Dirty Talk has legendary status in Bristol; late-night parties in untraditional venues and a mysterious association with the city’s Hell’s Angels Chapter.
If that doesn’t sound intriguing enough, the fact it is now notoriously difficult to find tickets for the events before they sell out adds an element of elusiveness to the Dirty Talk cult. Physical tickets sold from Bristol record shop Idle Hands were all gone 15 minutes after the shop opened, and remaining online tickets sold out in a matter of seconds once they were released a week later. This astonishingly high demand might be due to the supposed guest list of 100-200 ‘family members’ who are given private links to acquire tickets before they are made publicly available. But considering not all of these priority members will attend every Dirty Talk, and that I calculated about 300-400 people at the event itself, it must also be in part due to the astonishing reputation wielded by the Dirty Talk organisers which drew hundreds of people from across Bristol to their computers to buy tickets the very second they were released, two weeks in advance of the event. This level of popularity is incredibly rare amongst organisers of events on the scale that Dirty Talk operate. In fact I don’t believe I’ve heard of anything at all like it happening across the whole of the UK. The mystique and the reputation understandably led to excitement on my part about having managed to grab tickets for me and some friends. But it also led to some level of apprehension. Conscious as I am about constructing unrealistic expectations for events worthy of excitement, I was worried that all the hype and the two week build-up would only contribute to a higher chance of disappointment. I set about mentally erasing any images I had constructed about what the space would be like and what kind of people would compose the crowd, in an effort to prevent such an anti-climax.
Unfortunate circumstances led to the original headline act, Tom of England, being unable to play on the night. A testimony to how serious Dirty Talk are about their music, and how seriously they are considered by the underground music community, came in the form of their impressive substitution of Tom of England with Serbia-via-Berlin DJ Vladimir Ivkovic. Indeed, Ivkovic would be considered by many to be a far ‘bigger’ booking than Tom of England, so the replacement renewed my excitement. Having seen Ivkovic play alongside his musical soulmate Lena Willikens at a music festival last summer, I understood why he was so revered as a DJ. His sets are characterised by extreme technicality and experimentalism with the parameters afforded by Technics turntables. He is known to play long sections of his sets playing records at 33 rotations per minute which should usually be played at 45. With the slow-burning nature of warped industral, EBM, slowed-down acid techno and trance records he aims to build towards an understated euphoria, and a profound connection with the music arguably not accommodated by playing the same records at full speed, or faster music generally.
As it turns out, it became clear to me that this intention of subtle transcendence in electronic music is actually strongly at odds with the tradition of dance music in the UK. The English rave experience, birthed during the explosion of house music in the 90s, has been defined by a faster, more broken and discontinuous sound than Ivkovic conveys. Acid house, Garage, Jungle, Drum n’ Bass, Dubstep are the kinds of genres that ravers in the UK have been going out and listening to from young. Vladimir Ivkovic might actually be one of the most respected DJs in Europe at the moment, but his style, cultivated in Belgrade, Berlin and Amsterdam, might be the slightest bit too crafted, too pristine, demand too much patience from a raucous Bristol crowd, partly composed of heavily tattooed bikers. I love his sound and the intellectual and highly considerate attitude that he has towards his DJing, but in retrospect I think Tom of England might have performed a more dynamic and unpredictable set than Vladimir Ivkovic.
But Dirty Talk itself, the venues they use, the way they set up sound system and lighting, and their talented resident DJs, can’t really be faulted. It is, truly, one of the best parties in Bristol, and maybe the country. Something about the family-members ethos, the unusual spaces and that inexplicable skill that certain promoters have at creating an atmosphere at their events makes Dirty Talk both serious to music heads and accessible to the indifferent raver who just wants to have a good time. I hope to go again, if I can get in . . .