Friday 5th of February saw the welcome return to Bristol of Deep Medi, the label that has firmly cemented its place among dubstep royalty over the decade since its inception. Expectations were high all round, with the lineup reading like a who’s who of the best and most interesting names in dubstep – Kaiju, Tunnidge, Compa, Gantz, Silkie, Kromestar and label boss Mala (but unfortunately/surprisingly no appearance from Bristol natives Kahn and Neek AKA Gorgon Sound).
As is often the case before events like this, there were rumblings online over the suitability of the in-house soundsystem, with some making desperate pleas for the Deep Medi crew to bring in something more appropriate. Upon arrival it seemed as though the calls had been heeded; the bass was instantly heavy hitting, serving as more than enough to support everything that was thrown at it. In reality the Motion team had been hard at work adapting and enhancing their own system to more than acceptable levels, as if to prove the pessimists and naysayers wrong. Similarly pleasing was the decision to lower the decks into the front of the stage, so the DJs were almost eye level and arm’s length rather than being elevated and distant as is sometimes the case. It is little things like this that strengthen the idea of the inclusive community that Deep Medi prides itself on being; the artists aren’t bigger or more important than the fans.
The main room filled rapidly as the crowds flocked inside to escape the frankly offensive Bristolian weather. It was clear - as is typical of dubstep events like this - that no one was there by accident. People had come from far and wide for the night (with some on Facebook talking of journeys from Belgium and the Netherlands) which made for a receptive and energetic crowd.
It was Compa who had just stepped up to the decks when we arrived (unfortunately Tunnidge and Kaiju had already played) and the young producer showed why he’s being heralded as the new face of dubstep. As someone who was just entering his teens when the Deep Medi label was formed it’s exciting to see a DJ and producer who clearly has a deep respect for what has come before, but who also manages to look forwards and consistently produce new and interesting sounds. And his set was exactly that, a coherent mix of the classics (Changes, Disco Reckah, Weh Dem a Do) and no shortage his own tracks, edits and dubplates.
Gantz was next, and there’s nothing much to say other than it was exactly what you’d want from a Gantz set. Intriguing as ever, and with plenty to show from a recent collaboration with Commodo and Kahn (as well as an outing for new Kahn and My Nu Leng collaboration ‘Ruins’ which premiered just last week), the Istanbul native confirmed exactly why I’d been wanting to see him for so long.
Silkie changed things up once more, with a bass heavy set that brought in more electronic elements of the dubstep sound, with aspects of grime, trap and what might once have been described as ‘purple’ (although I’m pretty sure no one has called in that for some time). Arguably my favourite set of the night, it was packed with what were presumably potential new releases on Silkie’s relaunched Antisocial label, and it also gained marks for including an all-time personal favourite in the form of Benga’s ‘Crunked Up’.
By the time head honcho Mala stepped up to the decks at 3.30, the anticipation and crowd excitement was at a high. There was no mistaking who was in charge of this whole affair, and the man who can justifiably be called a legend of the genre did not let down his adoring fans. As you might expect, it was full from start to finish heavily dub influenced tracks, which he interlaced with the perfect amount of classics and crowd favourites to sustain the sky high levels of excitement and energy and keep smiles on everyone’s faces as the soundsystem was noticeably turned up a notch or two.
Closing the night was Kromestar, who played an unsurprisingly heavy set to those that stuck around after Mala had finished (the room didn’t quite empty, but noticeable numbers felt they’d seen what they came for). We left about half way through whilst Kromestar was doing what he does best (although quite why Goblin needed 3 wheel-ups having already been played twice across the night I’m not entirely sure).
Overall the whole thing was a masterclass in how to put on a dubstep night, from the aforementioned physical set up, the set timings and in particular the set order. Each DJ had their hour to exhibit their distinct sound, with no act sounding too similar to the one that had come before. Compa displayed his obvious admiration of Mala and the archetypal Deep Medi sound, Gantz took things in his own unique direction, Silkie brought the bassier, more electronic and less dub/reggae influenced sound before Mala proved why he’s the man so many people admire. The ‘market’ being as it is, nights like this don’t come around as often as those for other genres, but if anything that makes them all the more special when they do.