DMZ 8th Birthday Review

DMZ, some of the founding fathers of dubstep, have been melting minds with sub-bass for the last 8 years, and to celebrate it, they took over Great Suffolk Street Warehouse for their biggest dance to date. Prior to the event, there had been speculation that the venue was too large to have the same vibe as previous DMZ events, and with it being a sell-out weeks in advance, it was guaranteed to be a busy and bustling evening, which surprisingly did not turn out to be an issue.


As with any large, advertised dubstep event, there is a risk of attracting a less than savoury crowd. However apart from some inevitable crushing and general busyness, the night was packed end to end with people screaming for the oldest Loefah dubs and who were clearly there with a love for music as their main prerogative. DMZ was probably the biggest gathering dedicated to solely the celebration of dubstep (as well as a number of house/techno artists from Loefah’s extended Swamp 81 family celebrating with the 140 heads) since its conception, and it was warming to see it loved by so many.

When we first arrived, I was rather shocked to find it was possible to have a conversation in both room 1 and 2, something I wasn’t expecting from RC1.It soon however showed its true colours and by the time Loefah was dropping Woo Glut, it showed no signs of dampening the experience, and threw the bass right up the tunnel, reverberating false teeth only meters from the back. By the time Chef took to the stage the rig was absolutely roaring, who said 6-7 would be a quiet set?


This DMZ was by far the largest event they have held to date, shy of the main stage of outlook, and it wasn’t without incidents. I feel I must also mention the over-zealous security at these larger events, or should I say over-handsy. There are countless mentions of over-explorative security guards, male and female, inappropriately searching people entering and exiting the venue, including in-boxer and in-bra searches, and even cases of people being demanded to empty their pockets, their belongings thrown to the floor then being told to pick them up themselves. While I agree with keeping drugs and weapons out of raves, if there isn’t strict, adhered to rules for those doing the searches, the actual basic human rights of the party-goers might be affected, providing the absolute polar opposite of the vibe DMZ are going for. One unique aspect to the security, was searching people for phones on the way out and demanding they prove it was their own, whilst being a strange and new tactic, this is a very intuitive way of finding phone thieves on nights out, and a move Spectrum fully supports.

First up we decided to start in Room 1, upon discovering the first secret guest was Kode 9, someone whose music explorations I’ve enjoyed a few times in the past, we moved through to room 2 to catch the end of Commodo. He did not disappoint, and played a similar set to System, but not one lacking uniqueness and flare, his ability to blend Kahn’s rougher grime style with modern dubstep flows both effortlessly and elegantly, a true pleasure to listen to this guy mixing. Next up was Zed Bias, who began with a few absolute bangers, such as “Battle for Middle You”, “Mercy VIP” and “Furball VIP”. Despite this energetic and exciting start, thirty minutes into his set it was time for the main event.

I’ve been watching DMZ (usually vs Loefah) probably bi-monthly since my affair with dubstep started in late 2011, and they never fail to amaze me and I’m yet to see a set that hasn’t met my now ridiculous high standards for their mixes. With 3 hours to play with, the tune selection from the 3 head honchos was varied and exciting between the usual bangers such as ‘Mud’, ‘Ruffage’ and ‘Anti-War Dub’. However the highlights personally were ‘Da Wrath’ and Mala’s gloriously atmospheric ‘Neverland’, two plates I’m not sure I have heard in a live environment. Regardless, DMZ absolutely destroyed the dance and provided what was probably one of the most iconic sets of the quad-threat’s career. Pokes brought his usual barrage of rowdy vocals and energetic accompaniment to the roaring bass, and kept everyone from the front to the back on their toes and dancing their asses off (if they weren’t trapped in the more crushed areas).


Around 3.15 we chose to catch the end of Kahn who was on fire as expected, and I planned on giving in to the Tech House demons inside me, to treat myself to Klose One’s set. Lately he has been playing a complex set blending both classics and modern dubplates focusing on technical mixes rather than “what tunes are hot”. One of the highlights of the night was “Hackney Parrot”s complex vocal rhythms double dropped with Claude von Strokes’ undressed remix of “Wut”, then moving into the dark techy “Chapel” from Paleman. This three tune mix has appeared twice now from Klose One, but just proves he is the master of uniquely blending techno and house to create what feels like completely new pieces of music. His set had the crowd going mental from start to finish, moving through all the latest Dusky and School pieces and keeping everyone on their toes. The closing 30 minutes of his hour and a half set was a blend of modern up-pace house and dubstep, going back and forth between DMZ classics and Addison groove style beats. This was a very unique and difficult take on mixing that I’ve never seen attempted live before but Klose One’s superior abilities on the buttons meant it sounded effortless and smooth, like every other mix in his set. With rumours he’s not only been blending but creating, School records are truly one to watch in the future.

Now I feel I must mention the other set happening whilst I techno’d myself out in room 2, secret guest no.2 turned out to be DMZ veteran and king of everything hard hitting and heavy, Skream. Now recently Skream has been taking stick left right and center for his choices and decisions regarding promotion, involvement with Radio 1 and supporting the growing House scene in the UK. However his set in room 1 was a start to finish trip back in time to his darker days, “Filth”, “Metal Mouth” and other pounding classics destroyed the RC1 rig, and from what everyone I know who saw the set says, he was probably the dubstep highlight of the entire night and played an absolutely obscene selection of his past productions, much like his set at this year’s outlook festival (which was truly a delight to witness).

With house and techno out of the way, it was back to dark 140bpm riddims, and few people bring a more evil sounding tune selection than the renowned Cluekid. Now, most modern DJ’s might branch out to a nice t-shirt for such a huge event, maybe even a pair of new trainers to mark the occasion, but few are as suave and sophisticated as Cluekid, who rocked probably the most exquisite suit I have seen at any dance since I started going out. His attire certainly matched the tune quality, and for the 45 minutes of his set I caught it was wall to wall bangers, Cluekid plays from an area of dubstep I personally haven’t explored, and he fitted perfectly to the vibe of the night, celebrating both new and old throughout his tune selection.


Finally it was time for the graveyard shift, and with the last tune being at 7am, Chefal was going to have a task ahead of him keeping the crowd energetic and bouncing, but the DMZ crew knew what they were doing putting this man on the final set of the night, and he provided a high energy mind blowing mix of classic tear outs from the likes of Coki and modern dubstep, with a few surprises along the way. When Chef chose to double drop “Niggas in Paris” and “Bob’s Pillow”, it is best described as an entire room of people simultaneously losing their shit. Arms and legs were thrown around everywhere, and the crowd continued to dance right up until the last tune.

The vibes and the happiness were all left intact despite the hostilities at the door. DMZ did themselves proud the 8th year in a row, and I look forward to seeing how they progress from here, with DMZ at Mass long gone, and now Exodus/DMZ in Leeds appears to have slipped into the cracks, it’s a nervous wait to see where I’ll be getting my DMZ bass-weight fix now. Vibes from start to finish and fantastic tune selection from all. See you next year and happy birthday DMZ!

Many thanks to Ashes57 for photography, head over to her facebook to check out all manner of art and photography

Written by Mike Thomas (with some small help from Andy Brennan)


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