Subdub - Iration Steppas, O.B.F, Mala, Kahn & More
Saturday 31st January
After its successful weekender at the West Indian Centre towards the end of last year, Subdub have started off 2015 by firing off a warning shot over Vox Warehouse. Boasting a concentrated but huge line-up with Dubstep giants of the past and present: Mala, Kahn as well as Loefah who (announced as a last minute curveball) would be playing a 2 hour Jungle and Dancehall set in room 2. Bass pressure was provided by two soundsystems - Iration Steppas and O.B.F. - whose selectors would be playing around the headliners in room one.
The line-up alone was enough to make the atmosphere pretty tangible from the start. The queue was healthy with people itching to get in; including Compa who happened to be behind my friends and I in line. He like everyone else was there for the same reason, the music, which is definitely one of the benefits to arise since Dubstep's "fall from grace" when house and EDM replaced it as the "fresher's choice".
Outlook veteran and Subdub-institution Finwa gave a lesson in not-letting-the-headliners-have-all-the-fun. Playing a roots session befitting of the night, with tracks like Vivek's Pulse doing well to prepare everyone for what was on the set-list. However, it was soon almost time for Mala to take over room 1 and on cue, it filled to its complete capacity with time to spare till his set.
I've written a lot of intros for Mala in the past, and to be honest, he has enough of a reputation that you probably know some of the things I would be likely writing anyway. Needless to say, he was one of the main reasons that venue was so rammed. He kicked off his set with Roots Manuva's Witness (1 Hope), which was a personal highlight for me since he'd ended his set with the same song at one of the first SYSTEM nights, except unfortunately, I'd left a little early to get my coat and missed it, so hearing him play it then was a little bit cathartic. He followed on swiftly into Dubstep, leaving O.B.F. and the Iration Steppas to handle the Dub side of things. You know you're in for a treat when one of the first songs you hear is the unreleased Sleeper remix of Under Control or the also unreleased Jack Sparrow remix of Spry Sinister, but then again, if anyone's been sent unreleased tunes, it's probably Mala.
For once I'm a bit more content to fall into the trap of devoting lots of writing to song names, since: 1. There were only two headliners and 2. If Commodo's new dubplate of F_ck Mountain VIP gets mixed into Skeng, then I am obliged to say something. It was also great to hear unreleased (and likely forthcoming on Deep Medi) Gantz tracks, Pseudoo and Supreme A on such a good soundsystem, however there did at some points seem to be problems with one of the 1210's - it seemed as if the needle was skipping. Regardless the songs on their own were enough to make up for it, rendering the result of Mala having to restart records, into just another kind of reload. Rounding off his set with another mix of classic and forthcoming material - Eyez VIP plus bits from Kromestar's forthcoming new album, Mala again demonstrated one of the reasons why he's garnered so much reverence from the electronic music community.
Kahn made up the second half of the night's main event and it seemed to me that the size of the crowd didn't change at all. No one left the room if they could help it, but more importantly, the energy levels if anything went up. After all, to say that everyone was just there for Mala is to do a disservice to Kahn. He made his first mark with what I can only guess is a VIP of his remix of Rules of the Dance, besides that there was of course loads of Kahn material, some of it already out and established like Badman City, or Over Deh So and lots of it unreleased or just released such as the Maxx Baer edit of Percy as well as the massive Dick Tracy and Got My Ting. By Kahn's set, the bad turntable had seemed to have calmed down a bit, as evidenced by when he mixed his last release Abattoir with the recently controversial but undoubtedly classic Loefah track Midnight. Grievances about the drama surrounding Midnight's eventual release aside, it was pretty amazing to be able to finally hear it played out on a capable system. As always with Kahn, there was good helpings of Grime - Impey's Bleepz, P Money's (produced by Kahn) Karate Kid and more unique tracks like Pinch & Roska's Shoulda Roulla and the Commodo remix of Free Focus (one of my favourites). After an awesomely exhausting few hours from himself and Mala, Kahn finished his set with a personalised dubplate version of Marka, making Kahn & Neek new additions to the few DJ's I know of, to whom Dub Phizix has done the honour (Skream being another).
The end of the room 1 session coincided nicely with Loefah's set where his Jungle/Ragga vibes were a nice palate cleanse; tracks like Worries in the Dance amidst the smaller, lighter atmosphere in room 2 were a good warm down after such an intense few hours in the dark cave of music that room 1 became.
Regardless, just as many people flooded outside instead just to cool off and reminisce about what had just occurred. In fact, it's been a while since I've mentioned much about vibes in a review - partly because after a point, at Subdub (and many other nights in Leeds), the vibes are always good enough and almost don't need a mention. But something about this last Subdub was a little bit special. I partly attribute it to the fact that, everyone had pretty much paid the ticket price for those 3 hours, and no one was looking to waste the investment. Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves: no one (at least around the front/middle where I was) was overly "pushy" or annoying. Of course I got jogged etc. but that comes with the territory. No one near me was dancing obnoxiously (although I'm sure there were probably exceptions) and everyone was reacting to the music with the same amount of enthusiasm. Now with a potentially bigger session coming up at Wire in March and of course, the always-huge Subdub Birthday weekender, I feel like Dubstep's time in the "wilderness" had only served to re-establish what it stands for as a genre and more importantly, what it doesn't. Regardless of what the future holds, right now in the present, things are good.
Words by Arthur Seaward
Image courtesy of backspinpromo