The Red Bull Soundclash: Review

The Red Bull Culture Clash: Glasgow Regionals

Sub Club | Arches 21 | Optimo | Mungo’s Hi-Fi


The Arches, 253 Argyle Street

Glasgow, UK 


On catching wind of this event we were intrigued as to how it would be laid out, as surely to give all outfits a fair chance at competing for ‘best sound in Glasgow’ it wouldn’t be right to have them playing at the same time, on different stages? With this in mind, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the acts would be playing back to back, over two stages at opposing ends of the room to be put to a rap battle-esque vote from the crowd. In a well thought out face off, Optimo and Sub Club set up side by side in the east side of Arch 3 in the famous renovated arts space, while Mungo’s Hi-Fi and Arches 21 dominated the west. Atmospherically speaking this was a creative and effective set up, with a lively Thursday night crowd dancing from one direction to the other to get closest to their favourite wall of sound.

The MC opened the proceedings, introducing the format to an eagerly anticipating mix of music enthusiasts, one of the few events at which it was possible to see such a degree of variety within an audience. Everybody from the young to the old, the care free student to the hard working employee in need of an early start to the weekend - people were absolutely there to support the noise. Each name and system would have twenty minutes to entertain the masses with their unique sound, then, at the end of the first round, the audience voted by way of crowd appreciation and decibel reader as to which outfit won in each of the three rounds. The victor would simply be the one who could generate the loudest roar from the crowd.

Here’s what went down…

Arches 21


The Arches is universally accepted as one of Glasgow’s most legendary venues, and the name is synonymous with the city’s cultural scene. The space under Central Station is constantly filled with some of the city’s biggest, most original, diverse and spectacular events. It’s for this reason that the Arches had to be represented in the Culture Clash, as gig-goers, clubbers and music lovers owe so much to the iconic spot.

Koreless and Richard (Numbers) were perfect choices to showcase some exemplar Glaswegian electronic talent.The contrast brought by Koreless’s laid back, minimal beats really made the set stand out from the rest of the line up; it was refreshing to feel the atmosphere change and see everyone enjoy a different kind of vibe when he dropped tracks like MTI and Away.

The Glasgow electronic music scene owes a lot to the Arches, which has spent 21 years establishing itself in the city. Richard (Numbers) and Koreless both represented that scene brilliantly and stood out from the other legends on the bill, and as the crowd screamed themselves hoarse to try and determine a winner, it was going to be a close run. As the line up was well known by the crowd, each set was going to have to raise the bar to win support. Safe to say Arches 21 and Koreless brought a new dimension to the night and set themselves apart with their own killer sound.



Optimo were first up in the first round of clashes. To the casual observer, it might seem an odd choice to have them begin proceedings, younger members of the audience may even be forgiven for not being familiar with the duo, but Optimo have represented the evolution of Scottish dance music in Glasgow for over a decade and a half, having run a hugely successful Sunday night at Sub Club for 12 years which ended in 2010. In this way it seemed almost fitting that they face off side by side. Twitch (Keith McIvor) and Wilkes (Jonnie Wilkes) now focus more on the development of their music label and recordings, as well as more exclusive guest appearances, so it was a bit of a treat in itself to see them perform in this environment. In their heyday Optimo were known for mixing things up; with roots in house and techno, their objective was always to bring more fun and a sense of difference and adventure to the genres, to make people value the experience and diversity within music as much as the music itself. I feel that they brought this to the Soundclash perfectly. Their set took us through lively twists and turns as they effortlessly switched between the darker side of techno to fun and bouncy house music, members of the crowd already vying for position at the front. Design wise their set up even appeared to craftily mimic that of the Red Bull one, with the red, white and silver motifs they almost seemed to subliminally suggest that they of the four belonged the most.

The highlight of the night for me was a live jam by Silk Cut and Optimo made up on the spot combining them both playing some of their synths and drums. Performing in the second round, the elusive and mysterious DJ’s added a dimension of depth to the sound of the evening, pulsing minimal beats and ghostly echoes transforming the atmosphere of the night in to one of suspense and mystery at the exact apt moment before the big noise final face off.

All of these elements for me make a compelling case for Optimo’s victory - Their history; ability to address and combine multiple genres under one crazy rave umbrella; and their clear influence in doing so over current acts.

Sub Club


Generations have been a part of Sub Club's loyal band of followers since their doors opened on April fool's day of 1987. You would have to be a fool not to attend Sub Club once in your lifetime if you are ever in Glasgow. In their 25 years of existence, the basement venue has established itself as one of Glasgow's most notorious and loved underground venues, and with such a formidable sound system and incredible bookings week in week out it is no wonder as to why it is so lusted after by the hardest of bass heads. Just the following day, Ricardo Villalobos was down playing to a sold-out crowd – the tickets were like gold dust. It's a club that prides itself not on how many 'punters' they can get through the door, but on the quality of music they put out. Sub Club have the most experience of the lot, so it's no wonder they were strong contenders to win the Culture Clash.

The MC counts down T-minus 10 seconds. Optimo’s set is brought to an end and Harri & Domenic, in their visually altered 3D beat compartment, launch in with their first track - A spine-tingling, sax-led house tune which had the crowd erupting in grinning faces and pendulus hip shakin’. Their infectious bounce spread through the dimly lit vaults of The Arches lit up by the enthusiasm of the party people that danced before them. Further in and the tunes began to demand more abrupt movements, with the sounds becoming more and more anthemic Techno. Rightfully so, Harri & Domenic got the best reaction from round one for Sub Club for getting the party started, beating out Mungo’s Hi Fi marginaly.

Obliterating the venue with waves of menacing funky and extra terrestrial sounds made Sub Club my shout for the champion sound. Harri & Dom seamlessly progressed from smooth, fun, swinging house moving in to the jubilent bounce of their trusted brand of techno - Typically what a large portion of Glasgow revelers look for on a night out.

In round two The Revenge continued to bring the grooviest of atmospheres to the Clash with another fine display of tech-house (which can be heard and downloaded  below). Limbs were akimbo from there on in, with Harri & Dom returning for another cracking third set. A valiant and humble performance from the Subby camp, but just not quite enough to win over the crowd on this night.

Mungo’s Hi-Fi - The Champion Sound!


Mungo’s Hi-Fi opted for a traditional Jamaican shack housing their decks, complete with the occasional burst of fire, literaly, or squeak of a horn from one of the crew. Upon beginning their set Mungo’s were welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd showing an immediate appreciation; from the outset there was no doubt that Mungo’s brand of reggae and dub was going to go down well.

Since their beginnings in 2000, the Glasgow-based sound system have built themselves a reputation for throwing incredibly upbeat and bass-driven parties and bringing the traditional Jamaican sound system culture to the UK. However despite their roots in the traditional culture, their fusion of reggae, dub and dancehall has always been forward thinking, the outfit consistently bringing fresh and innovative vibes to the scene with their releases. Their success in this may be attributed to their open-mindedness and use of a variety of MCs, their countless collaborations with crucial reggae voices giving their tracks a diverseness and guest appearances giving their live shows a spontaneous edge; the Red Bull Culture Clash being no exception.

The first round of the evening was a close call, Mungo’s just losing out to Sub Club who played an undeniably great set. However, eager to raise their game, Mungo’s released their secret weapon, bringing one of the finest up and coming MCs, Charlie P to the set for the remaining rounds. Coming out on the stage wearing boxing gloves, it was clear he was up to the challenge, fighting for the title of ‘Sound of Glasgow’. The unrelenting bass combined with Charlie P’s impeccable flow got the crowd excited and the mood was infectious, Mungo’s had raised their game and proved a force to be reckoned with. Delivering consistently heavy tracks and creating a charged atmosphere, Mungo’s reigned supreme and deservedly earned themselves the title of the night as Glasgow’s champion sound!


Photo by Bartosz Madejski []

“It was amazing to have harry, domenic, twitch, wilkes, richard and us all together in the same room at the same time to play music, and the mutual warmth and respect was palpable and a testament to the supportive nature of the club music scene in glasgow.

We felt very much like the odd ones out, which was partly why we were so surprised to see the crowd reaction when we played and in the cheering. I think that the reggae format fits the soundclash template as that was where it originally evolved - making a musical impression in a short space of time was made much easier having Charlie P there to be the front man for the crew.” Doug Paine, Mungo’s Hi-Fi

And believe it or not, Mungo’s Hi Fi went on to win the Birmingham regionals as well! Well done boys.