EVENT: Swamp81 @ Fire - 27/04/13
More Carhartt than you can shake a stick at. Girls sporting bulging rucksacks cos it’s obviously the ‘in’ thing. Joey Essex slicked-back hair everywhere. ‘Wash your finger for the minger’. Cold air jets through strobe lighting. Shoes held aloft in celebration. Packt like sardines in a crushd tin box. Sweat, gurns and footwork. All to a grimy, unrelenting miasma of beats and bass. Welcome to Swamp81 London.
If that painted a slightly disapproving picture of the night as a whole it’s worth stating right now: musically a Swamp81 night on this scale was never going to be anything short of pure vibes from start to finish. A mouth-watering lineup spread across all three rooms ensured you wouldn’t have to set up camp in Room 1 for the whole night despite the main room’s inevitable bias towards the heavyweights: Swamp bossman Loefah, Boddika, Zed Bias, Mickey Pearce, Tectonic head-honcho Pinch and Chunky with Skream playing an exclusive ‘Swamp’ set. Moving into the main room from the start became a smart manoeuvre as it quickly began to get congested, the atmosphere growing with intensity as the music was kept brooding and stripped back for the first hour or two – the scatty gunshot swagger of Mumdance & Logos’ ‘Drum Boss’ in particular making full use of the sound system’s weighty yet clean setup.
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With the heat sweltering and the anticipation for Boddika and Zed Bias’ prime-time sets growing with every passing track there was a sense of inevitability moving towards the ridiculous climax that would be the latter dropping his new Swamp single ‘Furrball’. And when that moment came, well… the room literally took off. The sort of scene you’d expect from Tiesto at Creamfields for example minus the supercheese and excessive use of fireworks. That 3 minutes or so was the perfect snapshot of what the label and its affiliated artists are about: a decidedly left-field approach to quality music production – enough to appease the chin-strokers who new all too well which snare or assembly of hi-hats belongs to which track as it was being brought in (and made sure everyone around them knew about it) – married with the simple yet delicate ability to move those in the crowd who maybe didn’t even know or care where they were let alone which artist was playing.
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Moving on from Room 1 to Lightbox to have a gander at was was going on elsewhere after Zed Bias’ supreme selection of contemporary house and oldschool grime and garage also proved a particularly astute decision. Having only heard through word of mouth how good Dusky were live, it came as an even better surprise that the reality exceeded such high expectations, tune after tune creating this above-all ‘happy’ vibe for want of a more complicated word to describe it. Given more room to buss a move than the skittle-like crowd in the main room came as a metaphorical if not literal breath of fresh air, with Harriman riding the vibe created by the Dusky boys with a set that exuded a refreshing attention to detail in terms of technical ability, a precision flow of tracks with Swamp classic Sicko Cell proving a highlight in particular. Respect to the DJ furthermore for politely declining a reload from the MC on a particularly tasty track, you tell ’em son! Excellent to see the whole set surfacing online for your further listening pleasure too:
The time was right to reach for Skream’s set, but the excruciating journey in trying to get there brings me to my next point.
Once again Fire and Lightbox’s glaring impracticality and inability to handle large crowds has been laid bare here. A warm welcome at the opening soon became hurried crowd control at key entrances throughout the hallways, I was at one point shoved back by a bouncer for mistakenly trying to enter an exit-only door that wasn’t sign-posted properly. Bars soon became inundated, queueing extensively for toilets became annoyingly standard. Yes some of the light patterns were pretty, but at what point will the paying customer begin to boycott when at times it was even too oversubscribed to be allowed to enter the main room? The same situation happened at the similarly roadblock affair that was Exit’s 10 Year Birthday. Hopefully moving forward promoters will get enough slack to help prevent overselling and thereby force them to hit the sweet spot between busy and manageable.
This minor blip on an otherwise stellar evening will nevertheless remain just that. Anyone who was there will most likely agree that the overall musical quality and diversity on display made for a pretty special night indeed.