Never underestimate the power of bass. This is a lesson that the Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall learned as pieces of aluminium cracked and began to break free from the ceiling on Tuesday night as The Dubstep Chronicles rumbled its way through Meltdown 2008. No one was ever in any danger of being injured, but the low end frequencies compromised the building's structural integrity enough to force organisers to err on the side of caution and relocate the revelers to the dancefloor of the Royal Festival Hall. Everyone in attendance already was already enamoured with South London's signature sound, but this reaffirmed that affection: our music had the power to move buildings.
Whilst the first two DJs we had the good fortune of seeing warmed the crowd up nicely, it wasn't until Kode9 took to the decks in Royal Festival Hall that the party truly got started. Listed on the bill as simply Kode9, we received the best possible surprise a punter could hope for when his lyrical partner-in-crime, The Spaceape, joined the DJ on stage. Those familiar only with their debut album, Memories of the Future, were in for a second surprise, for whereas that album is a brilliant slow ride through haunted streets, this live experience took up the tempo and drove dancers into a frenzy. With so much to say that he couldn't stand still, The Spaceape flowed through his rhymes from one end of the stage to the other as Kode9 spun increasingly more devastating tracks.
A competent DJ simply mixes records, but a great one connects with their audience. Once again Kode9 proved that his skills as a producer are equal if not surpassed by his abilities as a DJ. The formerly polite gathering of dance music fans sipping beers after work crumbled away into the most action that the Royal Festival Hall is likely to have ever seen, with not a still foot in the house. We took our photos (see The Spaceape, pictured above) and quickly ditched our cameras to work up a sweat with everyone else.
The night continued as Jazzsteppa assumed control of the room on laptop and trombone, backed by a live drummer. Though it saddened us to have to leave in the middle of their set, our beat-lashed brains were dancing all the way across the bridge to Embankment and through the entire Northern Line ride home. So far Massive Attack have curated an amazing Meltdown and the festival is barely half over. Not only have they shown us their diverse range of influences through gigs featuring Gong and Yellow Magic Orchestra, but they've also demonstrated that they still have their finger on the pulse of the future by arranging a night to showcase a genre of music that we Londoners are proud to call our own.
Massive Attack's Meltdown continues at Southbank Centre from now until 24 June 2008 with performances still to come from Grace Jones, Gang of Four, Primal Scream and more. Please refer to the Southbank Centre Meltdown site for more details.
Photo of The Spaceape taken from daveknapik's Flickr photostream.