Category Archives: Drum and Bass

Q Club, Birmingham 14th September 2007

Drop Beats Not Bombs lead the charge as the legendary Q Club re-opens. The Q lives up to its name in more ways than one.

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Though I still always came home to honed lyrics in the early nineties, I stopped going to indie clubs. Part of this conversion lay in the sheer scale and drama of the Que club in Birmingham. A former Methodist hall, it was a spiritual experience when you looked down from the upper circle about 30 feet to the teeming masses who were jerking towards the pulpit where DJs whipped out tracks which galvanised us. Working your way round the hallowed side corridors you’d suddenly discover another room of a different musical style and a smaller but equally devoted congregation, jogging to jungle, bobbing to hip hop or chilling to whales. Following a year or so of drug related melodrama from the local press, and a continual flyererd promise of ‘last club night ever’ it eventually closed, rumoured to be earmarked for conversion into yuppie flats.

Thankfully, due to the glut of urban living apartments springing up all over the city, the owners eventually gave up and four years after the club closed, the slightly re-branded ‘Q’ opened its heavy doors once more. The wave of expectation was immense, fuelled by an abundance of Facebook friends and the announcement that Drop Beats Not Bombs would host the first night. Drop Beats had over the interim years raised a reputation for hosting some of Birmingham’s biggest nights. Spurred on by the wave of youth objection to the Iraq invasion and occupation, and established to gain funds for CND, eclecticism was the priority interspersed with guest speakers and cabaret. In many ways, the one night the event resembled a mini festival, occupying venues such as the whole Sanctuary, the entire Custard Factory and most recently the whole of Brummie-superclub, Air – and its car park.

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As the taxi pulls up at the Q, the queue is immense and in another ironic twist, for an event promoting world peace it felt as if it might descend into a bitter conflict. We manage to bat our press lashes and get in quickly. We work our way up to the upper level of the main hall but are disappointed to discover that the coveted upper seats are blocked by security. The hall itself, which to my distorted memory had expanded to cathedral size, suddenly feels much smaller. We pull up to a pew, sober, and try to enjoy The London Breakbeat Orchestra. Unlike other bands that contain the word orchestra in it, LBO is indeed a massive beast. Unfortunately, the sound system cannot capture this drama, largely because the string section isn’t mic’d up correctly and after three songs the gangs apologetically shuffle off the stage.

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Between the hours of 10.30 and one we oscillate between feelings of dampened expectation and sheer hastle as we’re jostled around the side corridors, q-ing for the toilets or q-ing for a drink – desperately trying to grab that elusive epiphany moment. The side rooms are rammed, sweaty and the music isn’t as eclectic as I would have liked, they all seem to be cranking out drum and bass.

We go up to the chapel (which used to be the chill out room) and shake our ass to 4-4 runner and page 3 stunnah Rebekah whilst we get chatted up from seemingly every direction. Maybe drum’n’bass does have its advantages, at least when you’re jogging out to the sounds no-one can grind next to you.

When we do finally go back into the main room there is a slight heart sink that it’s another drum’n’bass effort. That’s until looking down we realise that it’s just emanating from one guy sitting on a stool playing the beats out on a drum pad. Kamoni from NYC moves away from live drums imitating a d’n’b loop and uses the technology to use the electronic sounds and occasionally take a de-constructive approach to breaking down the tracks. That said he also knows how to get the party going. With much less for the sound desk to worry about, the Q has once more come into its own.

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After a beatbox interlude from Bass6, Utah Saints rock some old school tracks and great techno without applying any cheese. Their ‘What Can You Do For Me’ sits very nicely with a looped ‘No Good (Start The Dance)’ by Prodigy. It’s about 2.30 in the morning. The hassling crowds have gone and I meet up with friends I haven’t seen for years.

We go up to the upper balcony and praise the lord of dance that they’ve let us all go up to the top. Here we sit and watch the entrance of PCM escorted by Aliens (from the film Aliens) Predator (also from the film) and some girls in skimpy tops (from a local butchers). They freak out to the two chaps as they play ear tearing dirty futuristic (yes) drum’n’bass.

We start with the ‘randoms’ chat. To my right is a 17 year old boy called Liam. Tonight is his first Q and he says ‘so you’ve obviously been around a while is there anywhere else better than this?’ I honestly reply, no, not really. To my left offering my girlfriend contraband fags, is a chap about my age, he went to his first Que when he was 14. We start naming the people we’ve seen here. He beats me with David Bowie (dammit.) I’d also like to mention right here that in a room this massive that the smoking ban is completely unnecessary. I’m all for clean air but the only thing that’s going to get cancer are the pigeons in the roof. And fuck them, they’re scum. A sour touch is delivered when I see a chain over fluorescent vested security guards snaking through the crowd in an attempt to catch punters out

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We descend and have a final blaze before Push DJs announce their arrival. It’s good, but it’s not drum’n’bass. In a sick twist, so attuned is my mind to accelerated, adrenaline fuelled BPM that this mashed up dance knowing hip hop feels like miming in treacle. It’s about 5:30 and suddenly the tiredness is catching up to my age. For a moment there, we were all 17.


Bedlam 5th Birthday Party, Bristol Academy (10th February 2007)

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.


Intrigue (29th Sept 06)

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. 


Breakthru (8th Sept 06)

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.