Gig Review: Gentleman's Dub Club @ SWX
by Polly Hember
Gentleman’s Dub Club, the nine-piece dub collective formed in 2006, have gained an intense following due to their inventive contemporary approach to reggae. Ska and reggae roots are melded with dub, driven by catchy rap lyrics, building up to huge drops and unbeatable brass solos. Their 2012 debut album Open Your Eyes launched them onto the ska-dub scene with brilliant energetic singles ‘Tough at the Top’ and ‘High Grade’, whereas FOURtyFOUR gave us the edgy yet easy ‘London Sunshine’ and ‘Feels Like’, relaxing into breezy ska rhythms. Throughout their ten years, their sound has expanded, and their latest addition to their oeuvre The Big Smoke has maintained their intense energy that is central to their unique sound.
A huge part of their success comes from their reputation for high-energy, electric live performances. I was lucky enough to see them perform last year at Bristol’s Motion; a huge, sweaty warehouse that was packed with constantly moving bodies, drenched in Red Stripe and shouting lyrics back to the band that dominated the stage, dancing and jumping up and down. With this in mind, I eagerly awaited their Big Smoke Tour. However, the location for their Bristol excursion was moved from Motion to SWX (Bristol students may recall drunken first-year flashbacks to the sticky floors and stagnant songs of grim club Syndicate). Quite why they changed the venue will remain a mystery – the name may have changed but the sticky floors remained the same. Overpowered with those sticky Syndicate associations, with the same cheesy purple spotlights and smoke machine pumping out stuffy gas, the club atmosphere contrasted the contemporary, edgy dub-scene that Gentleman’s Dub Club epitomises.
With no live support, they started early and were in full swing at half eight on the Friday night. Despite the choice in venue, Gentleman’s Dub Club had no problem igniting the large crowd which was jumping up and down enthusiastically as they played a select few songs from their new album. Highlights were ‘Music Is The Girl I Love’, and old favourite ‘Emergency’, which had everyone moving. The energy and excitement was palpable, and was building. However this was cut all too short far too quickly. The venue had a scheduled club night on after the set, so all live music had been quelled by 9.40, barely giving an hour of musical enjoyment to the disappointed crowd. Ripples of confusion were felt as frontman announced their last song ‘High Grade’, and could not be convinced back on stage.
At £15 a pop for a ticket, with no support and no encore, and only an hour to enjoy the energetic but short set, left standing disgruntled on the street outside at 9.45, it is clear that SWX is not the place to enjoy live music, and is more suited to a sweaty club night. This was sadly more of Gentleman’s Dub Club taster which dissolved swiftly and bitterly – The Big Smoke tour transpired to be not so big, but the songs sampled were as catchy and energetic as ever. Gentleman’s Dub Club is definitely one to see live and enjoy, but just not one to see at SWX.