Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I must have gone to my first Unsound - back in the days of the arches behind the Ministry - about 3 years ago now. I fetched up there on the way back from a country gig at the 12 Bar because I'd heard a lot of the Urban 75 crowd talking about it. Somehow - because of my current partner, I guess, and a conscious attempt to cut down on my drug intake - I'd got out of the habit of going to free parties, but this sounded a little different.

And it was.

That first time I didn't stop long, but it was long enough to see that Unsound pulled a really cool crowd, had an atmosphere that was unparalleled for friendliness and trustworthiness, and was an all-round bloody good thing.. It was also long enough to reacquaint myself with the main couple behind it all, who I'd lost touch with in the fallout from the end of the Dubhammer Sound System, an ill-fated reggae crew I set up and ran with a pair of friends who soon revealed themselves as devious and avaricious..

So before long, I was back in the arches, this time with a bag of records and a bag of chemicals, and it became - after People's Republic Of Disco - my favourite night (and usually morning/afternoon) out.

None of the hassle that I increasingly associated with the free party scene: the drooling kethead zombies, the jackings, the incessant joyless techno; but with all of the plus points - the freedom, the sense of community, great music, good friends. Enough of a door presence to keep out the crackheads and hoodrats but not enough to make it too sanitised and restrictive...

I became - I suppose - the resident warm-up DJ, playing post-pub roots rock reggae to people as they arrived and waited for the pills to kick in. Later, if I could still stand and people were up for it, I'd send them off with some dub in the morning too... but it was all about Deadlock, who singlehandedly revived my love of jungle; and Offshore, long-time Brixton face and king of the jumblists; and Hue Jah Fink (ne Richie Fingaz), king of the splatter break..

It was, I guess, far too good to last: the cops showed up more and more regularly, and although we were never shut down it was getting dodgy. Then the landlords stepped in..

The long period without Unsound was a frustrating one - I went to a few free parties in the months between, and although perhaps not as messy as they had been, I still found them fairly bleak affairs for the most part.

I've probably said this before, but in my head I carry this hypothetical Channel 4 film crew, and I like to juxtapose what they might have seen bursting into a warehouse in Acton in the mid-90s: hundreds of up for it people jumping around to hard but uplifting music, feeling fairly secure - cops aside - and looking out with each other; with what they'd probably find now - especially at the bigger multi-riggers - the aforementioned ket kids, muggings and attacks just seen as inevitable, the most soulless and depressing generic techno... I guess it's not my world anymore anyway - I'm the wrong side of 35 - and people are always pointing out that there are still some great party crews: OCB, Tribe of Munt etc, who hold things down pretty well and keep the trouble to a minimum and take the kind of care - with the venue, with the music, with the punters - that to me used to be a given..

When the Unsound crew announced their comeback at Bar Lorca (now, unfortunately, "Jamm") and to a lot of us still The Old White Horse, on Brixton Road, I couldn't have been happier.

And it just gets better and better. There were some initial grumblings - as always with these things - about Unsound going legit. But the door tax hasn't changed, the quality is as good or better, the vibe is different but still marvellous. I still do a slot most months - perhaps the old warm-up or now out on the second rig in the bar - and the expanded venue (and stage) means that live acts have now become a feature. Although an early appearance by Headjam didn't really do it for me, otherwise it's all been spot on - Deadsilence Syndicate, Dub Dada, Inner Terrestrials and most recently The Bug, who ripped the place up

Now things are going really crazy - a 2-week festival in Southern Italy, a planned live night with all the bands that have appeared so far plus other bonuses - but the essential Unsound spirit is still in place.

And with warmer mornings approaching, perhaps you'll find me back on the strip of grass next door, playing roots and ska to the survivors on a diesel-powered minirig strapped to a wheelbarrow, while the Unsound crew confuse any curious cops with stories of pagan weddings...

I've got to the end of this no clearer about why I'm writing it than when I started. I guess it's simply that in the last 2-3 years most of my best times have happened here, and that's worth stating loud and clear..

Much love to the Unsound Crew! See you in two weeks

posted by dubversion at 10:45 am

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