Thursday, 11 June 2015

Don't Believe The Hype

Something incredible happened last week. Something for the history books.

An event took place on Friday night last week (June 5th 2015), ‘Listening Sessions presents Rupture Vs Skutta’. For the uninitiated out there: Listening Sessions is a night that started over a year ago – the focus of the night is on local (Birmingham and surrounding areas) producers playing their music to an audience that’s keen on keeping their ears to the ground when it comes to underground music; Rupture is a club night (based in London) that’s been going strong for nearly 10 years, something to be respected because it’s no easy feat. They are an outfit trusted for representing the forefront of Jungle/DnB and they have a loyal fan-base that will soldier to wherever the Rupture crew are doing their thing; last but not least is Skutta – a record label that has been releasing some excellent music, they have a regular show on Jungletrain where they play their perspective of cutting edge Jungle/DnB.

One thing I’ve realised about music events is that you can have the best line-up of artists/performers, but if the sound system isn’t up to scratch, if the venue isn’t right and people aren’t interested, then it’s not going to work. The venue for this event was PST in Digbeth, home to many Listening Sessions events. The key word in the last sentence is ‘home’ – that’s exactly what PST is for a lot of us. There’s a unique vibe to the club, and the people that run it are friendly and they look out for you to make sure you have a good time. The sound system was powered by ‘Creative Hertz’ – renowned for their earth shattering set-up, I can happily say I’ve never experienced tinnitus on any of their set-ups because they have an understanding of frequencies and which ones sound good at a high volume! Definitely one of the best sound systems I have ever experienced. The last and probably most important ingredient for this successful night was the crowd. People had travelled from all over the country for this night. The team involved in putting on the night had made a lot of effort and put in a lot of hard work promoting the event as much as possible, so it was inevitable that this was going to be an epic night.

There were two rooms, Rupture Vs Skutta in the main room and Listening Sessions on the rooftop. The line-up of DJs in both rooms was really good, and so I had a plan of hopping between the two rooms every half an hour so that I could catch most of them. My plan started off well, Slaine kicked things off in the main room. People were already moving on the dance floor and he played some really dirty grimey beats, he also played a few of his own productions which I know have been getting support from DJs like Ray Keith, it was good to hear them on a phat sound system. I then ventured upstairs to catch Onira for a bit. I always look forward to Onira’s sets because he plays a good variety of music and easily switches between the bpms. It’s a difficult job being one of the early DJs of the night because it’s too easy to get straight into it (i.e. playing bangers, anthems, crowd pleasers), that’s why I think Onira is a wicked DJ because he gradually lifted up the vibes – so much so that there was someone that wanted to grab the mic for parts of his set. Before he finished I nipped back down so that I could catch DAAT.

DAAT kicked things off by breaking it right down. No beats, no basslines, just some kind of sound. Then something which loosely resembled a beat faded in – Jason (one half of DAAT) really took his time, it was mesmerising and I was really into it, then before I knew it he played ‘Twitchy Droid Leg’ by Sileni – a personal favourite of mine. I remember looking at my cuz when it came it on, that typical look when you hear a wicked tune and look to a friend in appreciation of it haha. I remember he also played ‘Phytochrome’ which was released on Subtle Audio, it’s a really soothing track. Soon it was time for me to go upstairs to check Elkie who is one of the guys behind Listening Sessions. People were already moving to the music he played, it was an awesome selection and the crowd that was there was really feeling it – I know he played a few M:Pathy tracks which hit the spot. After him, Krytikal came on to the stage, he is a brilliant producer and has released music on a variety of labels including Area Recordings and Dubsalive. His set consisted of tracks that he made or collaborated on, they are very much on a dubstep tip – the basslines were heavy all the way, and to be honest I wouldn’t expect anything less from this guy. Next up was Goosensei who, alongside Elkie, run Listening Sessions. Goosensei played a top notch set full of lots of different grooves, he had Nature Ambassador on the mic.

I nipped down for a bit to check out LA Johnson & Baddesley, they played some good variety – the Footwork/Juke style tracks worked a treat, it’s something I’d like to hear more of. I ventured back up to catch the rest of Goosensei’s set and discovered that another MC had taken control of the mic, she goes by the name of Fedzilla – she worked the mic like a champion and people were lapping it all up.

I absolutely loved everything I was hearing upstairs. My plan to check all the DJs across the two rooms had failed because I ended up staying on the rooftop. I was gutted I missed out on Loxy, and I only caught about 15 minutes of Double O and Mantra. The music from the Listening Sessions cru on the roof top was magic, it felt like we were witnessing the evolution of something new and exciting. Especially when Wooda played THAT tune. Oh boy. I have no idea what it’s called but LORD HAVE MERCY, because the tune was something else, it was HOT. I was one of those annoying people that got my phone out to record it (but someone decided to talk to me while recording! Arghh! Said person has been forgiven and shall remain unnamed). I remember Elkie was by the CDJs and I said to him that the tune needed a rewind and thank god it was! People were making peacock sounds in appreciation – if there is a god out there I will be able to hear it again soon! Yilan played after him, it must’ve been difficult but he rocked it out, and he played a lot of his own selections – I’m a fan of his music, some of it was kind of hard grimey techno, totally banging and at times I would say it was almost brutal – even had Baddesley from Skutta come out of the sweaty main room to show some of his provocative dance moves! It’s a clich√©, but if you weren’t there, you really missed something special, it was pure quality from start to finish. Everything I would want from a night out. Shortly after I went back to the main room so that I could hear HEADGEAR b2b with Threshold. Bare smashing of breakbeats to smithereens to say the least, couldn’t help but brock the hell out for a bit before I left.

It was a strange night because it wasn’t just a regular night out for me, the music I heard on the rooftop from the Listening Sessions crew, was the sound of Birmingham developing something new. Not a fad, or a trend, but the sounds of a community of musically minded misfits developing themselves and coming into their own. It reminded me of going to a Technicality all-nighter at Mass in Brixton (2006) – the line up in the main room was amazing (Breakage, Fracture & Neptune, Nookie, etc…) and in room 2 there was Loefah, someone I’d never heard of before playing Dubstep which was fresh to my ears and I remember having the same feeling then. I count myself fortunate that I was able to witness and experience a growing movement taking place. You might think I’m hyping this up like I’ve never been out before or something like that, maybe I am, but the next time there’s something like this going on, don’t believe the hype – come and check it out for yourself.

Photographs courtesy of B Harvey Photography

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