Baltic Profiles explores the innovative and creative minds behind everything Baltic Triangle. From digital creators, guitar makers and tech entrepreneurs (and many more). This week’s Baltic Profile is with Sonic Yootha – a monthly social event based at 24 Kitchen Street. Sonic Yootha will be celebrating their 4th birthday 29th June and continues to be one of the city’s biggest and best club night’s.
Imagine this: a club night for people of all age groups, races and sexualities in the Baltic Triangle. What’s that club night called? Sonic Yootha, a monthly new wave, old rave, disco, electro, rock, pop and soul social that has been going since 2015.
Ian Usher and John Aggy, the creators of Sonic Yootha, have been on the DJ scene for over 20 years and, after noticing a gap in the market on Liverpool’s gay scene, they decided to set up Sonic Yootha together. And what better place to do it than in the heart of Liverpool’s creative district?
After 17 years down in London, Ian moved back to Liverpool and met a guy called Ian Richards who worked in Camp and Furnace and who suggested that they put a little club night together.
Ian said: “Ian Richards hooked me up with a guy, who then brought John in who came up with the name. We wanted something that didn’t exist that was hard to achieve but we all had the same vision.
“We originally started with three nights in Camp and Furnace which didn’t work out. Then we found our home – Kitchen Street. I went in, spoke to the guys about this failed idea for a gay night for older people. They were so open-minded and supportive, and they still are.”
John said: “I had been a DJ for 30 years and I had retired at the time. Then I got a call for this which was something different. It started with me playing unmixed music to about three people in this one room. It was so refreshing to do and we thought that maybe the time was right for something like this.”
That something was a social night which played loads of different types of music and where you could meet friends, have a drink, dance and have a good time, without having to worry about the collision of DJ culture and the phone-worship trend.
John explained: “The club scene had got very dull, very self-important. The whole phone-worship in front of the DJ was everywhere. People were filming their night-out but they weren’t dancing.”
Sonic Yootha were headstrong that they didn’t want that on the gay scene. Their motivation is ‘to celebrate and to educate’, especially towards the younger generation, which makes their job as DJs even more worthwhile.
Ian noted that: “There’s nothing better than when a young person comes up and says, ‘oh my god, what is this song?’ That’s what I used to do. That chase of finding that song that you heard is one of those special moments in a club night and it’s what keeps you doing it.”
The Catalyst for The New Generation of Liverpool’s queer scene
Sonic Yootha therefore provides a good alternative within Liverpool’s gay scene. Although some people like the comfort of going from Superstar Boudoir to GBar to The Lisbon to The Masquerade, there are other people who want something different. And that is what Sonic Yootha offers.
“Some people don’t like that end of town. It’s aimed at a certain age group and it doesn’t speak to them. We’re kind of out of that. And we cater for people who are younger and in the middle too.” (John)
This exemplifies why Sonic Yootha is more than just a gay club, as it aims to break the mould of what makes a certain club a certain club.
“There’s always been a little alt scene, but what we’ve done is we’ve made that scene a bit more regular and stuck with that. As a result, we’ve seen the likes of Eat Meat & Preach and BeersForQueers pop up. For the first time ever, Liverpool’s got its own bear scene, its own leather scene, and as more people move here it’s getting bigger.” (Ian)
Supporting Kylie Minogue on Tour
Not only has Sonic Yootha become a major part of Liverpool’s club scene, but it has also gone on to support major artists on tour. Queen Z, a punk band from the Wirral. Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters. But the most significant one has got to be (massive drumroll) pop legend, Kylie Minogue. This all began with a text from one of Ian and John’s friends who works with Kylie, while Ian was in Ibiza.
“It was a very strange day. We were sat around this pool where Wham filmed the music video for ‘Club Tropicana’. It came on the news that Aretha Franklin had just died. Then we got this text saying, ‘Oh my god, Kylie Minogue knows that Sonic Yootha exists!’” (Ian)
A few days later they got a call saying that Kylie had asked a bit more about Sonic Yootha and asked if they could join her on her upcoming Golden Tour.
“I was so hungover and was like ‘wait you want us to do the gig in Liverpool?’ and the guy on the phone said ‘no, the entire tour as the support’ so I was like ‘ok let me process that!’” (Ian)
“I was on the first day of my holiday in Spain when I found out. I sat bolt upright thinking ‘what?’ It was one of those things that you think wouldn’t happen, but it did.” (John)
Sonic Yootha completed 26 dates across the U.K and Ireland with Kylie. Although the European leg of the tour wasn’t originally meant to have a support act, they were asked to do the whole European leg seeing as the U.K and Ireland leg went so well.
“Good on Kylie for picking out something niche like that, this little club in Liverpool.” (Ian)
“She pays attention and she works so hard. She’s just a star.” (John)
Success Beyond Their Expectations
After Sonic Yootha initially struggled to take off, things grew word of mouth and about five months in, people were coming up from London to attend. It didn’t stop there, as people were flying in from places like Iceland and Holland purely to enter the world of Sonic Yootha.
“We’ve got a guy who flies in from Belfast every week. The power of social media is amazing. Someone will go on Instagram and do live footage of the place going berserk, then you get about 100 people who watch it and think ‘What’s that? We want some of that.’” (John)
Having a strong community between groups in the area like Sonic Yootha, Beers4Queers and Eat Meat & Preach, it seems safe to say that the Baltic Triangle is definitely becoming the go-to place for the LGBTQ+ community, where people are given the opportunity to see what’s possible on a larger scale.
Ioan Roberts, the owner of 24 Kitchen Street where Sonic Yootha perform, said: “It’s just generally a nice place to work, you’re always meeting new people. There’s a kind of community spirit which is nice to operate in on both a professional and a more social, personal level.”
Moreover, as Sonic Yootha approaches its fourth birthday in June, it shows no sign of slowing down.
“We haven’t sold out. We just played the biggest Lush store in the U.K. It’s all part of the wonderful world of Yootha and we have no idea what it will bring next.” (Ian)
“We take the planning of the event and the fact that people are coming very seriously. As long as we keep our feet on the ground I don’t think you can go too wrong with that.” (John)
Sonic Yootha will be celebrating its 4th birthday at 24 Kitchen Street 29th June. All the details can be found HERE.