Saturday, August 18, 2007
FWD>> and Rinse @ The End
For the last three years or so, grime couldn't get a club night in central London. For large parts of the 2001-2005, dubstep couldn’t get an audience. If you came to some of the many Forwards>> when there were more bar staff than fans, hold tight you. So even in a year when Mala and Benga can play to 8,000 fans at Roskilde, or Oris Jay, Skream and Kode9 can take down Sonar, it still makes me smile to come down New Oxford Street at 10:24pm and see a queue for Rinse and Forward>> at The End that stretches from the front door, around the side and all the way down the length of the building to the main road. It was a roadblock.
I’d come down early to see Appleblim, who’s deep, delayed and techy sets have been a real pleasure recently. Funny thing was, there was almost too much delay, so that in a room of that size (the main room at The End), his whole set felt drenched in reverb, all reflection and no signal, so that you couldn’t tell any of the detail.
This wasn’t ‘Blim’s fault though: throughout the night it was apparent how much of the ‘big room’ clubbing experience this was, sonically, with only the most obvious parts of the track cutting through the cavernous room. With scale, you gain audience but loose detail.
But this was not a night for audio purists, it was a full on, hot, rammed, hyped rave – and the energy was really enjoyable. The crowd was an welcome blend and the press surrounding the night (Radio1, Metro, The London Paper to name but a few…) seemed to bring headz out from all sides, so that even though it was on such a massive scale, the community vibe absent at other raves of late, returned. So in no particular order hold tight: Mel B, Dan Hancox, the mighty Farrah, Rahul Virma from Metro/Knowledge, Sarah “where have you been, girl?!” Bentley (please send me the Mavado transcript!), Chris Blacklay from Kiss, Stu Give Up Art, The Bug, Terror Danjah, Henny G, Mr and Mrs Spaceape, Artwork, N Type, Markle, Luke Envoy, Mary Ann Hobbs and of course Soulja and Geeneus. Beats are one thing, but I’m increasingly reminded how much people make the night.
I also enquired about the no camera rule and got, surprise surprise, a perfectly reasonable answer. At a rave of the size of this one, you could easily have had half a dozen waste-DVD makers pushing cameras in the face of the DJs and shoving the punters away from the small, floor-level DJ booth, both of which you have to agree, would detract from the night. Who remembers all the annoying photographers and German TV crews climbing all over the booth at DMZ?
In addition the lack of visual record keeps a mystique to the night, so that to see it, you had to come along. Ammunition are not filming it themselves, instead preserving the sacredness of the live moment, in a similar way to why Mala doesn’t do many radio mixes, to preserve the surprises of his (amazing) DJ sets. Anyway all this seems pretty reasonable: people really need to calm down with the knee jerk conspiracy theories.
The first real peak of the night was Wiley and Karnage – Trim was sadly a no show (hold tight Boomnoise’s builder’s mystic prediction). Karnage began flicking through one raw grime instrumental after another: think variations on Maniac’s “Bow E3” beat. It was Wiley that really made the set come alive, shooting around the booth with a muscular energy, taking request-shouts from the crowd before spitting a greatest hits set of his bars. He looked hungry and ready for battle, which is Wiley at his strongest.
The biggest tunes of the night seemed to be either Benga and Coki’s “Night” or Rusko’s “Cockney Thug”, the latter of which N Type finished with and was the perfect kind of tune to cut through the immense noise in the venue: it’s got one big wobble sound and some swearing. Little else can nor needs to be heard. Cue the reload.
The next highlight was Kode9 ft Flowdan and Killa P. While Kode played a mix of really percussive, kick-lead housey stuff (esp. Mala’s “Lean Forward”), it was the live versions of “Skeng” and “Jah War” by Flowdan that killed it. Between Loefah, The Bug and Flowdan, they really have nailed the dark, intense, dread-war halfstep anthem. Both tunes and their mixes are stone cold ruffness.
I couldn’t help but make sure I wandered through to see Rinse’s Supa play in the bar. Soulja seems to be using the term “UK house” for the London funky house movement, but while I get how it’s new in terms of its audience, to me I’m still waiting for a musical “wow” moment. I got the same reaction I always get: I wander in, think “oh this is nice.” 30 minutes later it’s still “nice,” the tune doesn’t seem to have changed at all and I’m bored. Still, it was good to see Crazy D bouncing around to it and Arthur Artwork, ohmydays, did he dress up for the occasion? It’d have to be a wedding or funeral to get me in such a dapper suit and tie. I salute your style Mr Smith.
Back in the main room Geeneus and Tubby were doing a ferocious back 2 back, with the tunes crazily pitched up. Footsie and D Double were hyping things to great effect but for me at least, the pain barrier was reached and it was time to fall asleep on the night bus. Again.