By Stewart Heys Jan.8.2009
In: Concerts
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Dubstep in Australia: Benga and Skream at the Oxford Arts Factory, 2 January 2009

The OAF is a great venue. It feels like Fabric in 2001/ 2002 and not just because of the industrial set up with open brick- and metal-work. As with (nu skool) breaks 7 or 8 years ago, there was a genuine feeling that we were about to see something a bit new and different.

The boys from the Blue Mountains, Hermitude, warmed it up with some jazz, reggae, dancehall and dub-influenced tunes, and looking around, it was interesting to see the audience watching the DJs like we were at a gig. Everyone was watching the stage, watching the guys perform.

The performance continued when a young scallywag took to the stage, with an air of awkwardness reminiscent of Ian Curtis. Skream was followed quickly by Benga who came out hollering in to his mic, keen to get the crowd pumped while his partner played the opening few  tunes.

The set started off with frenetic pace. This was in spite of serious technical issues that plagued the first half, and which threatened to turn sections of the crowd nasty. The boys dealt with it all with supreme professionalism (Benga even started to sing ‘Night’ at one point) and once they had moved to a second set of decks it was all go.

About 10 minutes in things slowed down to a more dubstep speed, the bass started taking over and we knew things were about to get ‘fucking messy’. The sort of dubstep these guys play is fierce, dark, and unrelenting. The bass is raw and aggressive and makes you feel like you are at the centre of a thunderstorm. But in a good way.

It is also high energy, and Benga kept reminding us of that by shouting in to the mic. They were playing back-to-back, and were helped out on mic duties about half way in to the set when N-Type barrelled on to the stage having finished his set up at the Gaff (why these guys were booked for the same night I have no idea).

At times it seemed like we were watching 3 lads muck about in their bedroom, but it was amazing to see such passion for the music they were playing. By the time they had all had a crowdsurf (Benga looked like he got dumped on the floor, but I am sure he is alright), and yelling at everyone to ‘get fucking alien’ (still not sure what that means), the night was won.

Skream pointedly asked us who was at his gig in 2006 (of course, everyone was there), and it made me realise that whilst this all feels fresh and new in Australia, these boys have been around for a long time in the UK. Going on last night, we should see dubstep go from strength to strength in these parts in 2009.