I’d taken the train down to meet up with a number of my associates for a show that probably won’t return to the East Coast of the USA for years. UK Liquid Drum & Bass is an entirely different beast than the massive camouflage-and-gas-mask wearing cousin us Americans have been exposed to over on this side of the Atlantic. Starting to pepper the landscape in the early oughts, liquid became an entirely different sound than the harder, more aggressive drum and bass sounds that originally demarcated the genre from Jungle. London Elektricity, D. Kay, Mistabishi and few others began to stand out showing that you didn’t need massive bass bins or obnoxious drops to keep people moving. The genre was eventually dubbed “Liquid Funk” for its use of melodic R&B vocals, old school disco grooves and a general feeling of soul or jazz. I met up with a few heads from Philly, and an old friend who’d taken one of the last choppers out of Baghdad.
The last time I entered in this room, the place stank of Jagermeister and the reverberations of “Hot in Hurr” echoed through my adolescent mind. Newly christened the Baltimore Soundstage, the venue had gone by Liquid, Myst, or some other ridiculous moniker that the denizens of Baltimore-radius state schools ignored as they flooded it, in search of cheap drink and cheaper dates. I spent 6 years of my life in Baltimore and many of my formative young adult experiences occurred in that fantastically tragic city.
The spot was astonishingly different. The space had been re-allocated properly with triple the bar real estate and double the bartenders. There was a large area with stools and tables for the chilling and talking, and a decently sized GA area for the ravers, junglists, club kids, metal dweebs and a surprising number of younglings, yet to pick a class. We arrived just as the opener was finishing up, which, for a group traveling from 3 different cities, impressed even me.
High Contrast and Netsky, two exceptional DJs off of London Elektricity’s label Hospital Records, were slated to blow our minds, but in a smooth melodic, non-confrontational way. High Contrast kicked things off with an exceptional overview of the Hospital Records label catalog. A hyper-combo of tracks that we’d listened to dozens of times (though we’d never been to a drum and bass show together) slid through our ears and electrified the dance floor. Drum and Bass can be almost irresistible when produced and spun properly, and few know how to do it better than the advance guard for London Elektricity. As dance floor grooved and the overhead chandeliers vaguely shook to the beat, I chatted with my friend, the Iraq War vet and general communications superhero.
At one point in the evening, after the third or fourth Amstel Light, I found my bartender and a young Asian girl looking forlorn at the bar. One of the downsides to being me is: they definitely do keep getting younger and I keep feeling sketchier and sketchier. However, showing up in my old hood with “I gots me a real job” money does have its benefits. It seemed the random Baltimore College student had her credit card declined and was about 10 bucks short on her tab. If she couldn’t pay it, the bartender was going to have to eat it. I remember the exact feeling of being 10 bucks short, it’s not something I’d wish on anyone, even the people who won’t shut up about class warfare.
There were a thousand reasons to pay my tab and say good night. But, at the end of the night, as Netsky’s set was winding down (and boy oh boy was he killing it), I stayed there, watching the blonde fumble with cards and re-allocating totals. You can spend that much for a watered down cocktail in NYC, and there is a certain fuzzy feeling one gets from looking at a doe-eyed college student at an EDM show and saying “Don’t worry about it, just pay it forward.”
Filed under: What lies Beneath