Five years under its belt and still going strong – Bedlam’s all encompassing reign over the South West shows no signs of letting up. Whereas birthday parties are usually an opportunity for promoters to over-flex their line-up’s muscle, Jamie and his brother Nick (DJ Marvel) have proved proficient at providing a mass of quality acts every slam. Tonight’s party is just another work-out for the lads.
Clipz gets the Valve System fired up before a midnight PA from local boy dun ridiculously gud Killa Kela. Sadly no sign of new girlfriend Patsy Kensit in the wings or Kela himself handing out free Fruit Pastilles, however he does keep it sweet with expected d ‘n’ b beat boxing and a touch of r ‘n’ b singing. After that Lemon D and Dillinja get those cones really tweaked with Eksman and Skibadee on barking duties. The atmosphere is electric as Test classic ‘Fluid’ is dropped and also the phenomenal ‘Friday.’ G Dub and Taxman provide plenty of bass rumbling with ‘Moonraker’ and ‘Too Bad VIP’ proving themselves most suited to the Valve. Swift does a double drop with TC’s Rockstar and his rewinds get spun back at just the right times.
In the back room, Frome grown DJ Insight proves that though this night is comparable to blazes in Brixton, it’s pushed further with Southwest talent still jacking strong. Special mention also has to go out for Bump in the side bar who were put the head back together after the Valve atom reshuffling combined with ‘rammed crowd’ paranoia took their toll.
One thing Bedlam is going to have to watch is its crowd size. For every 100 happily stepping kidz there was one or two tosspots who believed that the power of the bass transforms them into invincible knob heads. This is a blast from the clubbing we had to suffer five years ago and it’s an element I don’t want to see getting a nostalgia trip. These boyz have to learn that the music is about dealing with and dancing out aggro not directing it at others. My girlfriend (in the feminine minority) suffered with sexually frustrated arse grabbing in full effect. For me, two near fights and an attempted pick pocketing did tarnish my night. Having said that, events were dealt with efficiently; the promoters made it clear, when it comes to crowd control, Beldam will never equal chaos.
Although it had a break over the summer, it would be a mistake to think Intrigue is a student night. Within the red cushioned confines of the subterranean Dojo Lounge I spot rock-headz, bloc-headz, greazy-headz, cheezy-headz, read-headz, dead-headz, smacked-headz, jacked-headz; all of them are here to worship the futuristic skull shaped Metalheadz.
Yes, crowned grand-mistress of Drum and Bass: DJ Storm is whipping up the club with strong support coming from a bunch of kung-fu monks. Intrigue has returned to the Dojo fighting fit.
First, we experience the fitness of Witness. He flexes his musical muscles with a varied amount of progressive beats and FSOL re-rack of Papa New
Guinea as swan song. Next up Invaderz knocks up the soundsystem a notch so that we can hear the back beat as well as the tinny hi-hat. As Commix opens, I get the impression we’re due to go manically organic. We’re certainly in studied
Cambridge mode as the bell ringing brilliance of “When Pilots Eject” calls us all in. Before getting proper Donnie Darko with the twisted sonic depth of “Talk To Frank.” This Metalheadz release allows another notch on the mixer and sets the perfect volume-barometer for Storm.
Tempted by the smell of barbequing meat and to collect some vox pops, we go outside and immediately bump into Ben Payne, club promoter and member of The Insiders. Ben talks about how the barbeque is something that they’ve brought to proceedings, and something they’re so chuffed with that it features on the flyers. The jerk chicken certainly smells the part. I drop a hint that I wouldn’t mind a sample but it goes unchecked.
Back inside and at last Storm has entered the ring. It may be the fact that the fire door has been propped open to allow the food smell to waft across the dance floor or it may just be the heady combination of Storm and Ayah which makes it a meaty affair. She bounces along with the crowd choosing a varied selection of tasty cuts whilst Ayah sings and spits in time.
Ayah stays on the mic for the final cross over for The Insiders and inevitably “Meltdown” with Ayah’s spot getting the rewind. Commix is still in the area and Storm is smiling from the side of the decks. The Metalheadz monks are nodding and tonight we’re all converts to their philosophy.
Sweeping up the leaves of the mature Autumn club night and letting them rot slightly in winter darkness of Broken Minds, Breakthru is a fertile compromise between the two. Now on their fourth bi-monthly gig, their rosta so far has aped Autumn in terms of getting in quality ‘artist’ DJs and borrowed Broken Minds dirty dancability – the last Valve Soundsystem night being a foot-stomping, tinnitus inducing, example. It seems that Breakthru wants to be smart but also wants the step.
Tonight we traipse into the Custard Factory courtyard, staying outside to enjoy what will surely be the last summer evening of the year. Resident and co-promoters Dan B and Phase 2 are in the Medicine Bar with the sound relayed outside via some silver tweeter speakers. Their narrow bandwidth suit the mostly Bristolian old skool set but newer bass heavy tunes are distorted without the bins to back them up.
Anticipating that Andy C is likely to take it even further into bowel bothering sub-bass territory we grab a drink and step to the foot of the Med Bar stage to appreciate the full force of the Nexo Alpha sound system. Andy C’s first tune causes the entire arm waving room to leap into the drum line, which justifiably requires a rewind. C doesn’t rest too long on his spiky laurels and sets another track up quickly. His style is quick fingered tonight – and the accumulated tracks only allow you a breather on the rewind.
Calyx keeps the momentum up by offering very few rewinds – which may be connected to him not playing any classics. This is fine, we’re not on Mickey Finn and Grooverider’s whistle blowing patch here. Calyx muddies up all he can lay his phat phingers on, fiddling with the organic spill of a live drums sound. In a rare rewind he stirs the gravy bass of Unknown Error until I have to go to the toilet.
Following the inevitable wade through muddy piss, we take our place at the back of the Med Bar for Noisia. Going all ambiently Dutch, they break the bassline right down so that we’re at the BPM pace of nose rumbling hip-hop; with some smart sampled New York observations. Then the drum line drops and the room, once more, goes absolutely ballistic. The strip lighting comes on too soon, and only one more track is allowed in the stark reality. It’s a massive shame; I was in a new Noisia induced state.
Like impending old age – The ‘ Chill has this affect on you which you can’t fight. I challenge the hardest of hardcore hedz to go there. If by Saturday afternoon you’re not walking like Mr Soft then I’ll flip my foppish Victorian dandy wig (purchased from the impressive fancy dress tent). There are several contributing factors to this chill induced state. Okay, this year there was a bit of early morning drizzle and an overcast Friday, but overall it seems that the Big Chill bowl has its own ‘glorious’ weather system. Also it is the most child friendly festival around. Seriously, how can you be feeling ‘the grind’ when in your periphery vision fairies are flitting past? Then there’s the music…
All artists take a step back from intense choon-full sets and instead ask the audience to listen and appreciate. Friday’s entertainment sets the tone of chilled-ness with Lou Rhodes bleating out her new songs with her new hippy commune mates. Without Lamb’s loop master Andy, they are more like lilting folk songs. Later that afternoon, José Gonzalés does his notorious slo-mo bouncing ball song and his mid-eighties cover versions are given more depth. The evening time ambience affects X-press 2 who lock onto Smoke Machine – and don’t move from it, but we’re saved from locked-down boredom by Jamie Lidell. After a jazzy Joe Cocker ‘lounge style’ beginning with Mocky and Gonzales, he begins playing with his vocal chords and sampler toys and, very precisely, blows our minds. A Skillz at the Southern Comfort Fat Tuesday tent on Saturday starts the day promisingly with big beats and dirty electro squelch before Psapp cutesies us out with saccharine sweetness and pipe cleaner cats. It takes Four Tet that night to bring on a dirty jammed drum bashing thinking man’s euphoria. The sunshine greets Norman Jay on the Sunday with his ever eclectic mix, moving from old school to street to soul and even including a cheeky 20 minute drum and bass session. This suitably sets us up for another afternoon of covers; a well executed set from Bent and a chance for us to let loose and have at least a shuffle to Bam Bam project in the Funky Wormhole – especially after a much appreciated Shy FX rewind. It’s clear that dancing is a bit self centred and disrespectful when The Heritage Orchestra steals our hearts and minds with full string versions of funk soul classics. I’m wrapped up in picnic blanket hearing the groovy 2001 with Deodato and a superb closer Les Fleur. I’ve not got a sweat on, but I’m grinning from ear to ear.