Mr Scruff – Live @ Koko, October 2011

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Music, Published Work, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Originally published in London Student Newspaper October 2011.

Appearing for the eleventh time at Koko, it seems that quirky British DJ Mr Scruff has taken up residency at the former Camden Palace Theatre. Initially, the high ceilings, red curtains and royal balconies seem at odds with the decks and projector screens stationed on stage. The modern meets the traditional, with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen left to cower in horror. Yet, somehow it all merges together beautifully.

Scruffy transforms Koko into one massive dancefloor

The theatrical decadence of the main venue fades amidst the darkness with only vibrant red and blue lights directing attention towards the stage. Mr Scruff starts proceedings with a compelling mix of soul and jazz, easing the slowly filtering fans into a night destined for big beats, heavy drops and powerful bass. As the night continues, a captive audience are treated to a wide selection of Drum and Bass, Spanish Folk and even some contemporary Dubstep thrown in for good measure, all immeasurably enhanced by Koko’s incredible sound system. On the dance floor, the bass is inescapable with palpable vibrations in your ears and chest, impressive considering the size of the venue. Interspersed throughout his seamless, unknown mixes are some recognisable favourites including ‘Buggin’ Out’ by A Tribe Called Quest and Too Short classic, ‘The Ghetto’.

Energy is consistently high both in terms of the set being played and the enthused crowd. Everyone is on their feet grooving the night away, even those tucked upstairs in the viewing gallery. A quick span of the brimming venue is all you need to witness just how universally loved Mr Scruff is and by such an interesting concoction of people. His deliberate focus on fun manages to draw in an audience that is impossible to pigeon-hole, from city bankers to trance fanatics. Young and old come together and do all that is possible when faced with a Scruff set: dance, with genuine joy and no pretensions.

Well, would you?

As captivating and varied as Mr Scruff’s set has been up until this point, it has to be said that there is a disappointing lack of songs from his studio albums. Undeniably, Scruff puts on a breathtaking set, but for those seeing him live for the first time, you would forgive them the feeling of being slightly short-changed. Coming to see an artist with 6 albums, especially one who is known for playing marathon 6 hour sets, you would no doubt expect that a generous percentage would be devoted to the songs that fans are clearly there to experience live.

Fortunately however, in the closing hour of the show Scruff rewards those loyal fans who remain with a few choice selections from his catalogue of albums. These included ‘Vibrate’, a bouncey, hiphop fuelled track featuring Braintax, perhaps Scruff’s most recognisably wacky song ‘Fish’, and as a well-timed remedy for early morning fatigue, the fittingly titled ‘Get a Move On’. A late inclusion of a new track labelled only as ‘new scruff tune’ on the screens met a riotous reception from the crowd with its chest-shaking bass. Due for release early next year, it’s an exciting insight into Scruff’s upcoming releases.

Want a brew?

As you would expect from songs like ‘Ahoy There!’, Mr Scruff’s gigs are delightfully quirky. His set is accompanied throughout by cutesy animated projections of chubby, animal-like creatures, all created by his own hand. Particular favourites are those dressed in chef’s hats, banging away on biscuit tins and tea pots with a rolling pin as tunes begin to drop; familiar Scruff territory. As you’ll soon learn from attending a Mr Scruff show, he is a strong advocate of tea drinking, somewhat odd at a rave. Alongside CD’s and shirts, the merch stall also offers a charming collection of mugs, flavoured tea bags and even hot tea for sale, all from Mr Scruff’s very own Make us a Brew tea company. Not quite your average round at the bar then.

With Mr Scruff’s refusal to play more than a handful of his own tracks, tonight didn’t really have the customary feel of a tour date. Instead, with refreshingly varied mixes it seemed a little more like a club night hosted by a guest DJ. Fortunately though, the fascinating visuals and tea induced hangovers ensured that the gig was inescapably Scruffy. An incredible venue hosts a multi-talented DJ to resounding success. In Scruff’s own words, ‘Amazing crowd energy and great sound made it a real pleasure to play all night’. And to listen, Scruff, and to listen.

To hear Mr Scruff’s Koko set in its entirety please go to http://soundcloud.com/mr-scruff/mr-scruff-koko-oct-2011, or catch him live in February 2012.

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