Posts Tagged ‘Dubstep’

A few days ago, I manged to pick up a last minute ticket (from Last Minute Dot Com – duhhh) to see the UK’s foremost Jewish Beatboxer, Shlomo.

Staged in Waterloo’s Royal Festival Hall (in the smaller Purcell Room mind, he’s not that big!), in a seated only venue, it was not the traditional atmosphere for a beatboxing set. Having watched the show however, it was perfectly suited to this particular beatboxer.

Personally, my lasting impression of the show is that is seemed very, very middle class. Now maybe that says more about my own particular standpoint than the actual show, or maybe it’s a combination of the location and crowd (there was a couple approaching their 50’s who were proper feeling it. They were bopping their heads and tapping their knees the whole way through, especially during the Dubstep tunes!) Shlomo certainly embraces this representation though, bolstering it with a somewhat geeky dress sense in thick glasses and a spiffing jumper, and awkward Napoleon Dynamite-esque movements on stage. He wasn’t helped by a late collaboration with 2 time Vauxhall UK Beatbox Champion Reeps One whose style and flow made him look all the more poncy. The duet was apparently unplanned, which Shlomo chose to describe as “organic, dahhrllinng”. Ok, so I may have ad libbed the last bit.

Despite how negative the last paragraph sounds, it must be said that I don’t feel this ‘middle class’ representation really damaged the show. There is no question that Shlomo is an extremely talented beat boxer. He has a very developed ability but so much greater is the creativity he displays. Throughout the show he dropped various different musical styles, ascending the brassy heights of Jazz down to the bassy depths of Dubstep. He also delivered some impressive covers, including the Jackson 5 classic ‘I Want You Back’ and the Eurythmics ‘Sweet dreams’. Each cover was delightfully varied and executed with a panache that ensures he will not be forgotten any time soon. He even brought with him  some kind of mini harp, which he twanged alongside some breathy beatboxing. The most impressive element in my opinion though, was a discussion of how much bass effect is lost through the throat when beatboxing. To remedy this, Shlomo took out a second mic and placing it to his throat managed to capture a powerful bass sound whilst dropping a melody with his lips and tongue. Absolutely jaw dropping.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Mouthtronica was not just a beatbox set, instead forming an introduction to beatboxing and the techniques used. Shlomo opened the show discussing the 10 factors that combine to create a beatbox, including teeth, lips, loopstations and crowd participation. The latter two were used particularly well. As a World Loopstation Champion (a fact he regularly reiterated to the crowd), Shlomo is well suited to demonstrating the artful use of this technology. Throughout the show, he layered samples of his own voice using a loopstation, creating entire songs with a real depth of character. At one point he recorded some voice samples from audience members in the front row, and at another the cheers and claps of the crowd, using them both to create interesting tunes.

You see, Shlomo’s show was much more than just a simple beatboxing set, in fact in places it had the character of an interesting, musical lecture. Unfortunately though, a simple beatboxing set was what I hoping for. I expected a raucous, booze fuelled crowd, dancing the night away. Instead it was a much more civilised affair. The most disappointing part of the evening was the length. It was only a lacklustre hour show, for £30! Luckily we managed to get 50% off on Last Minute. Unluckily for Shlomo, this strict time frame meant that his show was scrutinised far more.

In Mouthtronica, Shlomo demonstrated that he attempts to be much more than a beatboxer. He introduces himself very much as a comedian and a story teller, both of which he is successful at…. for the most part. It’s just that with a show so short I would rather hear another few tracks instead of listening to you tell a dreary story about how you used to belly dance for your extended family as a child. I applaud the premise, in wanting to offer an all round entertainment show, one which seeks to engage those that aren’t necessarily into hiphop or beatboxing – a goal he clearly achieved. It’s just that by diluting his show in this way, Shlomo has only served to alienate those that are there for the core reason: the music.

Shlomo: He’s a Beardyman for the middle classes. Talented, articulate, with a smashing cardi. For me, the night was epitomised by the Jeffrey/Christine Archer-alikes bopping away and although I shared no affinity with them, they were bloody hilarious. Huzzah!

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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.