capital
There are few people working in the clubbing world who would look you in the eye and honestly tell you that the last year hasn’t been a tough one. When asked to reflect on the scene they operate within, the fact that attendances have been fluctuating for one reason or another is the first thing mentioned by the promoters interviewed here. Yet both of them also have reason to celebrate this fortnight, and their collective attitude is that tough times call for even more determination to carry on the party from all concerned.
Between them they’re providing Edinburgh with three of its biggest house parties of the year in October. First of all, Telefunken’s fifth birthday celebration begins with a guest appearance by pillar of the Chicago house sound Derrick Carter, and then a week later the city’s most iconic house night Ultragroove will celebrate a whole decade in business. ‘Joey Negro’s a great DJ with a great heritage,’ says promoter/DJ Gareth Sommerville of the night’s impressive bill. ‘Most importantly, he knows how to rock a crowd. Al Kent [of Million Dollar Disco] is arguably the best disco DJ in Scotland, and I wish I was half as talented, or as young, as The Blessings and Ricky Reid. They’re great local talents.’ Two weeks later, Telefunken is back with Carter’s fellow second-wave Chicagoan DJ Sneak.
Both Sommerville and Alan Gray (co-promoter of Telefunken with Nick Wilson) agree that the halcyon days of the Edinburgh house scene were witnessed around a decade ago. But, as Gray also points out: ‘At that time Edinburgh was saturated with clubs that were in it for the money. Other than Ultragroove, we felt there weren’t enough people who cared about the music, so we decided to go out and play what we liked and see what happened. I never expected to see the night last five years.’
What Edinburgh has now is a house scene run by a smaller group of promoters who work hard to keep their playlists fresh and book new and interesting guests survive. As well as Ultragroove and Telefunken, other nights such as Huggy’s Stereotype, lively new date Fuse (both at Berlin) and the electro flavoured Musika (also at Cabaret Voltaire, alongside their big scale parties) have carved out a dedicated following. By searching out ‘a mix of new and innovative DJs and old-school favourites,’ as Gray puts it, they maintain a credibility far in excess of, for example, the George Street party nights, which simply lay on house as part of a predictable commercial menu.
‘Credibility isn’t a reason I do this, really,’ says Sommerville. ‘It’s the desire to keep putting on good parties which people are going to enjoy, and continually keeping the music fresh so that they don’t get bored. I don’t think that the milestone of ten years is going to change that or make us [he and fellow founder and promoter Frazer McGlinchey] think about stopping. After all, there’s still a market for good house music.’
All of which is summed up by Gray in four words, when asked what Telefunken’s next move will be: ‘Keep on keepin’ on.’
Ultragroove’s tenth Birthday is at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sat 17 Oct. Telefunken is holding a two-part fifth Birthday at Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Fri 9 Oct and the GRV, Edinburgh, Fri 30 Oct.