Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Photek at SD Union

Well, SD Union has barely given us 2 weeks to recover before another installment is coming up this Saturday, `10/12 at The Merrow in San Diego.  I guess you have to take FREAKING ADAM F when you can get him!  This has got to be his first appearance in SoCal in a hot minute, at least at a small venue.  That being said, I'd better get this review of the more than comparable Photek before this one rolls out.

First, let's talk about The Merrow.  The venue used to be The Ruby Room but has recently changed management/ownership, so not much has changed for the SD Union Denizens.  I do miss the graffiti on the wall outside the club, and the bar staff still needs to work out a few timing kinks, but otherwise the drinks are still a great price, the new decor is nice and they have some great local craft beer options, so for the most part it's pretty much the same, just classed up a bit.

So Photek (along with Adam F) is what I call a "second tier" producer; this is the group of DnB talent who came out with releases within a year after the first tier/inventors Hype and Goldie, with his first release out in 1992.  What this means to me is that these guys are OG to the thousandth power, and have done more than most of us can comprehend to shape the scene that we've all come to know, and you can also go ahead and frigging give them credit for Dubstep while you're at it.  Something I didn't know is that he's also been nominated for 2 Grammys.  So, while I never doubt SD Union's ability to pull big names (especially since J Majik 18 months ago), I was still surprised, if for nothing else than he hasn't been in SoCal since about 2006.  We're taking it next level this year!

As is my horrible jaded scenester custom, I didn't get to The Merrow until around midnight, missing Will Guise, Evlo, and resident Ghost MD.  I'm sure they laid it down, however, and one of these days I will have to stop being a dickhead and come early.  I did catch the end of Adia Break's set, and that definitely got the crowd going and ready for Photek.  MCs CSD, Subliminal, and resident/founder/birthday boy along with Eric YoRidda, were also on hand to amp the crowd and host.

Photek holds a special place in my heart not only for shaping DnB as a whole but being instrumental in creating darkstep and techstep, which readers have seen me laud in other posts and with which I identify more than any other sub-genre.  In this area, he did not disappoint.  Photek's set consisted of many of his own classics, current sick tracks which also had lots of dark flavor, and dubplates that I bet we couldn't even date because none of us will get our grubby little hands on them.  Not just tracks, Photek's set had a nice overall dark n' grimy feel, and with me still on such a high from Wreckignition, it was like methadone to help me come down.

It was also Ridda's birthday as I mentioned, and what better way to celebrate - jeez.  Apparently there was a little cake mishap, but who needs a frigging cake when you've got Photek on your birthday?  Pssh, not me!  Beyond that there was a great chill vibe and everyone seemed to have tons of fun.  Great party as always.

So now we have Adam F (Breakbeat Kaos), jump-up OG, coming in on Saturday and I'm barely over September's parties.  The event will be at The Merrow once again, and cover is $10.  For more information, go to the SD Union: Adam F event page or SD Union's Facebook page.  Be there or be frigging stupid!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wreckignition is Back! For me, it's Like they Never Left

Ahh Wreckignition, how do I love thee?  As I've said an annoying number of times on Facebook, as a devout Junglist in the 90s who tended towards the dark beats, Wreckignition was my church.  I would liken it, however, to more of a Thesomophoria; an ancient and secret hedonistic Pagan festival dedicated to celebrating the darker, more dangerous elements of life.  Bass music is definitely in this category; respect and use it properly, and it will be there for you in a way nothing else can.  Exploit or disrespect, well, anyone who went to underground parties back in the day knows exactly what could happen.  Truly Tantric, baby.

Now that I've waxed spiritual for a moment, let's sum it up in laymen's terms: Wreckignition was probably the most badass monthly underground event stateside that you can think of in the late 90s-early 00s.  It started in 1997, and I believe it was the first all-dnb party I went to on the West Coast.  It sadly ended in 2003 but I think many of us stopped going in 2001-02, or at least I did.  Adulthood, careers, desire not to go to jail, etc. took over for a while, but I remember when it was announced that it was ending, and I definitely got choked up.  I remember thinking something along the lines of "this is the watchword of the decline of dark drum and bass in the US," as we knew it, anyway.  Wreckignition straddled a period in SoCal and in jungle and dnb in general that saw the darkest, ground-out beats and sounds in its history.  This was a period from whose grumpy, glowering womb sprung the Usual Suspects "Killa Bees," Krust's "Warhead."  All the classics: "Scorpion," "Cops Don't Like Us," I could go on.  All the staples that every self-respecting basshead should know came out of there, as well as some of the best dark and ragga pieces out of RAW, CRS?, and APX-1's crew.  It was quite polarizing back then, actually; you really had a much clearer divide between jungle and drum and bass in the first case, and then very clear divisions between jump-up, darkstep, hardstep, ragga, liquid, etc. in the second.  I honestly don't even recognize DJs like SS and Loxy from where they were in this period.  I remember a lot of us fought against merging genres, to the point of heated arguments and actual physical fights.  Now, looking back, it really was a natural progression/evolution of the genre, and I feel we're all united and just dedicated to making good music.  I do miss those days though, or at least the music and the parties, and Wreckignition was a place for all of us darkstepper/ragga heads to go where we knew we would hear exactly what we liked.

But again, adulthood happened, and while I still listen to classic dark dnb more than any of the new stuff, I've quite content to go to smaller events at bars and clubs: Respect, SD Union, The Rhythm Lounge, etc. gave us legit places to hold our 21+ all-dnb events, and while I was happy to be free of any drama associated with the old parties, something was lost in translation.  It got so lost, in fact, that I didn't even realize how much I missed it.  So, it might be understating to say I was excited when I saw in about May of this year that Wreckignition would be coming back.  I instantly recognized what I was missing: excellent SoCal djs spinning classic darkstep and ragga somewhere under a freeway in downtown LA.  That was the other great feature of Wreckignition: it was almost always exclusively local talent.  Wreck crew Don and founder Deacon, E-Sassin, Machete, RAW, CRS?, APX-1, Devas, Hazen, Havok Mega.  We have some crazy good talent here in Southern California, and it seems lately that you can't pull the kind of heads you used to with that kind of lineup.  I know we're all old and tired and pregnant or whatever, but if the only names that get you out of your jammies lately have to come from England or Europe, examine your conscience; there's plenty to piss yourself over right here.

The first installment of the recently resuscitated Wreckignition was on August 31, and as I remember most of them in the past, it was located under a freeway overpass in downtown LA, but it was also totally legit and secure.  The neighborhood wasn't too bad either, so it was nice to see they classed it up a little.  That seemed to be the overall feel of the night as well: still capturing the old feeling and the old culture, but also making sure things were updated and not too over-the-top or too ghetto, adapting to current times and our more adult sensibilities.  For example, there were still art pieces by jungle art legend Spectr, but an absence of any of the old military accessories we used to use to mark DnB parties (Wreck used to be champion at that).  There were two areas of sound and the lineup included everyone I mentioned above as well as Heretic, Sixfootunda, Direct Feed, Circut, Prime Mover, Clutch, Caelum, and Impostor as well as Kemst, Werd, and a number of other MCs.  I unfortunately got there quite late so I missed many of my favourites, but the sets I did see; Machete, Deacon, CRS?, APX-1, and RAW were all bangers.  Some did fully darkstep sets, while others spliced in ragga and even some full-on reggae.    It was also 21+ (thank God) with a bar and Wreckignition t-shirts for sale, and Drumz clothing rolled out as well with a new line and the revival of the gasmask tshirt (!)  There was even a massage station (which I meant to avail myself of) and a food car magically showed up at around 1:30.  Perfect. The whole night had a classic feel with a thoroughly modern bent.  It was so nice to re-connect with this shared reality all of us oldschool SoCal heads have, and also bring newcomers into the fold and see them experience a part of being a junglist  that they may not ahve heretofore experienced.

Sorry you missed it yet?  You should be.  Luckily there will be another installation soon, on October 19.  Lineup TBA.  I highly recommend getting signed up for their email list at  That's the way to get the most up-to-date information including chances for guest list, early venue info, etc.  More info also on the Wreck Ignition facebook page, and get ready to have your brains blown out with bass.  I'm so happy it's back (as if you couldn't tell)!