The announcement of the first Tokyo Dub festival brought a smile to many faces. The much respected promoters have built up a reputation that extends beyond their home in Bristol. Smiles were multiplied when the line-up was announced which featured such an extensive list of artists across a broad range of genres. One of the best features of the line-up was the announcement of the sound systems which would be providing the weight on the day, with sound systems from across the UK getting involved including VIVEK’s System rig, Iration Steppas and the notorious RC1.
Our day started with local legend Pinch on the System stage. Upon our arrival he was playing one of his incredible collabs with Sherwood, ‘Bring Me Weed’. Playing a vinyl only set he showed his deep collection of old and new dubstep though with a few forays into techier sounds; a particular highlight was ‘Ricochet VIP’.
Kahn and Neek followed Pinch on the potent System rig and showcased their Gorgon Sound project including ‘Righteous Dub’; a Spectrum favourite from their recent EP on Peng Sound. Kahns own ‘Dread VIP’ and a dub remix of ‘Way Mi Defend’ were also worked in to massive cheers from the assembled crowd.
Over on the main stage, Boddika was presenting a prime mix of grooving and pounding techno but to limited audience response due to sound issues. In the process of setting up for Neville Staples the sound was massively reduced which made it impossible to really appreciate the music unless you were in the front few rows of the crowd. Credit is due to Boddika though as he powered through and did the best with what he had.
The persona and character of Neville Staples was felt as soon as he stepped on stage and was enhanced by the quality of the band assembled around him. Their ska stylings rapidly gathered a large crowd of people happily bopping away. As was to be expected ‘A Message To You Rudi’ garnered the biggest sing along of the day and put a joyful feeling in the air.
Back on the System stage, Breakage presented his own distinctive style; a combination of 4×4 dubstep, trap and drum & bass. Throughout the set VIVEK was frantically fiddling with his sound system and really bringing the bass. At points the rig was almost reaching the earth shattering sound it produces at its home venue; The Dome.
The festival was closed in style by original dubstep don and all round badman, Coki. His inimitable style of heavy, organic bass and piercing and aggressive synth lines had the crowd jubilantly skanking until the clock struck eleven. His selection of dubplates and classic releases included his remix of ‘Wah Dem A Do’, ‘On Board’ and even some lesser known songs which fit to his aggressive synth heavy style.
The Tokyo Dub guys had yet another master stroke with the after party; they chose to put the event across four different venues in Stokes Croft with a wristband that allowed access to them all. So for the stamina crew it was time for the short walk over and to get the party back in gear.
The only downside arose when there was no indication of when any of the artists who had been announced would be playing or even where. So after a little bit of guesswork we found ourselves at the Old Coroners Court; a much loved, battered old building which has become a top notch party venue. We arrived just in time to see the second half of Zed Bias’s set. He played an unusual array of more bass heavy tracks, still taking elements from house and garage but less recognizable which made me believe he was reaching further back through his collection that normal.
Next up was Sukh Knight, who I have been eager to see since about 2008. Him and Squarewave went b2b and shot through the usual Starfleet style synth heavy head nodders with finesse and ease; throwing tune after tune at the crowd. They dropped some really special pieces, old and new, including Kromestar’s VIP of ‘Mere Shar’ (or Lion’s Theme) and even the timeless classic ‘Ganja’.
Following them was Loefah, who in recent times has distanced himself from the 140 sound outside of DMZ sets and rarely takes it upon himself to play an unannounced dubstep set. Only that is exactly what he did here. The room these sets were in was the perfect musical space; a pitch black tall rectangle with interesting illuminations across the walls and hangings and, most importantly, a huge rig at the front. It was the perfect environment for Loefah to do another of his time travel sets featuring some of the best dubstep ever made. ‘Goat Stare’, ‘Poison Dart’, ‘Midnight Request Line’, ‘Tree Trunk’ and many other classics had the crowd going absolutely mental. He even played a few surprise tunes such as James Blake’s ‘CMYK’ and the Ramadanman refix of ‘Woo Glut’, a tune that will never get old. This set was a highlight of the entire day, not just for the nostalgia value but also for the crowd appreciation and atmosphere it set.
Our evening was polished off after a short walk over to Blue Mountain, riding high on rumours that Kahn and Neek would be playing a graveyard grime shift here. At 4.10, ten minutes after their supposed start time it was looking unlikely they were coming on but that quickly flipped at the arrival of the notorious pair. To say the set was ridiculous would be a gross understatement after the seemingly endless barrage of unique grime dubplates. A remix of ‘Woo Glut’ really pricked my ears and a vocal refix of ‘Midnight Request Line’ meant I had completely lost my mind by about half way through. This set was played to a minuscule crowd, which whilst a shame really gave the feeling that everyone left there had made the absolute most of their day.
Overall the day and night combined to provide an extremely satisfying day of music, with such a wide range of genres being catered for in some way or another. People at this festival seemed generally happier than other places I have been in the UK, a certain level of arrogance and lack of respect for others can be found rife across UK locations at the moment and here none of that was present. There was an endless supply of smiling faces, some more intoxicated than others, from start to finish and Tokyo Dub just rightfully earned its place as one of the best musical days I have ever experienced.
Be sure to check out Tokyo Dub on Facebook for info on upcoming events:
Written By Andy Brennan and Michael Thomas