Subdub Lives up to the Hype

Despite two years of living in Leeds, I’ve never been to SubDub. I know for some that this is akin to living in Venice and never going to St Mark’s Square, or living in Paris and never going to the Louvre. When I’m comparing SubDub to these cultural hotspots, I’m genuinely not being facetious. SubDub is an institution in the capital of the North. It’s renowned for playing the best in bass music, and on the 30th September I was not disappointed with my first taste of the famous club night.

There was a glut of stages (it was held at Beaver Works) which I thought might confuse things a little, but this worked to its advantage. Techno and house are quite easy to digest. You can stay in the same room for a couple of hours or so, but dub, bassline, jungle, and dubstep are all quite intense, so moving from one room to another was necessary. Coming in from the jungle room, you could cool off in the Warehouse Room where they were playing purer, straight dub, and some reggae. My favourite room had to be the Red Room which had been taken over by some of Bristol’s most talented sons, the Bandulu Records crew. Bristol has a long history of bass music, from the Wild Bunch sound system (which later splintered into Massive Attack and Tricky), Roni Size and even Portishead to an extent; it seems like now Bandulu are very much carrying the flag for Brizzle. It’s hard to pick a favourite of the night, but I saw the most of The Bug, and Kahn and Neek’s set, and they had an amazing reaction from a packed out room. Early dubstep never sounded so good.

Aside from the DJs, the MCs were fantastic. Drenched in sweat, with towels slung around their necks like prize fighters, they actually added something to the music (which is more than you can say for the numptys that sometimes MC at techno and house events). The legendary Killa P teased us with a few bars of Topper Top but went into something else – they’re clearly not ready to rest on their laurels. Much in the same way Massive Attack and Tricky had a myriad of influences, ranging from reggae to dancehall to post-punk, Kahn and Neek and The Bug all deviated away from dubstep slightly and played all sorts of stuff. One of the best moments was when Kahn dropped Abbatoir –  the room went off. It’s truly one of the most iconic songs of the genre.

The jungle room added another fantastic element to the night. Situated perfectly in the basement room, it was fierce and heavy, and the sound went right through you. As mentioned, this was my first taste of Subdub, so I as yet have not been lucky enough to experience the night at its spiritual home, the West Indian Centre. I’d like to see how it compares to Beaver Works – whether it would have had the variation provided by Beaver Works’s five rooms? I don’t know. But what I do know is that SubDub has a legendary reputation for a reason. That Saturday night was evidence of why this reputation has developed: Subdub kept the fire burning for Leeds’s best bass music night, and signed off September in style.

Will Ainsley

Image credits: Subdub