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Crilli at 18: Celebrating a Belfast DnB Institution

Featuring a playlist with selections and reflections from 18 heads that have made it a singular haven, Belfast drum & bass institution Crilli look back on 18 years at the top of the game. Words by Soupy.

Crilli DNB is 18! with Sully (Uncertain Hour) and Total Science (CIA Records), Saturday 3 February at Ulster Sports Club Belfast.

Tickets available here

Crilli first opened its doors on 21st December 2005 at the now derelict Windsor nightclub on Bangor sea front. The motivation came from a tech tutor named Bruce‘s Music Business module at Bangor tech, coupled with the buzz and inspiration of DJ Koncept and DJ Converter’s Northern Alliance nights in the First Port. These were the sparks that made a young(er) David Campbell, 20 at the time, roll the dice with his Pizza Hut wages and put on a club night for friends returning home at Christmas. 

Regularly hosting events in the likes of Ulster Sports Club, Menagerie, Voodoo, Laverys and the Black Boat in Bangor (now The Rabbit Rooms) over the years,  Crilli has had a number of official and unofficial residents in its time: Plus Side – the original resident alongside Bad Operator, De-Twist – who went on to run successful Belfast bass night Ecker, Paul Sullivan, Kev, Seamus, and the likes of DJ Koncept, Undadog and Jon JBR. Each act has contributed to what Crilli is substantially.

There have been a fair few event milestones and memories made. Crilli’s Tenth Birthday with dark DnB cult hero Dom and Roland sold out the Black Box during a time that many Belfast drum and bass lifers remember as something of a low period for the scene’s popularity.  At a very different event, Twitch and Crilli co-hosted hosted local techno legend Phil Kieran for an Open House Festival Show in the war-memorabilia-adorned setting of Bangor Royal British Legion. 

London Elektricity at Crilli. Photo by Meet Dean

At another sell-out but this time in Bangor, the fire brigade was summoned when a certain punter got hold of the smoke machine and didn’t let go of it. Calibre and Lariman at The Menagerie, Goldie springing a three-hour set on a packed Ulster Sports Club (now this was a real highlight), Dub Phizix and Strategy, there have definitely been a few special times in the lead-up to Crilli turning the legal age to drink in Northern Ireland.  

We do it all again on Saturday, 3rd February, inviting along scene stalwarts Total Science and new age jungle overlord Sully to share the birthday cake with us. 

Crilli is now Soupy, Kev and Seamus, or Bad Operator, Blarney and Artois when the curtain lifts and the LED Crilli emblem glows amber on stage. Working together for around five years now, the trio have done everything from cook up Crilli-branded hot sauce together during lockdown, to being the first real drum and bass DJs at AVA Festival (as far as we know!) and most recently securing a support slot at Chase and Status’s sold out show in the Telegraph Building which is coming up in April. 

Big names visiting Belfast on a more frequent basis recently has been great for all of us Irish DnB lovers. We are living in a time when DnB is arguably the most popular it has been in years, thanks in no small measure to Sherelle, Nia Archives and co. This little pocket of music in Belfast is going strong at the minute. For Crilli, we are so lucky to have a diverse group of friends and peers who have supported what we do over the years. It’s these people that deserve the real credit, we simply couldn’t do it without them without them and it’s these heroes we’re celebrating here.

Mako/Metalheadz at Crilli in 2016. Photo by Crilliman

This is for the ones who were there for the quiet gigs, who are first to book a ticket, and are first in the door every single event. For the friends doing airport runs and putting up with city centre poster runs during bleak Januarys. Sitting at the front door of USC taking ticket money and gripe. Those who share our events with other like-minded people, like crazed Belfast DnB disciples. These ones here. Thank you! You all know who you are.

18 years is a long time, and we have shared some great memories over the years with some amazing characters, and so on selection duties for the rest of the night, here are 18 tracks and memories from our friends to ring in 18 Years of Crilli: 

1. DJ Koncept (Vinyl Combat): Sparfunk and Joe Solo – ‘Rapture’

”This was the first tune I heard Soupy play at the first ever Crilli. I wasn’t as knowledgeable about DnB as some of my peers at the time, people like Myles, Steve, Soupy and Toffer. I think this stuck in my memory because it felt like a fresh sound compared to some of the stuff I was used to.The Crilli Line-ups and music were definitely unique and different to what we (N.A) were doing at the time.

It was also interesting how back then the line-ups were usually more multi genre, Crilli in the early days combined things like dubstep, hip hop, house and techno along with DnB.” 

2. Paul McCarthy  (De-Twist): Spinks – ‘Knock Out’

“The first time I played for Crilli was in the Windsor and I played a load of electro and break beat records I couldn’t play anywhere else. I’m not entirely sure anyone enjoyed it other than me, but that was very much my calling card as a DJ. I played this absolute weapon and remember thinking it was pretty OTT.  The dancefloor was empty.

3. Carly Ambrose: High Contrast – ‘If We Ever’

“This is the song!!!”

4. JBR Project: John B – ‘Up All Night’

“Because he (John B) danced with my carrot at Crilli in the Waterfront this one-time xo”

5. Stu Undadog: dBridge – ‘Inner Disbelief’

“Soupy dropped this in the Menagerie one night. As I stood there listening to it I remember thinking that this tune sums up the Crilli vibe. I had actually skipped buying this tune when it came out but after hearing it out loud that night it was straight home to Discogs.”

Crilli at AVA 2022. Photo by Niall Murphy

6. Matthew Breen: DJ Hazard – ‘Time Tripping’

“Some of the most enjoyable nights I can remember have been spent sweating it out in the Menagerie. Fond memories of helping out with the doors or with flyering as well – great times, happy to have been some small part of the Crilli story!

Anyway, I’m sure this track doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

It has had me scrambling to the dancefloor on more than one occasion at Crilli nights! It’s got that eerie, unmistakable sample at the start and it’s a bit of an oddball track all round… and one I absolutely love. But more importantly, what luck to have been able to hear tracks like this lighting up dancefloors in Belfast. A big thanks to the Crilli lads for predictably and reliably guaranteeing a great night of dancing and craic, in a city that traditionally never really took an interest in anything outside of the house/techno bubble. Here’s to plenty more years of Crilli to come! ”

7. Grace Hoey: Omni Trio – ‘Renegade Snares’ (High Contrast remix)

“This song reminds me of the end of a Crilli night. Everyone is sweaty, buzzing and high from a night of dancing. I can’t remember exactly which Crilli night was my first but I know that I’ve never missed one since. 

Many other regulars are there every Crilli too and the DnB family is one of the most welcoming in all of the dance scene. I’ve seen it grow from a night of 10 people in the Menagerie to selling out Ulster Sports Club with acts like Goldie, playing AVA festival and bringing over some of the DJs we thought we could only dream of seeing in Belfast again after the DnB scene was basically non-existent for a couple of years.

It’s only onwards and upwards for the boys and im proud after seeing the hard work they’ve put in to make an established DnB night in Belfast.”

8. Marion Gill: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – ‘Garden’ (Calibre Remix)

“When I hear this tune I think about the many nights spent in the Menagerie and other venues over the past ten years I’ve been going to Crilli. 

From the very first time I went, something about the atmosphere and the people made me so excited every time a new event was announced. I’m a way I feel like I’ve grown up with Crilli throughout the years too. I was there when some of the nights only sold a few tickets so it makes me so proud to see it being as successful as it is now.”

Goldie at Crilli. Photo by the Boyler

9. Liam Kelly (Door Crew Chief): Origin Unknown – ‘Valley Of The Shadows’ (Chase and Status remix)

I can’t actually remember if this has been played at Crilli, but it’s just one of those songs you can go mad to and I always listen to get me hyped for a night out with Crilli crew. 

I’ve done the doors for nearly every Crilli night for the past few years and so by the time I get off and up the stairs, everyone’s already going fucking mental. I’m a big advocate of no-warm-ups and going straight in so I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just straight up the stairs and into the chaos.”

10. Emby: Halogenix – ‘Blej’

I always associate the heavy rollers with Crilli. Close your eyes, lose your mind ting. Many, many a night been taken to a different frequency by the three-headed dragon that is the Crilli lads. Happy birthday!”

11. Jonny Douglas (Ulster Sports Club): Chimpo and Salo – ‘Keep U Round’

“The track that reminds me of Crilli and their glorious club night would have to be Chimpo’s ‘Keep U Round’. Chimpo went b2b with Fracture at the Crilli 14th Birthday and it was one of the last big nights we had before the world locked down. I think I had this tune on repeat for about a year after!”

12. PMCC: Harland – ‘Moon’ (Mark System remix)

“It’s difficult to choose a single track! But a moment that I can remember really well is the first event after the COVID lockdown. Mark System came over and played a really good set. His remix of Harland’s ‘Moon’, right in the middle of that set with the epic string breakdown  was a great moment!”

Dom and Roland at Crilli’s 10th Birthday. Photo by Conchobhar OConaill

13. Ambit: Doc Scott – ‘Tokyo Dawn’

“Tokyo Dawn by Doc Scott is the tune that will always stay with me with the memories of Crilli. It was the tune I played second last while handing over the decks to Goldie in the Ulster Sports Club. It was such a special moment for me!”

14. Phil Lucas (Twitch): Dance Conspiracy – ‘Dub War’

“The Goldie night was the one for me and this track was the point in the night where it just clicked and you thought, oh s**t, this is going to be really, really special! It was a proper seminal one for Crilli and you don’t get many of those now, pulling off this event was a massive statement of intent.”

15. Paulo Obasi: Sl8r, Duskee – ‘Evolving’

“This track reminds me of working through the Crilli playlists, discovering new music from the artist lined up to play at the weekend, and getting hyped up for the show.”


16. Gareth Jenkins: DJ Zinc – ‘Super Sharp Shooter’ (Run In The Jungle remix)

“AVA Festival 2023 and Seamus drops the Run in the Jungle Remix of ‘Super Sharp Shooter’ – simply because I’m wearing a Super Sharp Shooter T-Shirt. The tent goes wild and I go wild. A terrific remix of one of my all-time favourite tracks, and an example of how the Crilli DJs respond to the crowd who support them. Drum & Bass’s Belfast family!

17. Jim McLaughlin: London Elektricity, Inja, The Secretary-General – ‘Time To Think’

“Listening to this just puts me in a good mood”.

18.  Richard Coulter: Conrad Subs – ‘Wu Sword’

“Having listened to Kev rattle this banger off in a soundcheck in the Ulster Sports Club, I already knew how filthy a night everyone was in for. To be a part of the gigs both sides of the bar, getting to see the lads slap venues alongside massive names and at AVA festival, it’s a critical part of Belfast nightlife culture and has solidified itself as the Mecca of DnB and Jungle in Northern Ireland. Every event, every interaction you have on that dance floor and every tune you hear are all special. Roll on another 18 years selectas.”