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Drum and Bass State of the Union // Opinion

We at Goat shed decided that it’s about time we give you, the wonderful Drum and Bass community a state of the union, we want to provide you with an overview of the scene we all love since the Covid-19 pandemic has swept the world from March.

However, this is not going to be an all doom and gloom account of the obvious impacts the virus has had.  Instead, we aim to also highlight the positives that have come to light since the traditional way we interact with DnB has been altered. We’ll go onto discuss the renaissance of the online livestreams and all they’ve brought with them ‘When I’m on the mic, When I’m on the mic’ and all that. The socially distanced events that since July have provided us with a lifeline and a way to pleasure our ears with the sweet rhythms and sounds from the artist’s we love. We’ll also have a discussion surrounding the #wemakevents campaign and finally, we aim to highlight the glimmering lights at the end of the pandemic shaped tunnel.

 When the UK along with Europe and much of the world went into lockdown towards the end of March many of us including ourselves could not have predicted how long and far reaching the effects of this pandemic would be. With the seminal Rampage being the first big event in the DnB calendar to be cancelled swiftly followed by many other events and festivals. 

However the cancellation of these did lead to the renaissance of the online livestream format through Facebook and YouTube from many established brands and labels such as RAM, Hospitality, Jungle Cakes with its regular Friday night streams as well as the three Stay At home festivals put on by us at Goat Shed along with Onyx Recordings(Shameless self-promo I know!). Not only did these provide us with a way to interact with our favourite artists, but also provided us with more of an insight into the personal aspect and lives of these artists which is something we don’t often get from attending events. For example returning to the first Stay at Home festival (I know I know blowing your own trumpet isn’t a good look), who could forget the antics from T>I and Upgrade who as well as playing a raucous b2b set at times often seemed like more of a comedy double act than a DJ duo. Indeed, Upgrade’s brief MC cameo where the famous When I’m on the Mic, When I’m on the mic was born proved to be an iconic moment of not only the festival but lockdown streams in general. Aside from the content of the streams themselves the backgrounds proved to be an unexpected point of discussion in the comments sections, with the amount and variety of pot plants proving to be of particular interest. 

As well as providing us ravers with much needed entertainment during the dark days of lockdown and beyond they have also proved a great way to raise money in the name of good causes. With the trilogy of stay at home festivals earning a total of £22k for NHS Charities Together, Age UK as well as the artists who have been involved in the 3 weekends themselves. Personal highlights included the set of Taxman from the first stay at home as well as T>I b2b Upgrade and Aphrodite across all three weekend’s. Highlights from the most recent weekend of festivities included Nicky Blackmarket’s 360 showcase alongside Original sin and Fatman-D providing that mic energy, as well as Gray b2b Kara, Phibes and J. White b2b O.G. with up and coming south coast MC High Tech Terror all providing us with barnstorming set’s. There were so many good set’s that we cant mention all here, however if you would like to listen back to any of the sets you can find them on the events page as well as on Onyx’s Soundcloud. As well as our own contributions to live stream goodness, the Hospitality in the Dock live stream proved to be a favourite. Disclaimer should any nans need to get in touch after the recent festivities we will provide a helpline at the bottom of the article. Our stay at home festivals with Onyx have proved to be so popular that we’ve even been nominated for the best livestream festival by DJ Mag(vote here) as well as for the best event and livestream award’s in the Drum and Bass Arena awards so please show us some love by voting for us!

Drum and Bass events are just as much about the interactions with randoms in the smoking area as the tight sweaty almost claustrophobic sense of hedonism that only a packed DnB event can provide as they are about the music. So as lockdown restrictions began to ease at the start of July the return of these events was a welcome site. Now of course we are not suggesting that these socially distanced events bring the same buzz and atmosphere as a normal rave, but it’s as close as we are going to get and no matter your opinion on them they are beneficial for the scene. They provide a way for you to not only enjoy DnB with your mates and many other like-minded ravers but it’s also a way to support your favourite artists and promoters and keep the heart of our wonderful scene beating. As it often has and always will be, Bristol seems to be the centre of these events with the Born on Road family especially churning out well curated line-ups at Lakota Gardens as well as many other venues across Bristol. Other venues across the country flying the flag include The Cause in Tottenham which has been running events every Thursday with Engage Audio and most weekends along with The Steelyard in Central London as well as various other venues across the UK. We ourselves have run two highly successful events At Sobar, Southampton with the likes of AC13 and Disrupta headlining along with the joint Born on Road event last week.

A snap from our recent Born on Road event.
I like to call this pic Born on Goatee featuring the Born on Road boys and Aries Goatee along with our very own Goast.

 Now I’m going to indulge you with my personal experience of Socially distanced events. In the build up towards the V Recordings event which took place at Switch in Southampton towards the end of September I experienced the same excitement as I always have done in the days prior to an event listening to mixes by the headliners(Bryan Gee and Serum). On the day as I entered the venue and heard the first few beats even if they were quieter in comparison to previous times it still gave me that familiar rush, then that first sip of that ravers staple Red Stripe all added to the conventional raving experience. Despite being seated at a table the interactions weren’t limited to my table with interactions with adjacent tables still possible even if it was at a distance. But then the smoking area as it so often is proved to be a place of sanctuary an oasis of normality where seemingly nothing had changed with the usual motley collection of slightly inebriated raver’s.Through my various conversations with my raving peers I got a general consensus that whilst these events were not the same everyone was still having a laugh and enjoying the return of DnB even if it is in this Diet Coke format. What I’m trying to say is that whilst we all can’t wait for a return to normality surrounded by many other sweaty ravers, in the meantime socially distanced raves for us are certainly a worthy substitute and something that if you’re a DnB lover are a must do. Whilst another lockdown means these events will be curtailed for the time being, we can only hope that they will return as soon as possible in December if not the new year.

 Now we don’t wish to stray too much into the politics of the next subject but it wouldn’t be right of us to omit the ongoing We Make events and Let us Dance campaign’s  in our overview of the drum and bass scene. The We make event’s campaign is not simply limited to the DnB scene or even the music scene in general but instead aims to increase the level of funding the government provides to those in the events industry,  from the venues to the DJ’s and from bouncer’s to lighting technician’s so that the industry can see out the pandemic. This is a vital campaign given just how many people of all different trades it takes to put on the events we hope will be back soon, so they’re ongoing support is vital. The campaign has seen prominent figures from all musical backgrounds join forces with their fans to urge for an increased level of support, with Inja even producing a range of we just wanna dance merch in support of the campaign. The campaign has led to several social distanced protests taking place across the country with prominent figures such as Benny L being in attendance at the one in London last week.

The #LetusDance campaign has centered around a specific increase and extension of who is considered eligible for the £1.57 billion already set aside by the government as part of its support package for the British Art’s and culture sector. The main driving force behind this campaign has been a petition which at the time of writing has received upwards of 140k signatures and is due for debate in parliament on the 9th November. This campaign is also a vital one as whilst important venues such as Motion in  Bristol have been deemed eligible for funding as a part of the culture recovery fund equally as important venues such as Printworks and the Drumshed’s have been marked as ineligible as well as the vast and spectacular Mayfield Depot in Manchester. We should all get behind these campaign’s as they urge for an increased recognition of not only the importance of the event’s industry to the UK but also that without an increase in the support available our beautiful scene that was flourishing prior to the pandemic will start to wither and die.

As mentioned at the start of this article it is not all doom and gloom when it comes to our scene with those of us in the UK looking with jealousy down at  New Zealand and Australia as two shining beacons for the scene. With both countries especially New Zealand shutting down quickly and effectively as Coronavirus began to take hold around the world, they are in the envious position of being able to host full fledged raves and big scale festivals that seem a way off for us in the UK and most of the world. New Zealand has even seen the legendary Alix Perez of 1985 music speed up his planned move to the country from London his home of the last 17 years(Yes I know were as sad as you are) meaning those lucky Kiwi’s really do have a powerhouse to add to there fledgling scene, which was even nearly unofficially voted as the worlds No.1 scene over on DnB meme’s, dare we mention voter fraud in this current climate ?

However, the return of normality for DnB fans has not just been limited to the Kiwi’s or Aussies but has seen a return in more unexpected places such as Bulgaria where the likes of Benny L, Upgrade and Bad Company UK all featured recently at the RAM Sofia event. In addition to scenes flourishing around the globe the pandemic has had an unexpected positive side effect and that is that it has given producers the time to just sit and produce banger after banger with tunes flying off the production line from heavyweights such as Serum, Shy-FX under his 45 roller alias has even been providing his latest releases for free download over on his Bandcamp.  As well as this huge albums such as Balance Over Symmetry, DNA and Portals have been released from the likes of Voltage, Turno and Sub Focus and Wilkinson respectively. As well as the pros churning out productions and honing their skills on the decks, many budding amateur DJ’s including have been trying their hands at learning to mix and have seen an increase in the levels of mixing could the next big DJ have been born out of this pandemic ?

 Finally we are going to talk about all the ways you can keep supporting the scene and what you can do to help the scene get through its current struggles. To support the artist’s we suggest that as well as downloading and streaming music like you usually would, consider purchasing Patreon subscriptions and dub pack’s from artist’s so you can not only gain access to exclusive tracks amongst other content but also financially boost your favourite artists. You can also support artists emotionally through positive interactions on their socials with positive feedback often being the driving force our wonderful creatives throughout the scene need to keep going. Continuing along the social media thread keeping forums such as DnB Talk and its various offshoots, 174 and our very own Goat Shed community page active. These are important ways for us the DnB fam to keep updated with the goings on in the scene, but also to keep in contact with each other and keep everyone smiling with an assortment of memes both good and bad. You can also help support the venues by supporting crowdfunder’s but in a less tangible way by just supporting the various petitions floating around. 

We had great fun this past weekend raving with you lot even if it was from our bedroom’s, and the positive vibes flowed all weekend before signing off we would like to remind everyone that despite the tough times we are all facing, there are positives we can look towards, which we can use to inspire us to keep us going and hope that whether it be 2021 or beyond that we will all be dancing together again as one big happy Drum and Bass family.

If you would like to support us here at Goatshed please consider subscribing for our Patreon or if you’ve enjoyed our Stay at Home festival’s why not support our friends over at Onyx.