Camdens Roundhouse played host to the second Redbull Music Academy Soundclash last week, a tumultuous circle-jerk of DJ’s, MC’s and Soundsystems. This was to be a glorified dick measuring contest between Skream and Benga and the Metalheadz crew.
The premise is simple: 4 Sound systems are represented on the night, each one taking up an individual stage in the circular Roundhouse, they stack up their sound reinforcement gear and attempt to wow the slack jawed masses with tune selection and sheer volume – the winner of the sound clash is the crew that gets the biggest crowd reaction at the end of the night.
Representing for this event was Channel 1 - Legendary Roots and Dub soundsystem that’s been going since before you were born. Running sound systems, parties and events throughout the UK and Europe, Channel 1 are the only “real” soundsystem in attendance. Fronted by a couple of laid back,old rasta dudes, Mikey Dread and Jah T and curiously enough accomapnied by a skinny white boy enthusiastically waving a Rastafarian flag. The Channel 1 sonic weapon of choice – Noise Control Audio.
Next on the Roundhouse compass point was Metalheadz drum n bass soundsystem, winners of the last soundclash by a controversial decision. With a line-up that reads like a Panini stickers album of Drum n Bass luminaries ShyFX, Goldie, Andy C and all were arguably the strongest line-up of the evening. As if having the advantage of a camp, ballroom dancing bond villian wasn’t advantage enough they were driving into a sizeable Turbosound system (now owned by AKG since audio purists and company founders Andrews and Newsham sold up).
Right next door to Metalheadz was (apparently) SoulJazz - who could not be fucked to turn up so sent some god awful wedding DJ to satisfy contractual requirements. They apparently represent the SoulJazz record store - you’d think after a couple of decades running a record shop and massively prolific label you might be able to dig out a DJ that doesn’t sound like he’s about to play Come On Eileen. On stage they had a mumbling idiot who could have been asking for spare change or something.
As if having the advantage of a camp, ballroom dancing bond villian wasn’t advantage enough they were driving into a sizeable Turbosound system
This was a complete waste of their instantly recognizeable purple speaker stacks provided by Funktion 1. Set up by the former owners of Turbosound , Funktion 1 are the go-to-guys for sound reinforcement – the current darlings of the sound system world – which surely would wipe the floor with everyone put before them.
And finally at the 3 o'clock position in the Roundhouse, Dub Step cock jockeys Skream and Benga. Back at Soundclash to claim their rightful crown as Soundclash champions after the contentious decsion to award the title to Metalheads at the last event.
This stage had the smallest rig of all which was a surprise for a crew that plays music that largely has no discernablemusical value above 40Hz. Packing a rig 30% smaller than the others, Skream and Bengas stage was driving the Void system provided by Dirt.
On stage for skream and Benga? What can best be described as the entire contents of Feltham Young Offenders Instutuion on day release supervised by an overzealous dreadlocked probation officer.
Onto the proceedings then:
In the publics view , this was a 2 way battle. Skream and Benga vs Metalheadz the other 2 soundsystems just there to make up the numbers. And for a large part of the evening that’s certainly how it went.
Fifteen minutes of heavy dub and roots from Channel 1 were easily upstaged by the following quarter hour of tearing drum n bass from the Shy FX camp. This was then followed by an utterly galling display of hopelessness by Souljazz and their turn quickly became everyone’s cue to go to the bar. Which was of course the perfect act to follow if you’re a dubstep rig, every single track receving huge responses from the crowd, and it must be said - delivered with absolute clarity and depth from the DIRT sound system. Even if dubstep is largely a cunt full of arse, the DIRT rig was nothing short of phenonmenal in it’s performance and was the star of the show.
Right next door to Metalheadz was (apparently) SoulJazz - who could not be fucked to turn up so sent some god awful wedding DJ to satisfy contractual requirements.
And so the rotation continued – Channel 1 with their confident and steady reggae, followed by Metalheadz now with added Goldie - waving a bottle of Jack and beating his chest. Followed by Souljazz who by 11 o'clock had pretty much become invisible. With Skream and Benga last in turn hammering huge tracks from a stage now populated by tracksuited primates screaming and dragging their knuckles around in front of anyone that would care to look.
The evening quickly deteriorated into drunken MCs using their 15 minutes to masturbate their swollen egos and shouting across the Roundhouse to the other stages slurs like (and I quote)
“Channel 1, I respect you but you’re a bunch of pussies”
Which would then be concurred by Metalheadz
"Souljazz, Channel1 – you’re done. It’s between us and Benga now, you’re done."
(From this point on Souljazz are not worth mentioning – I heard them play a low bit rate MP3 that could have been ripped off Youtube, so they can quite frankly stick their tongues up my dark and stinky.)
The pace began to pick up. Skream demonstrated his complete inadequacy as a DJ by rewinding every track after litterally half a bar. If everything your music has to offer resides in the first 4 beats, you've got a fucking problem. At this point they had unleashed on stage their secret weapon, a fat and flustered teenage car thief with a beach towel which he would hang around his neck, skankabout the stage a bit grabbing his tiny crotch and then whenever a tune dropped he would wave his towel around and honk like a broken skoda.
Metalheadz would shout obscenities and drop the occasional edit proclaming Skream and Benga to be shit.
The crowd would twirl from stage to stage. Bass, insults… the dick measuring was in full swing.
Skream demonstrated his complete inadequacy as a DJ by rewinding every track after litterally half a bar. If everything your music has to offer resides in the first 4 beats, you've got a fucking problem.
Meanwhile over at Channel 1, two old rasta chaps propped up the decks as though they were in their local pub. They tutted and shook their heads at the other stages, quietly waiting their turn, rifling through their scratchy 7 inch records.
Channel 1 – sponsored by none other than Emporer Selassi the first – would make avuncular comments.
“What is it with your effin dis and effin dat…dis is about music…jah rastafaria”
(They say “Rastafari” a lot at Channel 1) cue the fattest dub you’ve ever heard. Steadily Mikey Dread and Jah T would nod to the riddims and transmit their message of righteousness.
This would soon be scuppered by Goldie an his crew barking:
“You’re pussies, you dun kno skream!”
Then Benga and his menagrie of neanderthal teen rapists would yell back. The fat kid now waving the towel with rage and giving the cut throat sign to Metalheadz. Stupid basslines would bounce effortlessly from the DIRT rig and Metalheadz would respond with the odd dubstep tune, rewound – dropped – rewound - dropped ad nauseum.
Meanwhile the only people that run a soundsystem – Channel 1 – hang their heads in their experienced hands – you can almost see the thought balloons -"Kids nowadays"…but graciously taking an apparent defeat as their dub and reggae classics, played in full reliably move the crowd but provoke no rewinds or big reactions.
Insults, LFOs…heavy dub. Insults LFOs…heavy dub.
Then suddenly – Don Letts!
He took time out of his busy schedule offering sound bites and cameos on clip shows to clumsily announce the winner. Gauged purely on crowd reaction this was going to be tough call between Metalheadz and Skream and Benga.
At this point they had unleashed on stage their secret weapon, a fat and flustered teenage car thief with a beach towel which he would hang around his neck
The name of each sound system was announced and the crowd hollered accordinglingy.
People didn’t seem to be aware of Souljazz so that was an easy out.
The reaction for Channel 1, Skream and Benga and Metalheadz on the first round was impossible to call. Perhaps the sudden and impromptu decision time had surprised people…so again, shouts for the last 3…big noises…Don Letts, not wanting to fuck up like he did last time rightfully made the decision for a third call between the 3 rigs. And shouts for the Metalheadz rig were noticeably less than for Channel 1 and Skream and Benga.
Dub vs Dubstep? Splendid.
Another call for the final 2. The shouts went up for Skream and Benga – a massive, sporting event concerto of support.
Then the call for Channel 1... and it’s still level pegging.
Then something perculiar happened, people realised that while Skream and Benga (and the lardy goon with the towel) had spent the whole night slagging off Metalheadz, Channel 1 had been playing records to the crowd - and with the realisation that Channel 1 could bag the title the support switched.
The final deciding call:
“Skream and Benga?!”
It wasn’t until the closing minutes of the soundclash did it become clear just how out of touch Skream, Benga, Goldie and their crew of swaggering cock-ends really were.
Much hollering, screaming and furious fat kid waving towel.
“Channel 1 ?!”
(Don Letts with a wry look of satisfaction on his face)
An almighty roar bellowed forth from the crowd signalling a clear victory for Channel 1 who humbly accepted their win and went about their business of playing records. Powered by the conquering lion of Judah and still merrily playing tunes for a giggle.
It wasn’t until the closing minutes of the soundclash did it become clear just how out of touch Skream, Benga, Goldie and their crew of swaggering cock-ends really were. Firing insults at each other over the crowd and rewinding every track made for a spectacle, but certainly didn’t make for a party. The solid and confident delivery from Channel 1 never wavered, they knew what they were doing and they stuck to their guns. Entertaining the crowd and forwarding their message of music and niceness.
Channel 1 were the only real soundsystem at Culture Clash and it showed. They’re the only ones that have for years run a rig, thrown parties to promote their sound, actively support their community and push a message of conciousness which is everything a soundsystem should stand for.
Something Goldie, Skream and Benga have apparently yet to learn.
While the crowd celebrated to the reliable and timeless dubs of Channel 1, the fat kid with the towel was seen sat on stage sobbing his little eyes out. Justice had truely been served.
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