The loudest night I ever went to was at Corsica Studios. A Dillinja DJ set for Ø. The bass shook the whole venue. I took my girlfriend — not a junglist — who opted to sit outside because the sensation of bass inadvertently vibrating her vocal chords was not one she found very enjoyable. On necessary breaks from the mayhem, it felt like the piss trough upstairs threatened to become violently unhinged from the wall, unleashing untold horrors on the party below.
Bass is beautiful because it shakes everything loose.
Tonight I am here for the Miss Red album launch, waiting to hear The Bug, Flowdan, Grandmixxer and the woman of the hour herself. As I enter the main area, my eye catches a succession of signs that read: “Volume levels tonight may be excessive. Hearing protection is FREE at the bar.” I haven’t seen a sign like it here before and I’d think of myself as a regular visitor. This is, however, the first time I’ve been to the venue since they installed their new Funktion One sound system — an upgrade that, I thought at the time, could not have been better timed, occurring shortly after this night was announced.
The question remained: What were my ears in for?
In truth, it wasn’t my ears that I needed to worry about. Towards the end of the night, as Miss Red menaced across the stage, roving angular, chanting over the bass stabs of recent single “Dagga“, I felt like the wound man. Dagga this, dagga that.
Teeth loose, knees swollen, back aching, a grin ripped violently across my face. Feeling battered has never felt so good.
Flowdan and Grandmixxer started the night. Grandmixxer has the best bass face I’ve seen in ages and Flowdan is surely one of London’s greatest ever MCs. Getting to hear him rattle off Bug bars, dropping version after version of “Skeng“, “Dirty“, “Horrorshow Style” amongst others, felt really special.
Early shellings, these are early shellings, he repeated throughout.
Shellings was right. A carpet bombing is not a warm-up. The night was a ruthless assault on the senses from start to finish.
Notes on gigs and records that start with the opinion-giver charting their own relationship with an artist usually grind my gears a bit, but with The Bug I feel like it’s worth giving context to the uninitiated.
In Gibson’s Neuromancer, when Case & Molly meet the two surviving founders of Zion, there is talk of hearing a “mighty dub” in the Babel of tongues signaling the “final days”. If indeed we’re living in these ‘end times’, as many predict, then there can be no more of an appropriate soundtrack for the coming apocalypse than The Bug’s “London Zoo”.
Despite this, I’ve never been to a Bug live show but for a few years now I have always found his gig postmortems on Twitter to be fascinating, offering a refreshing transparency about the struggles of bringing his sound to the world, speaking volumes (pun intended) with regards to his passion for sound quality — even (or, rather, especially) at the limits of the technical — and the vibe of the dance.
Today, the day after the night before, is no exception.
The Bug’s Twitter is basically a gig diary and a very well maintained one at that, previously making me feel like I could live the dance vicariously through his self-critical analyses in the years I spent well away from London. But those tweets gave me a strange preconception of what to expect: aural and technical mayhem.
…But wait, a deck died? I wouldn’t have known without this tweet. The occasional interruption in proceedings felt par for the course, given the vibrations we were all — meatbags and equipment — being exposed to. But even then, from my position as a bass-loving layman, the hiccups were barely worth mentioning — non-events that may as well not have happened, totally enraptured by the aural experience being provided, unlike anything I’ve previously experienced.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve felt bass. A post on Hull Fair — the square-mile of drum and bass and rollercoasters that I loved as a ’90s kid — is long overdue for that first informative experience of having your inner organs be punchbags for vibrations. But the quality of last night’s vibrations, as wanky was that might sound, was like nothing else I’ve heard or felt.
With that in mind, it’s tempting to say, “Hey Bug, don’t be so hard on yourself!” But the effort put in and composure retained when things do go wrong surely makes him one of the most impressive people in the business.
Professionalism aside, the night went off. The carpet bombing was relentless and even moments of relative quiet had the aura of distant thunder — no less menacing, only serving as a warning of what was to come.
In interviews, Miss Red and the Bug have told the story of how they met — he was playing in Israel, she was begging him to MC, he agreed, at first reluctantly, and then never looked back. Her high-pitched rapid-fire vocals are the perfect compliment to his guttural bass lines. In wanting to say anything of the music itself, there’s little else left to say. They are a match made in… heaven and hell, I suppose.
Over the course of the night, Miss Red performed two tracks from the Bug’s 2014 album Angels and Devils — “Mi Lost“, which she originally featured on, and “Fuck You“, originally performed with Warrior Queen on the album — showing that, whilst their low-high dynamic might be an obvious fit, they’re by no means complacent with it, pushing their dynamic to new places and riffing on each other throughout the course of the dance. Hearing “No Guns” was a particular highlight for me and lest we forget that Skeng riddim encore…
I love The Bug’s records and, as I continue to spend time with Miss Red’s new album K.O., I’m incredibly excited about the new places their relationship may go in the future but what I learnt last night, better late than never, is that it is on stage where these two really come alive.
Videos cannot do it justice. Pictures cannot do it justice. Reports on tech fuckups definitely don’t justice. Just get me to another Bug dance any time, any where.