Photo Cred: Resident Advisor
It was way back in November when, trawling through Resident Advisor, I stumbled upon the Big Apple Reunion page. For my sins I was out of the country during Skream’s 2015 XOYO residency, so I had to watch from afar as all my crew headed down for the line-up of all line-ups, journeying through space and time of the dubstep continuum. There was no way I was missing this Big Apple reunion, so after I copped a ticket I was straight on the phone telling everyone else to do the same.
The weeks leading up to the night were full of anticipation and excitement, no line-up announcements until the day before meant that we were left guessing as to which heavyweights were going to turn up. When the day of release finally arrived any fears were quickly put in check, this was a gilded line-up that would truly showcase the history and variety of the 140 sound.
The Juan crew slowly converged in London travelling from all corners of the UK. The beast from the east certainly slowed us down, but it couldn’t stop us outright.
Skream - Midnight Request Line
As you would expect, every artist delivered an excellent set. Unfortunately the snow meant that I was unable to arrive in time for Chef’s set, but from previous times I’ve seen him and from chatting to others who made it in time, it was a hefty set showcasing his extensive back catalogue of garage and his insane mastery of the 1s and 2s. I may have missed Chef, but I arrived just in time for Plastician who delivered an absolutely spellbinding set of grime and dubstep classics. Its been years since I last listened to ‘Intensive Snare’, but the whole crowd and I were singing (or spitting I guess) along word for word. It was during this set when Roll Deep’s Scratchy D first touched mic, I don’t know if I missed the memo or something but I was definitely not expecting to see him there spitting his classic bars over an old-skool Plasticman set. The surge of energy through the crowd when ‘B U N’ first got spat was insane. Following Plastician was the king of <30hz, otherwise known as DMZ’s Loefah. A Loefah 140 set is always a blessing to witness and he delivered the goods more than enough. Touching all bases of the dubstep sound, blending his own classics such as ‘Woman’ and ‘Mud’ with slightly more recent tunes such as Gantz’ ‘Spry Sinister’. Loefah was followed by fellow originator Coki, who unleashed the classics from the get go, taking us through the heavier end of dubstep with benchmarks of the sound like ‘Goblin’, ‘Tortured’ and ‘Spongebob’.
Fat Freddy's Drop - Cays Cray (DMZ Remix)
Then the moment came. Skream, Benga and Artwork reunited for what SGT. Pokes reassured us was 100% legally not a Magnetic Man set. Say what you want, these three undoubtedly took dubstep on the journey it has taken so far and seeing all three go back to back for the first time in years was undoubtedly a historic occasion. As if this wasn’t enough, Grime’s godfather Wiley touched down for this set, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with his bars from BBK’s ‘Too many man’. There were too many tunes to name individually throughout this set (and the whole night really), but we managed to grab a few videos during the night so give them a peek.
100% not Magnetic Man and Wiley
All in all, in terms of music and quality of sets the night was unbeatable. If I had to give it a rating out of ten, it’s a solid nine.
I’m gonna have to slap a big fat trigger warning here for this next section. The review of the night basically ends here. I’m going to delve into something I noticed on the night and the possible ramifications for the wider scene. So if you just want to know how the night went, you’ve basically had it. Sick night, some of the best sets Juan and Co. have ever seen and the next time there’s a history dance at XOYO make sure to get down there.
There were some elements of the night, completely out of the control of those playing and even the venue itself, that left a few things to be desired. Now the system was good, amazing clarity, remarkable levels of volume and pretty damn weighty if you were stood in the right place. But it was what I’d class as a toe tingler as opposed to a full on organ reorganiser. It was during Loefah’s set when this first struck me. Usually when ‘Horror Show’ drops, my vision goes blurry, my eyes get crossed and, if the system is truly on point, I actually get nauseous (shout out HM and Steels HIFI and the Plan B six sub madness). Through XOYO’s in-house system, you got an inkling of the bassweight behind the track, but it wasn’t as overpowering as id have liked for such a special event. The system was good, but not the best suited for dubstep, especially the heavily sub-bass focused tracks of Loefah. Obviously, this is beyond the control of every party involved due to the location of the venue and is indicative of the problems facing the scene in London generally. In the smoking area, the bouncers were effectively reduced to the role of librarians, going around and trying to hush people up to avoid the dreaded noise complaints from residential neighbours.
I’m sure by now you might have read the Red Bull article about the strength of the scene right now (if not, go clock it here: https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/dubstep-back-at-cutting-edge) and of course you cannot deny the strength of the current state of dubstep. Unfortunately, this is increasingly being coupled with a reduction in truly appropriate venues in the birth city of the sound. Without naming names, this is the second night in London with a huge lineup where the sound has left a little to be desired within the space of three months. It’s becoming a common enough feature, Fonz has even coined a new phrase over at Juan HQ for such experiences: Sonic Catfishing (full definition below). I’m not trying to say that XOYO was a sonic catfish, the system did deliver, but not the levels of bassweight that may be desired.
Skream - Filth
Large capacity, old school nights are an important part of the scene. You’ve got to look back and reflect in order to move forward, but at this point I’m doubtful whether the city of London has enough venues truly capable of delivering such experiences to the fullest of potential. I’m not trying to tar the entire city with one brush, SYSTEM at Dingwalls delivered the excessive bassweight vital to the true delivery of dubstep, and (again for my sins I haven’t had a chance to reach yet) I have been told that Shitty Dubstep have found a venue fit for the full rig experience in Café 512. The crux of what I’m getting at is basically that the health of the scene is increasingly coming under the spotlight of the big time music journos, and this is probably going to lead to larger crowd sizes as people come to witness this stuff that everyone is excited about. As a scene, we owe it to ourselves, our predecessors and future heads to make sure that the pure message of bassweight is translated accurately in these larger scale nights, to help preserve the integrity of the music and help ensure that fundamental characteristics of the sound remain for the next generation of producers that will be coming up through these experiences.
The Sonic Catfish: When promoters lure in the ravers with a muaddd lineup only to then have them play over their nans hifi. (Creds to Fonz)