The Fez Club, in the heart of Bristol's fashionable St. Nicholas Street, seemed like a strange place to be checking a dubstep line-up. It is a small basement club, but very stylish and sophisticated with mirrors and candles everywhere, plus the nicest smelling public toilet I've been in for a long time! Quite a contrast to the 'spit 'n' sawdust' venues I'm used to frequenting. We arrived at 11.00pm, but the place was practically deserted and I was thinking it was gonna be a disaster. But by midnight a respectable crowd had turned-up, probably the Dig Deep night's regular d'n'b-loving clientele, many of whom were probably about to have their dubstep cherries firmly popped.
I missed Landslide's set, but enjoyed ThinKing and Soundscape's (relatively) mainstream soulful garage/broken beat/latin vibes whilst chugging back a couple of beers in the bar. Things really kicked-off when Toasty hit the decks, though. The tracks he's released so far have been very breaks-orientated, often with uplifting chord sequences and floaty, shimmering pad sounds, offset by some brutal bass-riffs, so I was really surprised at how dark and 'steppy' his set was. Clearly the Toasty Boy is prepared to get way more abstract than he's been letting on! There was one track, featuring a particularly savage, writhing bassline that was so nasty I had to lean over and have a sneaky look at the dubplate. Hand written on the label were the words "Cold Blooded". Look out for that one, kids - phew!!
Speaking to Toasty (right) afterwards, he explained that he was really feeling that heavy, sparse, plodding half-step vibe at the moment, even though his roots are, like many of his compatriotes, firmly in drum 'n' bass. Echoing DJ Distance's comments in the interview last month, Toasty made it clear that this music cannot be easily compartmentalised and, certainly from the evidence last night, he's gonna be pushing forward in some radical new directions in the future. Originally from Essex, but now living in Brighton, Toasty's a really friendly, open character - and a fan of this blog too! He said I was one of the few people giving the breakstep sound some love at the moment, which I guess is probably true. As I observed in a previous post, there's very little being written about the Toasty/Distance/Storming axis. He reckons that there's a certain amount of prejudice against anything that involves breaks, which I suspect is probably true as well. Hopefully he's gonna put together a mix especially for download here, featuring some of his most experimental new work. Fingers crossed!!
The final act was Slaughter Mob, who I'd been really looking forward to seeing as their contributions to Rephlex's first "Grime" compilation were instrumental in sucking me into this whole underground dubstep scene. DJing was handled by Q Gritty, with MCs Vicious and Dangerous working the crowd. These guys have been playing out together for many years now, always pushing militant, underground vibes. But they know how to have a good time too! The crowd had visibly thinned-out after midnight, in fact by the last hour there were only about 20 of us left on the dancefloor (with DJ Pinch and Tom from Rooted Records in attendance) yet, with no proper stage as such, Vicious and Dangerous happily mingled amongst us, passing the mic back and forth, taking a particular interest in a couple of the ladies at the front and giving us 100%. It was like an intimate little private party, an experience I'll be fondly remembering for some time.
I asked Vicious (or was it Dangerous? - I'm still not sure which is which) if they might play "Zombie" by special request, cos it's probably my favourite SLT tune. He just laughed and said that Gritty (right) probably hadn't even brought it with him. That track is old from their perspective, and Gritty was busy spinning exclusive new beats on the club's twin Pioneer CD turntables. But still, Vicious seemed pleased that I was familiar with their work, shook my hand, asked what my name was and gave a shout-out to 'Mr. Gutter' on the mic. I was also pleased to note that one of their catchphrases is "keepin' it gutter, keepin' it sewer", which they repeated at regular intervals. I don't think they know anything about me or my blog, it's just a nice coincidence and obviously I heartily endorse the sentiment. Speaking of catchphrases, ever since the '80s people have been applying negative words in a positive context (bad, ill, wicked etc), and currently the word 'sick' is a popular one for expressing one's approval of a riddim in the dubstep community. But last night the MC's way of showing their approval was to describe a tune as 'absolutely horrible', which I find rather amusing. I'm resolved to use the expression myself in future!
PS. Sorry about the shit photos. I'm not much of a photographer at the best of times, but my experiments with this cheapo little digital camera are not producing good results. It's okay if you've got a strong light-source, but absolutely hopeless in a near-darkness situation like this. I think I'll go back to the disposable analogue cameras!
PPS. Big-up Mr. ThinKing for putting this event together - I'll definitely be up for the next one if he gets it sorted. Oh, and thanks for putting me on the guestlist too.
PPS. Don't forget to read Paul Autonomic's account of his recent visit to FWD>>. Hopefully I'll get to meet him next time he's in the UK...