With Hospitality set to gatecrash The Gallery in Maidstone this coming Friday, we look back to Christmas when other heavyweights walked amongst us…
Over the course of the past few months the town has been gifted by the presence of some of the biggest promoters in bass music: Def:inition, In Ya Face andDrumsoundz. The result has been an influx of talent, ranging from Eksman and Majistrate to Logan D and IC3. Undisputedly, the biggest of the lot had been reserved for tonight: Resonate: D&B present Chase & Status + MC Rage. Enough to get even the most casual observer of drum & bass excited. Christmas had arrived four nights early and the lunatics were about to takeover the asylum.
After Nic Fanciulli’s much publicised exploits in the town, you could be forgiven for assuming Maidstone might be a place unable to see past its infatuation with house music. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In speaking to wily scene-veteran Jungle Ed – who would also be playing on the night – he enthused about the region’s rich bass lineage and the part it played at the dawn of rave.
We recall our own fond memories of the scene. Thursday nights at The Loft, hosted by Skibadee & Shabba. For many of us, it was our first experience of underground clubbing. Our first exposure to music away from commercial radio. In many cases, our first dabble with narcotics. Lifelong friendships were formed on those formative Thursday nights. And lifestyle paths were set, of which many of us continued on to this day.
Perhaps equally as interestingly, was the venue itself, which had recently undergone a transformation. In a past life, it was a place to go be seen; a place to go pull. Or watch the latest Z-list flavour of the month bludgeon a “DJ set”. This wasn’t a venue to get lost down the rabbithole. A glorified cattle market inspired by the likes of Sugarhut and lifted right from the script of a reality TV docu-drama. Quite literally, vajazzle-d. Or, rolled in glitter – take your pick.
But following a refurb, a new management team drafted in and rung the changes. Posturing for Instagram likes and sparklers in spirit magnums have been replaced, in favour of a relaxed dress code and renewed focus on sound quality. The installation of a suped-up Funktion One soundsystem underlining their intent. This new clubbing experience is one for audiophiles. And then there are the lasers. Oh, the lasers!
The wildcard thrown into the mixer, was the day itself. “Builders Friday” AKA the last working Friday in Advent – also referred to amongst door personnel as Mad Friday or Black-Eyed Friday, owing the scenes of mayhem often exhibited. We would later discover, that any suggestion of high-jinx and skylark would manifest in an entirely positive manner.
Drum & bass has done much to change public perception in the past decade. Arguably a change of image was highly needed. As one of the prominent crossover acts, Chase & Status have played a vital part in that rebrand. They, along with other chart invaders DJ Fresh, Pendulum and Sub Focus helped usher in an era where D&B could be found on Radio 1’s daytime playlist. Where its stars could headline stages at 10,000 capacity festivals. No longer associated with dodgy geezers wearing Stone Island, rude boys with suped-up Novas, adolescents with ADHD and resin afro-clouds. In the modern day, their success has helped paved the way for the next generation: the Rudimentals, the Sigmas and the Wilkinsons.
After huge headline shows at Motion Bristol, Printworks and Dreamland’s The Hall by the Sea, this gig might be considered a little lower key. Not that the impressive Gallery can can be accused of being intimate. The grand chandelier shimmering above the dancefloor did seem odd artefact hovering above a rowdy D&B crowd. But the high-grade lasers cutting through the vast overhead space put us more in home territory. Rage’s bark sounded as dope as always, while Saul moved through some favourites from the back-catalogue and, we assume, some of the latest material as yet unfamiliar. Short, but sweet. With imminent family-time very much at the front of our conscious, we ducked out soon after the headline act had finished-up. But we left happy to concede that our misconceptions about the validity of the venue had been exactly that. Any bruises we walked away with, were inflicted as consenting participants in over-exuberant dancefloor activity. Drum & bass is a force for good, in the season of goodwill.
During the intermission between Xmas and New Year, we got to spark those nostalgia-laced synapses, as Pure Science made a pitstop with an Atomics reunion. Perhaps more salivating still, is the prospect of Hospitality gracing the town this coming Friday (1st February). With no less than Danny Byrd and Metrik in tow. For now, we must sit idly by and wait for RTRNIIJUNGLE to finally see the light of day! (it’s soon, we’re reliably informed.) Fortune favours the patient.
Was there carnage on the streets? No. But on the dancefloor? Oh my! Annihilated. This unassuming market town in Mid-Kent has laid a claim as a utopic D&B stronghold. On reflection, we struggle to recall a time when that wasn’t the case.
Tickets for Gallery Fridays present Hospitality Kent on 1st Feb are available here