This night felt like a pilgrimage. Getting there took a train journey from Sheffield to London; getting back, a long journey by foot via an old droving path in the early hours, to Hackney; via London Fields, with glowing blossom, while artful foxes stared at us.
It was a nice little meet up in the Barley Mow. This tiny little Victorian pub was my regular haunt over a decade ago when I worked on Rivington street. Dan, who is an old reggae head, translated from Brixton to Hackney and my host for the night, runs into an old friend as soon as we arrive, a guy who went to see the Abyssinians with us last year. I regard this as a good omen, given the connections I’ve been feeling between the spiritual overload of the Abyssinians, and of Shaka, with dubstep, and hence with Bash. Springtime vibes! Then the ever avuncular Martin comes over and I embarrass him by saying what a great writer he is, and it’s not long before John Eden shows up. I get a text from Woebot saying he is – surprise! – on his way, and one phone call and a few seconds later he arrives, resplendent in Stussy T-shirt and one of the nicest fleeces I’ve seen in a long time. (I’d like to say that one of Matt’s perks from his moonlighting as a restaurant reviewer is that he gets access to the latest threads from his colleagues in the style section, and that I anticipate him doing a Trinny and Suzzana soon, but of course, it wouldn’t actually be true…) The delightful and charming Boomnoise makes his entrance, before my gaze locks with a mysterious, wryly smiling, rakish figure across the bar… for it is Marcus.
To my surprise and delight, we have assembled what is effectively a Dissensus posse.
A quick trip to one of the worst shitholes in Shoreditch later (fuck knows why we went there but it did at least provide a violent contrast with Plastic People) and we were in – well, me and Dan were, we couldn’t stomach that place for long. I’d turned down a guest list we were sitting at a table in seconds anyway, soaking up the roots and lovers that Loefah was dropping. I really wish he’d been playing later because his selection was magnificent. It wasn’t really syrupy UK lovers, but big, fat, rolling dancehall with romantic slow-paced vocals. Sadly the place wasn’t that full by that stage, but then, Loefah going on first meant that Bash’s strategy of putting women centre stage was intact.
And so to Mary Ann Hobbs, who acquitted herself well despite a touch of nerves. Opening with Anti-War Dub, she moved on to some Sizzla and a bunch of roots, doing some nice set construction by noticeable taking everything down in the middle before slamming back in with a rocking Barrington Levy / Roots Radics tune.
I popped out mid-set to say than you to Space Ape for his superb set on Friday, and he said how much he and Mala had enjoyed playing Steel City. (Like, it seems, everyone else in the dubstep scene, he is an incredibly nice person.)
Yes, it would’ve been “better” to have had Loefah on second, but Mary Ann built the vibe just fine. Dan, who knows her quite well, gave her a big hug as she left the booth; lets have a few more live sets please MAH…
The Bug’s set was a real musical highlight; I’ll remember it for a very long time. As usual he was mixing high-tech JA ragga with his own angular distortion, but this time he was setting this against two – yes two – quite fantastic female vocalists. For we had the magnificent Nicolette, who was repeatedly and deservedly bigged up for being the Nina Simone of dancehall, by post-punk’s genius of skank, the irrepressibly dynamic Ari Up. Both were, well, brilliant.
Nicolette added righteous jazz-inflected roots vocals whose startling tonal inflections – all fifths, sevenths and other twisted but perfect harmonics – crunched gloriously against the body slam vibrations generated by the Bug.
But then her honeyed flow gave way to Ari Up’s fabulously tight, syncopated MCing which was a perfect contrast with Nicolette’s voice. The impact was multiplied as they continually swapped the Mic through each riddim.
Not everyone liked Ari as much as me, and it was amusing the way she kept telling off Kevin Martin for playing too fast and too hard, but then again – errr – she was right. But this just added to the fun. In the end the combination was just devastating and it all came together on an extended, hyperkinetic Bionic Ras section.
And near the end of the set a third voice was added to the mix – a gorgeous a country soul version of female roots that was a bit of revelation – I think her name was Diana Love but I’m trying to check.
And then, basically, Flight slew dem.
With Pokes back on the mic she assumed control of the booth with stentorian musical authority. Sticking firmly to a blue print of 100 per cent classic 70s and 80s roots, dancehall and especially dub, she injected the night with some much desired soul and dread. Clearly Flight is an expert and unimpeachably confident selector; the crowd was just putty in her hands all the way through, cheering every Tubby rocker and sticking with her right into the ska and rocksteady climax. Yes, truly, rocked it.
Around now Loefah is holding court at the bar, and I’m talking cod with strangers and friends of all ages, making up for spending the night carousing rather than circulating. Kode 9 reflects that, no matter how much he loves dubstep, he’s missing that dark garage swing, and I agree. It’s the end of a fine night, and it’s time to head off into the balmy night for a drift across a silent, deserted, dark-of-the-moon London. It is quite beautiful. We get back to Dan’s at 3.00 and I don’t think I slept till 4.00. Dan’s awoken before six by the baby; I make it through til 7.30. A long night and a short sleep and long journey home, and I am buoyed up.
In the brutal, cold light of day this Bash was not perhaps as great as the first two; the energy levels were a bit uneven. But with a handful of dubstep nights now being put on in strip clubs, it was a gentle assertion of the real inner values of the dubstep scene, even if filtered by that scene’s showcasing of a related music. And it works. Despite the fact that Rhythm and Sound are playing with Skream across town in Ladbroke Grove, the room is full, more so than at the first Bash. It’s a bit more than just another club night, is Bash.