Coming into what might potentially be my final year In Leeds, everything feels a bit bittersweet. Or maybe that’s just the mixture of winter blues and looming exams. Either way, during these dark times you always have Subdub's annual weekender to give you some reprieve. As usual the West Indian centre was the location. As arguably the most "rootsy" venue in Leeds, it's a good fit for the music and atmosphere which Subdub primarily deals in. Due to aforementioned circumstances, I could only afford both in time and money to go to one of the days of the weekender. I opted for the Friday (since I like having more than one day to recover), which would be featuring Dubstep in room 2 and of course Dub/Reggae in room 1. Fading memories of Outlook 2015 compelled me to commit to room 2 for the night, which had a slightly different format to usual: 3 back 2 back's would make up the set list, comprising of Jack Sparrow b2b TMSV, Mala b2b Coki (Digital Mystikz) and Hatcha b2b Youngsta. All 6 artists have something different to bring to the table, so seeing them combined into double acts was definitely enticing.
Opening up was Leeds native Jack Sparrow and TMSV, a Dutch producer who recently announced his decision to stop producing Dubstep (at least for now). As a result, I was interested to see how the set would progress. I arrived midway into the set to catch Jack Sparrow setting the tone in true Subdub style. He was clearly wasting no time "taking the crowd on a journey", instead opting to take the sound system on one. In particular, his remix of Gantz's Spry Sinister rumbled ominously through the building, embodying to an extent why Dubstep is to be heard through a system. Shortly after this TMSV came on for his first stint, bringing with him a different flavour of music. He played a host of 85 BPM beats featuring jungle style breaks and samples, the likes of which have become his focus since his hiatus from 140. Whilst the tempo may have changed, the atmosphere remained the same since the music still adhered to the values which Subdub pushes in all the genres it features. The most of important of which is the emphasis of course on bass, and that is something TMSV will likely never take a break from. The 85 - 100 BPM region is becoming increasingly popular among artists producing half time tracks, with producers from certain Drum and Bass labels in particular taking a liking to it. Alix Perez is one of them, and his track with Foreign Beggars Modus was a guaranteed pull-up when TMSV threw it in the mix.
Next up was the one and only Digital Mystikz, aka Mala b2b Coki. It had been a long a time since I had seen Mala and Coki performing without Loefah at a Subdub Weekender, and I wondered whether it would affect the songs they would select. I was pleasantly surprised by the result, with the set being less predictable then it sometimes is when the 3 are all together. That isn't a criticism, but I do think that when they are as a 3, they are more prone to do a set of mainly classics. This time round, whilst there were plenty of vintage tracks getting thrown out, there was also a great deal of fresh material from a variety of artists. Special mentions go to the Kaiju bootleg of Changes, Commodo's Lightz (a bootleg of Kanye's "All of the Lights") as well as his unreleased F_ck Mountain VIP. There were exclusives aplenty in general - Hunter VIP being another - but it was still backed by lots of the usual suspects, like Coki's Goblin, Mala's Eyez VIP and Loefah's System. This overall made for a satisfying set which hit all the right buttons, especially (at least for me) when for their last song, Mala played Spyro's so-far-unreleased track Top a Top. I have been rinsing radio clips of it for what feels like an eternity, so hearing it played from it's start at that place and time definitely ended the set on a high note.
Finally rounding off the night would be Hatcha b2b Youngsta, who seem to be making this a more regular thing since their successful set at this year's Outlook Festival. They have the unique status as some of the only big names in the scene who have 1. Been involved since the beginning (Hatcha supposedly coined the name "Dubstep") and 2. Are first and foremost DJs. Naturally this makes them pretty well matched for each other, and you could really see how into it both of them were getting. Not to be outdone by their predecessors on the set list, they brought out their own collection of exclusives and bangers. The Lost edit of Benga's "26 Basslines" was a crowd pleaser, as was Commodo's remix of "Pocosink" which rightly garnered two reloads. They also showcased their individual mixing abilities, which is pretty much been their USP since the early 2000s. Notable mentions include when Youngsta played what sounded like the vintage Dracula film score before dropping DMZ's Earth a Run Red, as well as a mix of Mala's Alicia with Skream's Make Me. All of this was tied together with SP:MC on the mic, along with Crazy D and Brakeman, whose hosting really was the finishing touch.
As usual I've come away from the weekender feeling like it was the best one yet. Usually I revise that opinion that changes year on year. However, since that may well be the last one I get to attend for a long time, I won't have that luxury. Still, if that is to be my lasting memory of the weekender, I'm glad it's good one.
Words by Arthur Seaward
Photos courtesy of Real Roots