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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2012 1:03 pm 
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Location: Pak Kok Village
Skream and Benga at Fly 14/1/2012

by Nick the Bookman

It's time for another evening of jollity and musical mayhem at Fly. Skream and Benga are coming to Hong Kong to lay down the gospel regarding dub step. They're considered (by Chester, the main man at Fly) to be among the top five proponents on the world. Brain melting loud noises and seismic sub bass assaults are going to be very much in aural evidence. Can't wait.

I've arrived at Fly about 2230. There's a large queue waiting for entry. Obviously the word has spread. I'm hoping I'll be among the lucky punters, but I don't want to join the throng and shuffle forward at a relative speed of a foot per minute. So I amble forward with a suitably abstract air and hope there's a loveable "door nazi" on duty. Just kidding there. I've been welcomed happily on my previous excursions to Fly, which is now among my top choices for a great musical night out. Ah, there's Chester himself at the door. We exchange belated Xmas/New Year greetings. I tell him I was gutted to miss Goldie on Boxing Day. Bad case of Lamma Lurgies. I've seen Goldie twice before in HK. Actually, he took my raving virginity back in mid 2001. So, although I missed one of the best gigs of the latter part of 2011, at least I've heard and seen him play before. Chester nods his head as if to say in you go mate. It would be churlish to refuse such a gallant invitation, so in I go.

As usual, the place is heaving. I gravitate to my usual spot on the small stage, facing the DJ booth. Ryan is currently occupying it. He's laying down some mighty fine sounds. What I tend to call prog/tribal. Or deep house with soulful singing. Weird electro noise. Bouncy twanging moments. Lots of faders sliding. Punching of FX buttons to alter phasing, add a touch of echo. Programming new samples and tracks on the laptop. All of it seamlessly mixed despite wandering over uncharted musical terrain. There's more shades and colours to the music tonight. Not quite the grungy electro and machine music that The Klaxons and FischerSpooner performed when I saw them last year. Ryan is good at tension and release. Building up the tunes at times and then an abrupt change of pace and style. It's a fine apéritif for the headliners to digest. Are they here yet?

The first fellow fan interaction of the night. A lovely lady called Harjeet compliments me on my beard. (specially washed for the occasion. No clumps of food stuck in it!). We both tell each other how much we're looking forward to the main act. Basically dubstep emerged in the U.K. about a decade ago. It's roots lie in the grime, garage and two-step scenes. With side trips into dub, jungle and techno. Plus lashings of atmospheric noise like cinema soundtracks in places. In essence, something to bring all the separate music clans into one joyously raving tribe. There's a fine meld of locals, young European and American kids and a few older heads in the crowd mix at Fly tonight. Anyway, here come the boys. Ryan pulls out all the stops for another ten minutes or so while they unpack their gear and start preparing. He nods to them as if to say whenever you're ready. Skream kicks off the musical mayhem.

The crowd has gone mental. People are crowding around the DJ booth. Almost, but not quite, dribbling and drooling down the glass enclosure. I mean, the front row of uber fans is within two feet of Skream and Benga. And they're not perturbed at all. Except when one of the mixers goes wobbly early in the set. Which causes a brief chorus of disapproval. Which I think is a little unnecessary. They're not deliberately fucking up. They're not pulling any strops either. Fix it and move on is the order of the night. Go with the flow. Enjoy the show. Shit happens at times. Don't bug out over it. Unless you're all slavering with impatience to hear that killer new single right the fuck now! Whatever it's called. I'm an instant new convert to the joys of dub step. I don't know any of the songs and tunes. Unlike almost everyone else. Arms and fists are pumping in the air like ferns on a seabed or synchronised trumpeting elephant trunks. another lovely anonymous American lady to my right tries to tell me the titles. Hard to hear under the music, but I think one track which is most bodacious is called "I Skream Jelly Roll". Wonderful syncopation. Blitzkrieg editing from rapid 'tronic drums to synth fades to touches of blissful trance to colossal belches of subterranean bass warming and fanning my hair. And 30 seconds later, another musical divergence occurs and crashes back into the main frame of the song.

Skream and Benga are turning in a tag team performance of utter brilliance. They'll each play about ten minutes or two to three tunes and take a break. The hits, which keep on rolling along like Ole Man River, are shared out between them. Meanwhile, my interaction with the fans is starting. Cleo comes along and asks what I'm doing. Not much really. It's so packed I can't write much. Anyway she jots down the heart-warming observation. "Hi, Gandalf. I heart you. XXX". Later on she expands on this thought. "I had the best night of my life - my whole entire life. I'm so glad I met Gandalf - this proves he didn't die in "Harry Potter 5". And my response is that I'm glad that Dumbledore didn't pass away in "Lord Of The Rings". And no, I'm not being snarky or taking the piss. There's a lot of love here tonight. I feel like I'm having an acid flashback coupled with a warm ecstatic glow and no one can do no wrong. I chalk up a new first when Cleo asks if I will autograph her arm. I write "Lots of love, Gandalf. XX". I hope she resists the temptation to get it tattooed. Later, she asks if she can braid my beard. No problem. She does - twice. All part of the fun.

Not to be outdone, Tessa adds that "As long as you have family and friends, nothing else is important. Carry this through life. Love, Tessa. XXX". And Olz (?) and Nick chip in with "The night was a smash. Live, live, live Benga and Skream. Killing it from earliest dub step to the latest and greatest. And then, the resident DJ Anil kills it and the system crashes. But not missing a beat, he catches the vibe and keeps rocking! Amazing". Victoria adds that "you have an awesome beard. Hope you liked Skream and Benga". And the mighty unknown squiggle chips in with "hello, my friend. Have a fantastic night" It's safe to say I did. And that this brief selection of reviews has captured the good time fun buzz. Anyway, I've jumped ahead a little, but all time is simultaneous, even though we humans are programmed past to future. We can fuck about with causality in fiction and movies. Dredge up a Proustian remembrance while snuffling a madeleine. Or other types of nostalgia through music. Basically through inner life. But back down the time-line, Skream and Benga are wrapping up their set. They've got the balls to interrupt the tunes to say what this new song is. Or Skream plays an unreleased (until April) cut from Benga's new release: "Diary Of An Afro Warrior: Chapter Two". It's a sign of the two-way flow of joy between performer and audience.

O.K. The dub step superstars have concluded their rapturously received set. Chester gives me a nod to join him and them for a brief chat as Anil starts up his set. A mask of determination on his face. Sort of like, right you dudes have done your bit. Now get out of the way coz there's a sonic steam train chuffing down the track and it's taking no prisoners. Skream and Benga are extremely affable to me. Answer my silly questions about how much was live/real and how much was Memorex. I know they were playing and mixing live. But I don't think all the rapid fire edits were done in real time on the decks. Rather they're all on the dub plates they're spinning. In the immortal words of chief Trogg, Reg Presley on the infamous Trogg Tapes band bust up they're "sprinkling the fairy dust over the fuckers". (I'm discussing this with DJ Nipper a few days later, and he tends to agree with my theory) Basically, Benga and Skream have just finished a short tour of Australia/ New Zealand and have arrived from Singapore at about 2000 hours. Straight to the club. Play the set. Finish in the early hours of Sunday. Have to leave the hotel at 0530(ish) and be on a flight home about 0800. Most of their gigs were in stadiums. Sort of look at that crowd of ten-thousand ants come to see us. At Fly, I'll wager it was the most close-up, personal intimate gig they've played on this short tour. And they knocked it out of the fucking park. Made at least 300 new friends/fans. Took my dub step virginity. A sublime gestalt experience. In the future, I'm already at the front of the queue for their return. Skream's new release is called "Outside the Box", He rinsed out a couple of tracks from it. His debut is the eponymous "Skream" (2006).

Anil is playing some fantastic oldies. The only track I remembered to write down was "Come Together" by the Beatles. With a glossy sort of electro under-melody, bringing it kicking and screaming into today. We have a nice chat later. He's a sweet man. Nothing like the fierce Viking he appeared to be while playing. And, yes the mixer does go out again during his set. Again, Chester, Ryan and Anil all get it sorted and the show does go on. At the Klaxon/FischerSpooner gigs, I had snuck away by this time coz it's ten minutes to the ferry home and I only have three and a half hours to get there. This time I've stayed behind with the hard core 50 mega-fans. Anil is pacing, controlling and conducting the dancers. Rebecca comes over to say that she was there at the Australian gig that Skream mentioned earlier when he was babbling something about "history". So, time to wrap this one up. Chester, mate, you nailed it perfectly when you said that people will be talking about this gig in years to come. I'm really grateful and appreciative to have been part of this landmark show. And I was still tripping and buzzed on adrenaline when I got home. Babble, babble babble to my pets, the neighbours, my sleeping wife, Nipper et al. Anil, I haven't forgotten those NIxmixes I promised you. Not to your level of expertise because I don't use a laptop for DJing. Just two CD decks. But, you will get a journey out of them. I see them as more of an All Back To Mine late night experience/mixtape adventure that you make and hand out to mates. Anyway, can't wait for Episode Four in what I hope will be a long and happy run of gigs. The bar has been raised. So have expectations,. Til the next one. ntb.

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