Reviewed: Bass Day at Boiler Room Festival 2019
In October 2019 South London’s cultural and creative hub Peckham, was honoured with playing host to this year’s Boiler Room Festival. Showcasing a different underground scene each day over four days, the multi-event programme featured emerging artists from contemporary jazz, rap, bass and club.
Last month I told Data Transmission about my top picks to watch at the bass day of Boiler Room Festival, which I was lucky enough to attend. As a bass and garage DJ, and native south Londoner, I felt it my duty to experience the buzz of this hugely successful platform and its emerging acts as well as the communities they represent.
So, on Friday evening of October 11th, I made the short and familiar journey to Peckham for a showcase of some of the most exciting DJs and producers to emerge from this genre. 7 O’clock, cameraman in tow, I headed out to get our wrist bands, running in a torrential autumnal downpour. Wrist band adorned, we hurried to Peckham Liberal club to catch the last of DJ Plead, the club being one of many venues in SE15 playing host to this phenomenal urban festival.
The Liberal Club was hosted by Time Records head honcho ‘Ahadadream’ with the room’s bygone interior uplifted with Boiler Room’s neon logo in a typical Peckham dichotomy. Plead’s signature ‘Midi Eastern’ sound was a worthy opener and, as anticipated, a masterclass in percussion. The crowd at this point was bubbling away nicely (although slightly thin on the ground at 8pm). I managed to catch the familiar hook of ‘Ruby’, a personal favourite of mine, whilst we retreated to the shadows to set up the camera for the next act.
Negotiating Boiler Room Festival was no mean feat. There were multiple venues to contend with, many worthy acts to see, and biblical weather to contend with. We had to construct a feasible itinerary I decided (if not to protect the camera from the downpour). I hatched a plan to go to the shelter of Bussey Building, with 3 floors of music and Rye Wax below in its bowels. This transpired to be the main hub of the festival, the mecca of bass for the night.
After negotiating the gauntlet of security in a haze of red light and humidity, we made it to the stairwell of Bussey for around 9pm and headed straight to the top to catch Jossy Mitsu. I was impressed. The Boiler Room Empire was certainly a well-oiled machine, an airy warehouse room with just the right balance of slick branding presence, whilst still retaining an intimacy and rawness that represents an underground scene. Coolly stood behind the decks with polished manicured hands, Jossy calmly played a myriad of breaks, bass and garage like a pro, whilst the crowd slowly gathered behind her bouncing around enthusiastically, sloshing drinks in hand.
Wary to catch as many acts as we could, I perused ‘WOOV’ the handy app I was advised to download as a paperless alternative to a festival programme. No lanyards here, just an ingenious method of catching all the acts and even locating your mates. All fit for an event pioneered by the next generation.
Floor 2 was the next destination. By this point, the floor was filling up. We wrestled our way to the front to see Oblig who harnesses a grime sound, whilst subtly experimenting with nuances of breaks and garage. Stood amongst a squad of MCs and rappers, he brought a healthy dose of energy. Riz La Teef appeared out of the shadows moustached and unassuming to take over the DJ relay, placing a 12″ record on the decks like his honorary baton. As soon as the crowd heard the distinguishable chops of garage they were putty in his hands. I was transfixed at his skills; his aptitude to mix garage on vinyl, his command of the crowd, and his choice of songs. One remix of Roy Davis Jr’s garage classic ‘Gabriel’ had the crowd singing in unison. It’s those moments you realise how important music is in unifying the masses. The vibe was positive and life-affirming.
Back upstairs for L U C Y. She was on my list of ‘must sees’ and so did it seem the app I was using which had flagged her name with a yellow flame and the word ‘trending’. A handy reminder to any millennial not in the know it seemed. She was instantly recognisable, choosing her signature surgical mask and donning round glasses like some sort of genius surgeon about to dissect the decks. An up-tempo set of hers compared to some of the darker dubstep and grime sounds she’s known for. She blended one song into the next seamlessly like an infinite stream of euphoria. With energetic bass-heavy cuts reminiscent of 90’s Prodigy whilst injecting fresh and refined techno and acid house, she has cultivated a discernible L U C Y sound whilst always being versatile. ‘Hats off’ I thought. A last recognisable hit of syncopated beats of ‘Stagga’ by Adam Pits and we sauntered down to Rye Wax.
The rabbles were gathering. Huddled under a tarpaulin awning in the courtyard of the building, the crowd sheltered from a now spitting sky, plumes of vape and roly smoke infiltrating the night air. We hustled our way to the congested entrance to Rye Wax, with a steady stream of well lubricated revellers passing each other in the steep stairwell. Inside, the nostalgic sound of jungle and cosy warmth of the basement surrounded us; comforting after the hostile weather outside. We were there to see Jamie Rodigan (son of David, the legendary radio broadcaster and pioneer of reggae and dancehall). The vibe was uplifting and Jamie cheerfully played his hand-picked vinyl collection of jungle bangers. We left happy (and dryer), and after a quick whip around the building again we found shelter in the CLF hub for a brief look at our footage.
Conflicted about what to see next we decided upon Swing Ting ft. Fox at Tola; a regular haunt of mine a short walk down Rye Lane, and a favourite for party-goers on account of its late license, strong line ups, and large capacity. Notably, it was Fox who swung it for me, having been a big fan of the lyricist for some time, with his dark vocals on ‘Masterplan’ by My Nu Leng ultimately rendering it one of my all-time favourite bass tunes.
Hustling our way towards the back of the venue we found ourselves stuck in a packed dancefloor. I drank in the buoyant atmosphere whilst Jordan the cameraman hustled his way to the DJ booth. Straining my neck I caught a glimpse of a trio behind the decks with Fox playing hype man, injecting some impressive vocals into his ad-libs. Swing Ting masterfully laced Afro and Latin sounds, creating perhaps a contrasting classic Friday night vibe to the previous acts.
As the final act at Tola, we decided to call it a night, happy with our lot. Stomach’s rumbling, we decided on a pit stop to McDonalds where we looked back at the footage. Jordan had done well and I had a chance to consider some of my highlights (L U C Y and Riz La Teef being a few), and the astonishing transformation of Peckham from a somewhat overlooked South London market town into a thriving cosmopolitan cultural hub. The buzz and energy were infectious, and Boiler Room had ultimately created something in its festival that I haven’t witnessed in other festivals.
The next generation has spoken, and we’re no longer in the underground.
Check out our video presented by myself and filmed by Jordan Moore below: