Wet Play: a potted history

Ahead of their event on Saturday, we interviewed the founders of Manchester institution, Wet Play.

Entering the Wet Play hangout –a grand, decrepit theatre in the city centre – Craig Swayward (purveyor of The Swish*), hops off his bike and starts wheeling it into the venue. Ste Spandex is manning the box office and directs us upstairs. Popping into a bar on the second floor, we accidentally interrupt and important looking meeting which is being hosted by Randy Marsh.

We head back down to the first floor and I’m introduced to Bathislav Tubovic**, who’s wearing a blue jacket the same shade as his shoulder length hair. Ruf Dug pops out from a door behind the check-in, armed with a JVC camcorder and proceeds to start filming/directing Bathislav in various roles, including photocopying his infamous face and answering the phone on the desk. Matt ‘Kickin’ Pigeon’ arrives armed with Desperados and the interview begins…

The Wet Play ‘Where Good Friends Meet’ story really started ‘many, many years ago’ in 2008, with the infamous Chumps Cheeseburger Picnics (in tribute to Trailer Park Boys ‘Randy’s Cheeseburger Picnic’).soap down The Picnics were run by Kickin’ Pigeon, Ste Spandex and Randy Marsh, attended by Craig Swayward, who was the host of private parties in Ancoats, attended by the Chumps crew (amongst others).

Around the time of the picnics, Ruf Dug returned from his time at various radio stations in Australia. This coincided with the end the legendary ‘Electric Chair’ night, run by Luke and Justin Unabomber, which left a noticeable hole in the Manchester nightlife scene.

Fast forward to 2010 and according to Craig: “the scene became pretty sterile – there was nowhere to go and lose the plot, with music across the board that had soul at its core. ‘Wet Play’ became the theme for the nights, which included props around the venue such as Kleenex and keys in a bowl. “People came in off the street, took one look and left!” The props even included hand-made goods, as Craig spent ages trying to make soap, even titling one of the events ‘Soap Down’.

When I say to people that I run a night called ‘Wet Play’, they think it’s a seedy sex club.” It was like that for the first few though; “we had two guys bummin’ in the bogs!”

first wet player flyerTickets for the first few events were sold via traditional means: standing in the middle of Market Street for an hour so people could come and buy tickets F2F, IRL. “If the people didn’t come [to meet me for a ticket], there’d be no entry,” says Matt, “this’ll all come back round y’know, we’ve started sending out text messages again.

The first party was in September 2010 at The Crown, where they stayed for another event in October and promptly got kicked out for aforementioned manlove in the toilets and sale of contraband in the venue. After another month and another party, NYE 2010/11 was in sight and it was the HOTTEST NITE IN TOWN. As Kickin’ Pigeon says: “we were peeling people off the walls!”

February 2011 saw the next event, held at Kraak and featuring their first guest, Seahawks. Craig spilt a pint on Terry Christian’s shoes, the Macbook running the visuals was so hot it crashed and it was one of the best Wet Plays ever. They put a TV screen at one end of the venue and set up ‘One Man and His Dog’: “we bought (sic) the DVD [put it on loop and] people had no fucking clue what to make of us!”

spandexThe image on the right shows “Ste Spandex live set full – bedroom studio.”

Throughout 2011, the Wet Play aesthetic was developed, starting ‘Tuck Magazine’** and according to Matt, ensuring that every night had “loads of incense, really psychedelic interiors and a theme.’ One ‘Neptune’ themed night saw a giant art installation in the Mill and the DJs played Kate Bush.’ Craig: “I thought it was fucking great.”

At one of their all-nighters in 2011, co-run with Zunday Zocial, ‘Big John’ [as the group refer to him by] Morales got the plug pulled on his set by the Soup Kitchen staff after the sun rose: “in the space of a few minutes, it went from dark to blissed out…fucking mega.” Impressively, the Wet Play crew hadn’t even approached Morales’ management for the booking – he had approached them, epitomising the regard in which the crew was held.

tom noble q cavernThe image on the left shows “Tom Noble at Q Cavern 270 in 150 cap venue!”

Their Farewell Planet Earth party at Islington Mill in December 2012 saw the return of Seahawks, along with a full band including Tim Burgess from The Charlatans. Tim had volunteered his services because he loved the band so much. As the night coincided with the ‘panic’ about Mayan prophecies and a potential apocalypse, the Wet Play crew turned one of the rooms into an Armageddon-causing nuclear reactor, covering the walls with tin foil, filling the room with smoke and lasers and having Karl Roscoe to play solely reactor-drone for the entire night.999153_10151880349332868_429078858_n

May 2013 saw the Friend Swapping edition of Wet Play, ‘bring a friend, swap a friend; no funny business though’, which signalled the start of Metrodome’s relationship with Wet Play as a resident and label artist. All the while, the crew were holding unlicensed, illegal parties above Greggs, in a secret venue (wink-wink) on Oxford Road. “We wanted to take it back to where we started.”

key ring one kep per player

The image on the left shows “the key ring from when we did secret party and gave away keys with key ring as tickets to get in. Rules included.”

Then came the Wet Play x Red Laser Disco BBQ bank-holiday daytime raves, during the summers of 2013/14: “it was a bit more wholesome and you could bring your kids… [Wet Play] wasn’t all about debauchery!”

They started an eponymous record label back in 2012, which released three records and reached its peak around the time of the BBQ seasons. The inaugural release was analogue in sound, featuring LogeSte Spandex and Metrodome; the second was inclined towards floor-fillers such as the Metrodome number and became an unofficial Wet Play anthem.

Finally, the third release, Tension ‘Your Sunshine’, was “buggie and a bit more weirdly electronic”. It is also Kickin’ Pigeon’s favourite (he specifically asked us to mention this part).

The variety found in the label represents one of the most important aspects of Wet Play. Matt agrees, saying how he’s started dropping jungle at the end of his sets, much to Randy’s consternation: “I was banned from playing it for a while.” That said, the music is just one part of the Wet Play machine: “more than the posters and the promo outside the club, it’s a free music policy, fucking nakedness, all-out debauchery: that’s what it is. If it doesn’t happen at the club it happens at the after-party.” Swayward summarises the Wet Play aesthetic: “the music has to vary – it always has. That’s important… we wouldn’t go to a club where they play the same thing. We just wouldn’t.”

Their next party on August 20th sees Wet Play return to their spiritual home of Aatma, joined by Japanese crate-digger and dubplate-cutter Mori Ra. Mori literally cuts his own dubplates, which last only for the duration of his tour – each plate is new, much like the old pirate radio plates.

December sees their first proper residents’ showcase in about two years at The White Hotel in Salford. Kickin’ Pigeon, Craig Swayward and Randy Marsh, explain why they’re so excited for the event. Along with the venue, it’s the first time in years that the group are able to play B2B again, like the old days at Kraak. Only this time they are at The White Hotel, “the most hedonistic venue in Manchester – it’s the best.” 

* The Swish is to be sampled at the next Wet Play on Friday 20 at Aatma, Manchester

**Bathislav, it transpires, is the same guy who appeared in the video for Ruf Kutz’ recent release ‘Rachel’s Team’, so meet & greets are being offered to lucky people at the next Wet Play.

***Tuck Magazine is a special publication offered to ticketholders, featuring descriptions, dress codes and more. The only time the dress code has been dictated by someone outside the Wet Play crew was by local journalist, John Thorp, who “got so off his head that he lost his wallet and his phone, woke up in the morning convinced he’d been robbed [and] got the police to go through the CCTV [never a good idea at a Wet Play event]. But no one gets their shit robbed at Wet Play. So for the next event, Randy did a Tuck magazine about him and made the dress code for the next event ‘bumbags’ and everyone had to keep their shit in them.” Read the issue here: TUCK BUMBAGS EDITION

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