Back To 95 15th birthday at GSS Warehouse review

We sent Josiah Hartley to join in with Back To 95's anniversary celebrations, soundtracked by the likes of Todd Edwards, Spoony and Mikee B.

Becca Frankland

Date published: 10th Mar 2016

Image: GSS Warehouse

Fifteen years in the game and the UK’s reigning old skool garage party - Back to 95, is still going stronger than ever.

During this time, the London-based promoters have taken their event across some of the capital’s best underground nightclubs including Ministry of Sound, Club Colosseum, Scala, Proud2 and Fire & Lightbox, to name a few. And with each instalment transported party-goers to the halcyon days of “House ‘n’ G” as the genre was often labelled in nineties raving circles.

For their 15th birthday celebrations, they opted for the monstrous GSS Warehouse, situated in the depths of South East London; a club which has become something of a regular haunt for the event in recent years.

While the mighty line-up that the team have assembled, features some of the UK garage scenes most revered and longest-serving exponents, as well as having gone the extra mile with their stateside booking who heads the bill. And on this special occasion is none other than Todd “The God” Edwards. A legend in the world of UKG and US house, which emphasises how massive this birthday bonanza is set to be.

Upon entering the tunnel-esque venue, the inviting sounds of Armand Van Helden’s ‘U Don’t Know Me’ (above) could be heard blaring from the garage room in close distance. With a record of such floorfiller fare going down, it’s was a good sign that the party was in full swing. And it was soon clear that the man responsible for this versatile track choice was the one and only Jason Kaye.

Widely recognized as a certified pioneer of the UK underground, Kaye played a masterful selection to a vibrant crowd who filled out every corner of what’s known as the Main Arch - which resembled something of a giant aircraft hangar.

Although Back to 95 is primarily a house and garage event, the organizers ensured that revellers were spoilt for choice on the night, with a further three rooms across the venue that hosted everything from jungle, dancehall reggae, R&B and deep house. This great abundance of variety provided the necessary respite from the garage-dominated Main Arch, whenever punters fancied a change.

In terms of atmosphere and consistency in quality music, the second best room was perhaps Arch 2, where old skool jungle beats pulsated from the sound-system throughout the night. An early set of note that took place here came from legendary rave outfit Top Buzz who decimated the dancefloor.

With Mad P controlling the crowd via the microphone and Jason Kaye - fresh after his earlier set in the Main Arch – behind the decks, the seasoned DJ dropped a slew of jungle classics. They spanned the genres many sub-styles – including the relentless beats of ‘Valley of the Shadows’ by Origin Unknown through to Rebel MC’s stone-cold anthem ‘Junglist’, amongst countless others.

The crowd was buzzing with excitement and couldn’t get enough, constantly demanding pull-ups, raising gun finger salutes and lighter flames in the air, in approval of the scorching tunes. 

Back in the Main Arch there was stellar DJ sets all round, complemented by ace hosting throughout the night. Including the always on point, Norris ‘Da Boss’ Windross’s stint and Ramsey & Fen who closed proceedings on major high. While midway into the event, the appointed Live PA, Elisabeth Troy blessed the crowd with her lush, velvety tones.

The British singer performed elegant renditions of her most well-known vocal performances including the sublime MJ Cole-produced 2-step cuts ‘Crazy Love’ and  ‘Sincere’, both of which received gushing applause, as did her soaring cover of Robin S’s ladies anthem ‘Show me Love’. 

Taking the 3am headline slot was Todd Edwards, who received a huge reception as he positioned himself behind the decks. This typical crowd response highlighted the adulation and perennial respect that British audiences have for the New Jersey native, who unwittingly set the blueprint for UK garage in the nineties.

Assisted by veteran MCs Creed and DT alternating on mic duties, Edwards played an outstanding set that largely featured his own productions and remixes. That ranged from his mix of Ride Committee's ‘Accident’ (above) to the hypnotic dub of ‘Alabama Blues’ by St Germain. Each and every one of the bumpy cuts he unleashed rolled into one another with sheer fluidity, and locked the heaving dancefloor into an endless groove.

A memorable highlight during the set was when he dropped his remix of Sound Of One’s ‘As I Am’ which resulted in chaos on the dancefloor, and saw the crowd zealously chant for a rewind. In addition to Creed and DT’s lively encouragement for the reload, Edwards was more than happy to oblige and gave the people what they wanted.

Another standout track that evoked a rapturous response was ‘No Place like London’ (above), his paean to the city that always embraces him so warmly. Not every producer/DJ can pull off a set mainly comprised of their productions, which can often verge on self-indulgence and in some cases cause the dancefloor to falter. But the UKG godfather – whose inspiring tracks have an infectious sound of their own – managed to effortlessly do so.

The Dreem Teem’s Spoony and Mikee B followed on strongly, with one of the finest sets of the night. Eschewing from the bumpy 4x4 beats that the New Jerseyan purveyed prior to their own stint, the duo delivered a killer set of 2-step that consisted of instrumental bangers galore, including Sunship’s ‘Cheque One-Two’, through to big vocal cuts like M Dubs ‘Bump ‘n’ Grind’, that kept the ravers dancing with vigorous pleasure.

While the ever lively Creed and CKP doubled up as hosts, constantly hyping the crowd up with their invigorating rhymes over the slinky rhythms. Before the DJ pair seamlessly moved into 4/4 territory, and ran through the lineage of house music covering the last two decades.

One particular tune that went down a storm was funky house favourite ‘Feel’ by Trackheadz. As long-time heroes of the UKG scene, the Dreem Teem’s adept track selections made total sense to those aged thirty and above amongst the crowd, who have lived through the ever-evolving styles of house and garage.

There will always be the naysayers that claim that UK garage is dead, but as arguably the most influential dance music genre the UK has ever produced, garage and its scene certainly isn’t going away anytime soon.

With key promoters like Back to 95 continuing to fly the flag, and hosting triumphant parties as they did on their 15th Anniversary, neither will it fade so easily with the horde of loyalists that have an enduring hunger for the sound, along with the current generation of electronic producers who continue to draw influence from the genre. 

Read more: Five of the best: Todd Edwards