Reviewed: 25 Years of Metalheadz
It started out in 1994 as a night taking place in the rundown Blue Note night club in Hoxton every Sunday, where the crowd was so minimal Goldie could breakdance and a pipe above the DJ booth would drip sweat on the DJs and their records. But last weekend pioneering drum and bass label Metalheadz celebrated 25 years in the game with a historic day event now being talked about as one of the best raves ever, let alone this year.
When label founders Goldie, Kemistry and Storm first started their Sunday Sessions, battling for the time of day in a scene very much in its infancy, never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined the label would be celebrating such an illustrative milestone in one of London’s most prestigious venues – Printworks.
Celebrating 25 years of one of drum and bass’ oldest labels inside a venue as outstanding as Printworks felt right – like it was always meant to be the place Metalheadz celebrated such a monumental achievement. The industrial, stripped back feel of Printworks stylishly harked back to the origins of the rave scene in which the label made its name.
The line-up could not have been more suited to the occasion either. As a label who defined the genre we now love so dearly, it was only right to produce a line-up featuring some of the names who were there at the beginning.
Goldie, Doc Scott, Fabio & Grooverider, DJ Zinc, Storm, Randall – this was a line-up filled with legends. Too often nowadays we throw around the term legends too easily, but these acts deserve the title. However, they only represented part of the line-up.
Upon entering Printworks it was clear to see how different the crowd was to other drum and bass events. Filled with older heads proudly repping their Metalheadz tees, it was evident this event was to be a euphoric trip back in time for many.
Nostalgia turned out to be the theme of the day. Metalheadz Printworks was more than just an event, it was an opportunity for people to relive their upbringing and the music culture defining it with one big celebration in the capital where it all started.
From the early stages of the event where David Rodigan dropped ‘Original Nuttah’, took his shirt off and proceeded to swing it in the air, to DJ Zinc unleashing ‘Super Sharp Shooter’ and the crowd going wild, all of the classics were celebrated like they were brand new dubplates.
It’s no surprise as to why the crowd were so amped up when you consider the main stage was situated in the press halls – an incredible long room lined with pillars and balconies, alongside moving light grids above the crowd producing dazzling visual displays.
The goose-bump feeling you get walking into the room for the first time and seeing the arsenal of lights can only be likened to being a child at Christmas who gets their first glimpse of presents under the tree. It’s truly magical.
It was when My Nu Leng took to stage that the atmosphere started to build inside of the venue. As two DJs renowned for bassline, some may have questioned their inclusion on the line-up, but what they may not realise is My Nu Leng grew up on early drum and bass.
This passion for the music was clear to see, with both of them reeling through classics and reacting to each other’s drops. The diversity in their sets is what makes My Nu Leng such a privilege to watch, particularly when they blend classics with modern big hitters. Mixing LTJ Bukem’s ‘Atlantis’ with Benny L’s ‘Vanta Black’ was the perfect example of this – one causing a raucous response from the crowd.
Another act with deeper musical roots was the event’s special guest – Skream, who performed a one-off hardcore set. I can still remember when Skream played dubstep, but his hardcore roots were news to me.
He took the music back even further with original breakbeat sounds that made me feel like I had been transported back to the old school rave videos you see online at the likes of Lydd Airport. It was a history lesson.
Remembrance was another theme for the day. We were not just celebrating 25 years of Metalheadz music, we were remembering the people who played their part in the journey of a genre but sadly could not be around to join in the celebrations.
This was drilled home during Storm b2b DJ Flight, with MC GQ telling Flight to pull the track so he could pay tribute to Spirit, Marcus Intalex and all of the fallen soldiers. One of which was Kemistry, who surely was looking down on this momentous Metalheadz celebration with a big smile on her face.
Alongside the press halls, there was also a room two operating at the event. Taking place in the dark room, which is quite literally the darkest room you will come across at a rave, the line-up included Scar, Zero T and Benny L. The latter of which I tried to see but the room was so busy there was a queue snaking out of the entrance.
It was near impossible to tear yourself away from the main room though. One of the reasons for this was the immense 3D visuals that had been increasing in intensity all day along with the pace of the music.
As Fabio & Grooverider took to stage, an image of a huge glitter figure appeared on the screen above them. Looking like an Eric Prydz style hologram running towards the crowd, gasps and cheers echoed through the press halls as the crowd were left stunned by what they were witnessing.
The visuals throughout their set were breath-taking, and this reflected the brilliance of the music as Fabio & Grooverider produced arguably the performance of the day, with the music ramping up to new levels when Grooverider took control of the decks.
Their drawn out build ups launching into heavy drops had both the crowd and GQ going crazy, who was constantly going up to the decks demanding rewinds from the duo.
It was fitting for Fabio & Grooverider to play before the final set because their performances in the seminal days of Rage inspired both of the DJs closing the event – Goldie and Doc Scott.
It was an emotional ending to the day. As the sound of John B’s ‘Pressure’ provided a euphoric introduction to the set, combined with incredible 3D imagery of a figure being circled by a light cylinder, we were reminded by MC Blackeye that we were all a part of history. A history that began in Blue Note nightclub with sweat dripping down the walls.
Goldie and Doc Scott finished the event with the most energetic performance of the night, filled with a flurry of modern heavy bass slaps mixed in a with the classic breakbeat sound defining the foundations of the label.
It was a perfect representation of the evolution of Metalheadz – a label that not only is the root of a music culture we are desperately trying to protect, but one that has never been afraid to push the boundaries of innovation to create something new.
Printworks and Metalheadz, you were something truly special to experience.