By Oscar Mortimer
Nottingham unfortunately, had a sour end to it's 2017. The ever-unfolding consequences of Brexit pushed her out of the running for being crowned European capital of culture. A great shame, but luckily the team at SQUARE ONE are kicking off the New Year with a reminder that there is still plenty to have a song and dance about in this vibrant city, with bass music culture running thick through its veins.
I decided to take a break from my uninspiring library settings and let off some steam at their latest night; which featured bass heavyweight "A.M.C" and rising star "Benny L". Who, funnily enough, are the only two DnB DJ’s that I have yet to see play live (of the ones who currently have my attention at least). Let’s not skank around the subject, there was no way I would be missing this one, and if you are going to procrastinate, you may as well do it in style. Go to raves - don’t waste time scrolling down your Instagram feed, watching endless top 10 videos, and finding out what bread defines your personality on Buzzfeed.
I must admit, seeing the line-up had me slightly nervous. The last time the line-up was this heavy, I was at a rave in Utrecht and had my arm unforgivingly yanked from its socket by a tall, polite Dutchman. Stealth is one of my favourite venues, but it gets hectic in there even with a standard four to the floor. Heaven help those poor souls trapped at the bar once a generous number of snares, and slightly more erratic dance moves are introduced. One thing is for certain, it was going to be a fun one. And a hot bit of fun at that; my weather forecast suggested a pocket of heat and humidity against an otherwise bitter winter! I opted for a t-shirt and jeans (obviously) but at points in the day, I was considering throwing off my inhibitions, going full Bradley Gunn, and donning my finest sweatband and Lycra combo.
For once, East Midlands Trains decided not to let me down (we’ll see if that New Year’s resolution lasts) and I got to Nottingham just in time for the beginning of Benny L’s set. This young talent has been shaking up the DnB scene with his epic rolling roster, and 2017 saw him enjoy a meteoric rise to fame within the community. If Serum, Voltage and Bladerunner are Kings of the Rollers, then they need to keep an eye on their throne. The set was simply sublime. His bass laced melodies reverberated around the main room filled with ecstatic ravers going hell for leather against his rolling beats. He treated us to a plethora of the latest and greatest in the world of rollers, tunes such as his groaning remix of Devil by Pola and Bryson, and the infamous Route Zero.
I have never heard his ground-breaking song Low Blow dropped live; it was arguably my personal favourite DnB song in 2017, so I was looking forward to it. And it didn’t disappoint. The room descended into beautiful chaos as he shelled it out, and I found myself grinning with the same evil intent that Goldie had when he unleashed it onto an unsuspecting Mixmag crowd. A set to remember, and one that showcased just why Benny L was shortlisted for both best track and best newcomer at the 2017 Drum and Bass Arena awards. I expect he will win some silverware soon.
Then, it was on to the main event as Alex Mark Calvert, better known as A.M.C took to the decks. A talent who I would finally have the pleasure of watching play. He pulled no punches and came out of the gates firing. The room exploded into a fiesta of strobes and screams, punctuated by some of the highest octane DnB I had ever experienced. His chopping of Dimension’s Whip Slap emphasized just the calibre of skill this man possesses in front of a set of turntables; and the set never toned down, sharply shifting between heavy hitting dancefloor DnB and gun finger prompting jump up. The way he can drop tunes such as keyboard warrior into his sets catches audiences completely off guard, and the result is moments of spontaneous and unpredicted glory. A true sight to behold.
As the end of his set neared, he played his ear-splitting remix of TC’s Tap Ho. The track is a relentless onslaught on the senses, that rattles ribcages and causes walls to shudder. This and various other exploits contributed to a set that I can only describe as being so heavy…that when Dustup by Noisia and The Upbeats played…it almost sounded mild and appropriate. We know what A.M.C stands for, but let’s assume for the moment that it has a dual meaning; the other being ‘All Muscles Cramping’, in reference to the normal effect prompted by listening to an A.M.C set for any longer than 20 uninterrupted minutes.
It then fell to Mileage to step up. I’m almost certain that the resident DJ’s were drawing straws before the night began on who pulled the slot after A.M.C. That in anyone’s books…was a tough act to follow. Mileage, however, didn’t seem phased by this and knocked it out of the park. A great set that perfectly emulated the tempo and vibe of its predecessor. He showcased tunes that crossed the broad spectrum of DnB. I heard Rollers, I heard classic dancefloor tunes, I heard Jump and Neuro alike. New Halogenix was dropped moments apart from instant classics from Macky Gee. Even the tune that shall not be named by Nosia and the Upbeats made an appearance. But it was dropped at the perfect time to the delight of the crowd.
A personal favourite for me was when he battered the sound system at Stealth to within an inch of its life by playing Stigma. My entire insides shook. As a student, my worries are typically confined to financial wellbeing, and the prospect of being shoehorned by my housemates into buying the next batch of toilet paper once we collectively realise that we can’t go on like this. But as bass penetrated my organs, suddenly the state of my thyroid had joined that list. Mileage was brilliant, he had a hard job to do, but he executed it spectacularly.
The end of the night was drawing near, and it was Jayfor who would have the pleasure of drawing proceedings to a close. I had bumped into Jayfor roughly two hours prior, where he informed me that he would be playing ‘Neurofunk and shit’. Now granted, eloquence might not be his strong suit; But Djing sure is! His promise was instantly kept as his set opened with Current Value’s That Smile. I shouted, ‘How dare you!’ in pure disgust, as I spilt red stripe down my top. Knowing that he wouldn’t hear me, I also messaged him too, saying the same thing. The set that followed was indeed a celebration of neurofunk's appeal.
Jayfor showed he really has a finger on the pulse of the sub-genre, as his set was littered with new releases and genre-defining belters. He never fails to impress, putting on a show that equally pleases, and surprises every time I watch him play. His performance ended the night in spectacular fashion and had me heading for my cab exhausted, yet elated at the event as a whole. Overall, a great excuse to sack the books off for one evening at least. I am looking forward to the next one, and if you look for the clues on Square One’s social media, you will see it is going to be something special…