The big news Grime-wise in London this month
concerns Rinse FM's 14th Birthday party at The End in London on
22nd August – the Pay As U Go Cartel of Slimzee, Wiley, Gods Gift
et al, some of Rinse's earliest stars, are reforming for the event.
Anyone who witnessed Wiley's performance at one of these events a
few months ago will know what to expect in terms of lyrical
intensity. But it's especially heartening to see Slimzee out on the
scene (the DJ who at one point was banned by an ASBO from being on
the higher floors of tall housing blocks). Slimzee's DJ sets were
key to the transition between Garage to Grime proper. His abrasive
dubplates were as cold and tough as concrete streets – they called
out for some human presence, if only to leaven the feeling of sheer
loneliness. It was on these kind of tracks that London MCs first
began to find their voice, and his Sidewinder sets with Dizzee
Rascal are justly revered (they circulate in various forms, but you
can get a taste of them on You Tube
On a similar tip, DJ Rupture's excellent WFMU show Mudd Up had a special show recently with Bok Bok and Manara, where they play tons of tracks from this limbo zone between garage and grime – you can listen here. Lots of memories for me here, including all but forgotten tracks by Alias, whose indefatigable toughness almost recalls Belgian Nu Beat.
A puff-piece on Radio 4 recently marvelled over the rise of popular music festivals in the UK and beyond. Admittedly, it's nice that festivals like Green Man are taking advantage of outdoor settings for staging music, and certainly the feeling of a return to nature, of reclaiming the land, is a powerful one. However for me it's hard not to see the rise of outdoor music festivals in the UK as a corollary of the decline of urban music venues and the rise in property and rent prices everywhere. As cities grow, urban space becomes prohibitively expensive, and the only leisure spaces are at the peripheries, in temporary zones a day trip away from the city. Promoters turn to the greenbelt to host their events, and music festivals pile the acts high to keep prices relatively cheap. The performers appearing become ever more bland, as promoters focus on providing an undemanding soundtrack to the brief moments of summer reverie we get in the UK. Like out of town shopping centres, we end up with lots of choice in outdoor music festivals, but no real quality.
It's not the only example of live-flight in London music. Grime and garage events almost never happen in the city anymore – the police, assuming a role of 'advising' music venues, create a de facto ban on all but the most selective of these events happening in the city.
When in Blackpool recently, it struck me how much of the economy of modern life these days is predicated on punters paying money just to move around. Large tourist attractions make a lot of their money from meals and drinks, ie the subsistence costs people pay to sustain themselves in these other-places. It's why coffee places thrive in city centres – cities are so unwelcoming and psychologically stressful, you need to pay to go somewhere to chill out, and there's a feedback loop where the less publicly accessible places there are in cities, the more you need these refreshment waypoints and the more they make. Festivals are largely the same – you get sponsorship from a drinks company, and they mop up the refreshment tab. Like a lot of things in modern life, increasingly you don't pay for the actual products you want – ie music – but the delivery systems for those products.
For those missing their regular fix of
The Wire hiphop columnist Dave Tompkins, he did a
great radio show last week, as part of the Finer
Things programme in Poughkeepsie, hosted by another
contributor, Hua Hsu. Great stuff which is heavy on the electro and
vocoder flavours, and every bit as indefatigable and crate-diggerly
as you'd expect from Dave's contributions to the mag:
Part One is here
Part Two is here
If you're still not sated, I'd recommend checking out the mammoth Miami Bass throwdown he did on WFMU from back in the day. You can access the archives here.