Bristol’s reputation for bass-driven nights was something I was well aware of before moving down to the south west. The well-documented emergence of dubstep as the natural successor to drum ‘ bass is no fallacy, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. While dubstep as a genre certainly influences a lot of the city’s artist, the work of Joker, Appleblim, Gatekeeper or Gemmy is hardly in keeping with London-based counterparts like Benga, Skream or N-Type . Cited as being “a bit too cerebral” for a lot of heads, Bristol is far more eclectic than the handful of labels like Skull Disco and Tectonic, picked up on in the mid-noughtieswpuld have you believe.
The biggest promoters in the city (The Blast, Donuts, Monster Bass) all create nights based around bass, dubstep and ‘wonky’, with most promoting at least one of the scene’s big djs/producers at their club events. Donuts (also responsible for Crazy Legs) are arguably the most interesting promoters in city, with a welcome habit of booking at least three big name djs for their promotions, which usually take place in one of the city’s more intimate venues such as Basement 45 or, if necessary, the larger well know venues such as Thekla and The Bunker. Their nights feel like a Numbers at Glasgow’s Sub Club or Chibuku when it was at the Lemon Lounge; intimate, well-thought-out and fun.
When most of the dance community were holed up on a Mediterranean island getting ready for the closing parties in August, Donuts were busy putting on Bristolian wonder kid Gemmy alongside fellow Bristolians Mensah, Superisk and DJ Amo. That was shortly followed with a Hessle Audio showcase on the August Bank Holiday special with Untold, Ramandanman, James Blake, Pangaea and Ben UFO touching deck aboard the Thekla.
What makes Donuts so special is that they absolutely do not rest on their laurels. September saw them assemble one of the most anticipated nights Bristol has seen in recent years for their second birthday. At Crash Mansion the crew had ten mystery djs to play back-to-back, causing a huge amount of internet hype as heads like Jackmaster and Mosca tried to find out who was involved. It was a ballsy move which created a huge atmosphere on the day, as Marcus Nasty, Smutlee, Martelo, CRST, Deadboy, Doc Daneeka and Julio Bashmore helping create a serious roadblock affair.
Bristol was also blessed with the In:Motion events which started this autumn. Held at the skatepark-come-warehouse rave venue just behind Temple Meads station, the promotions are the south west’s answer to The Warehouse Project in Manchester and, like its predecessor, In:Motion runs from October through until NYE. Like the north west event In:Motion offers a broad range of nights, (the majority being pinned to drum n bass or dubstep), but nights hosted by Ninja Tune and Rephlex offer something a little more niche. The In:Motion launch saw Bloc curate a night consisting of Detroit master Green Velvet playing alongside Dirtybird’s Claude Von Stroke and London legend Andrew Weatherall. Donuts also got in on the act again with a Crazy Legs vs Urban Nerds event which was an homage to 2-step and UKG, with Sticky, Ms Dynamite and DJ EZ sharing the billing with rising stars like Deadboy, Mosca and Mz Bratt. Big things all in all.
Alongside the might of In:Motion there were several nights in October which stood out in Bristol, not least Monster Bass 4. Though sounding like the title of a 60s b-movie, the event took the shape of a dub-focussed line-up featuring Mungo’s Hi-fi and their 40k soundsystem, graced by the likes of Peverelist, Lil Silva, Poirer, Serocee, Lady Chann and my favourite Bristol selector Dub Boy.
There was also a return to the city for the mighty Plastician. For true dub heads there was also the Teachings in Dub sessions which were part of the city’s Black History Month celebrations and focused on roots music, soundsystem culture and was a collaboration between dub selector DJ Stryda and the university’s reggae society.
Subloaded hosted one of the most impressive In:Motion line ups that stayed true to the collectives dub and early dubstep roots. Mala and his Digital Mystikz partner Coki played alongside Loefah, Dub Boy, Rooted Records owner Peverelist and Pinch and hosted by scene stalwarts Crazy D, Sgt. Pokes and Dread MC. A night for purists and heads who are interested in the deepest of bass.
For fans of bass-driven music autumn is a fruitful time in Bristol. The In:Motion nights are gathering pace and smaller promoters like Donuts are finding even more ways to deliver impressive nights – it’s enough to make you look forward to shorter days and longer nights, and that’s exactly how I intend to spend my winter.
Words // Lanre Bakare
Download // Plastician & P-Money’s ‘History of Dubstep set live from Thekla here