WAH WAH 45s celebrated their thirteenth birthday in typically uproarious style at The Scala, in King's Cross, on Nov 10, punctuating the eclectic all-night party with a pleasing variety of top-drawer acts ... and some inflatable parrots and musical bingo for levity.
While soul may be the defining quality of the "fiercely independent" London label's output, fun is certainly the prevailing theme of their parties. Indeed Simon and Chris Goss's underground shindigs in the mid-90s caught the imagination, and when they decided to establish the label, alongside Dom Servini, this characteristic remained ever-present.
On this occasion the main room (of four) started filling up around 10pm when Matthew Halsall's trio - one of almost 20 headliners - took to the stage, following on from Bev Lee Harling, the label's latest talent. The young Manchester-based trumpeter has four pure-jazz albums out now, including Fletcher Moss Park which was released on his own Gondwana Records last month, and here was another hint at his preciousness and - more delightful, still - a nudge to where his style is headed.
The 29-year-old's On The Go release was named Jazz Album of the Year by Worldwide guru Gilles Peterson earlier in 2012, and now his spiritual roots are beginning to bloom. This special performance, signalling an exciting metamorphosis - with Cinematic Orchestra's Luke Flowers on the drums and Taz Modi, of Submotion Orchestra, on the keyboard - underlined Halsall's affection for Aphex Twin's oeuvre, and was worth the entrance fee alone.
Following Halsall's troupe was another new signing: Paper Tiger, a Leeds-based post-dub-step, hip-hop group worth keeping an ear out for, and later French producer dEbruit, the self-proclaimed "afro-beat surrealist", whipped the main room crowd up.
As the clock struck 2am a session by The Resonators, an energetic dub collective from Brighton, had packed the dancefloor, and the party was in full swing.
Elsewhere, Room One played host to two of the Europe's most respected and influential collectives, Jazzanova - whose Class Brieler spun - and Trojan Sound System, and a flit between rooms meant that lift off was ensured.
This was the fourth year that La Scala had hosted the party, which ended at 5am on Sunday morning - at least officially. The venue, built in 1920 as a cinema, may be dilapidated, but it is characterful and charming. Plus it holds a certain poignance for the Wah Wah 45s crew and faithful.
In October 2009, days after Simon had been diagnosed with lung cancer, they threw their first party at La Scala (with Bonobo, DJ Format and Ramadanman, among a raft of others). Within four months Simon had passed away and the reins were taken by Dom and Adam Scrimshire. The label has continued its upward trajectory, and Saturday's hugely successful party provided another reason to salute Simon in the stars.
Words: Oliver Pickup
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