I don’t know about you, but for my twelfth birthday I went bowling with friends, saw a film and ate an obscene amount of junk food. However, the head honchos at Chibuku Shake decided to go for something a little less low key to mark the twelfth anniversary of Liverpool’s iconic club brand, they called in the big guns! Over the weekend of the sixteenth and seventeenth of March they put on two nights of unadulterated hedonism at The Masque.


Friday night saw the likes of Annie Mac, Jaguar Skills and Dillinja grace the decks, whilst Saturday’s event in partnership with the Rinse FM Winter/Spring 2012 tour gave way to Grime royalty in the form of Skepta, P Money and Newham Generals amongst others. So Liverpool’s night owls were treated to a double header of cross genre mayhem, two differing events with one key thing in common, the Chibuku ideology. This was Chibuku in all its uncompromising glory, no pretence, no gimmick just three rooms of musical indulgence filled to the brim with appreciative party goers. That is what I love about Chibuku Shake, since its humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Lemon Lounge twelve years ago all that appears to have changed is the popularity of the brand. Despite a meteoric rise to success over the last decade or so, (Chibuku Shake was voted amongst the Top 50 clubs in the world in a 2006 DJ Magazine survey) including boat parties for Croatia’s Hideout Festival and an involvement in Manchester’s hugely popular Parklife Weekender, the intimate ethos of the Chibuku Shake brand has remained. A quick browse of Chibuku Shake’s history (which can be found on the official Chibuku Shake website) tells us that the idea evolved as a response to the faceless super club culture which reigned supreme during the nineties. To this day a Chibuku Shake event feels like an underground get together for you and like minded revellers, with the entertainment provided by the biggest DJ’s around. This is partying with a personal touch, I was even lucky enough to run into D Double E of Newham Generals, who after his set joined the festivities with the paying public, put simply there are no barriers with Chibuku Shake, none of the conventional restraints which normally accompany huge club events.

However as I stumbled out of The Masque in the early hours of Sunday morning in a drunken stupor, I felt a tinge of dejection as I realised that there was a possibility I had just witnessed the final Chibuku event to be held at the Seel Street venue. Towards the back end of 2011 the owners of The Masque (also in charge of other Liverpool venues including Heebie Jeebies and Peacocks) announced that it was no longer financially viable and would therefore shut its doors for good(Chibuku Shake’s birthday event was a one off), yet  another sad reflection of our countries dire financial position. The winding up of The Masque was big news on the UK music scene; formerly the home of Liverpool Bar Fly its closure made national news in the form of NME magazine and the residents of Merseyside in particular mourned its loss. Even Annie Mac herself tweeted prior to her Friday night headline set that The Masque’s theatre room was her favourite gig venue to play and she hoped this would not be her final visit, high praise indeed. The theatre room which Annie Mac holds in such high esteem is a semi-circle, with tiered steps, dark and undecorated allowing the focus to be centred on the stage, giving the music precedence above all else. It is a room which manages to intertwine space and intimacy in its own unique manner, big enough to accommodate a large crowd yet at the same time small enough to feel close to the action.  In short it is a room which is exemplary of all that is/was good about The Masque and Chibuku Shake partnership. The Masque and Chibuku Shake was a match made in musical heaven, an unassuming, unpretentious venue for a club night characterised by such qualities.

There may yet be hope for The Masque as the owners did state their intentions to sell on the lease, but at the time of writing it appears that no deal is in the pipeline. One thing is certain though, if we have seen the last of The Masque then with the help of Chibuku Shake they went out in some style! I sincerely hope that there is a knight in shining armour that will ride in upon their white horse and bring The Masque back from the brink of oblivion, but as we are all fast discovering in today’s economic climate good news for venues such as this one is few and far between.

I’ll leave you to enjoy the accompanying video from Annie Mac’s faultless headline set on Friday night (courtesy of bluchilli’s You Tube channel), it argues a far stronger case for The Masque’s rescue than any words , enjoy!


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