Asian Dub Foundation and The Dub Pistols play a co-healine gig in a wicked new venue in Hackney
Sitting in the North East of London, beyond the reaches of the Tube, Hackney is not a place I have visited very often. In fact I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve been there before.
We arrive by overground train, with the hipster street art of gentrifed Shoreditch rolling past the window. Hackney, as far as i know, is not really high on the list of destinations for tourists, but as we jump off the train the town is buzzing – presumably with locals. Our last train back is just after eleven, which gets us wondering what the ’till late’ on the tickets actually means.
We grab some food in a reasonably priced, by London standards, Mexican restaurant over the road from the gig and catch up with fellow groover Matt, who just happens to be going back to the same part of London as us, and is driving. Result! (he can come again!)
Walking through the door of the EartH (Evolutionary Art Hackney) we immediately decide we are likely to be back in the neck of the woods in the future. A nice size venue (1,200 downstairs, 750 upstairs in the theater), well laid out, cool lighting and a competent PA system.
With funding from the Arts Impact Fund and the Big Issue, Auro Foxcroft and the team behind Village Underground, renovating the space began in early 2017, after being largely unused since 1984, and opened its doors again in 2018.
The venue looks half empty, but as the Dub Pistols hit the stage I look around and it has miraculously filled up just in time.
These guys have been around almost a quarter of a century, so have had plenty of time to tighten up their shit and know how to put on a show. They inhabit a cool place just outside the mainstream, so have a large following of discerning music lovers. They have hips shaking and hands waving with original grooves and illicit knowing grins for cheeky little covers.
To be brutally honest, I cringed a little at their take on the Clash’s ‘Bankrobber’, but they redeemed themselves with doing a version of ‘Gangster’ which, for me, was better than the Specials original.
Guests, including Natty Campbell and Croydon’s Ragga Twins, wander on and off adding to the party vibe and keep things stirred up nicely.
It was lucky we found a Matt. They were not joking when they said it was a co-headline thing. Support bands don’t do ninety minute sets. By the time they finished, our last train was heading back into central London.
There seemed to be quite a mix in the crowd, with many coming just to see the Pistols, but there was no sign of the crowd thinning out for Asian Dub Foundation who were, to be honest, who I had come to see.
Back in 1993 there was no such thing as streaming or YouTube, sometimes you had to take a gamble. I can remember vividly reading in the NME about this cutting edge asian dub punk hip-hop outfit and rushing out to buy 1995’s ‘Rebel Warrior’ EP and being blown away. Their first album, Facts and Fiction’ from the same year was a masterpiece that still gets an airing in Iguana HQ.
The following seven albums were all bangers in their own right but, as is often the way, that early first album retained number one spot in our heart. And then… in 2020 they released ‘Access Denied’ which caught us off guard. It proved that a band can remain relevant for over a quarter of a century and possibly, just maybe, is as good as that first album.
They hit the stage in dramatic style and soon have the warmed up crowd bouncing again. They may have been around almost three decades, but their mix of bangarah, punk and dub is still pretty unique and cutting edge. This is reflected in the diversity in the crowd who seem to be sharing one big grin as they bounce the night away.
The band dip in and out of their back catalogue, with the likes of ‘Rebel Warrior’, sitting comfortably with their surprise 2020 hit ‘Coming Over Here’, featuring a sample of Stewart Lee taking the piss out of racists.
The two bands compliment each other, sufficiently different to not be repetitive, but sufficiently similar to appeal to the same audience. Although it was ADF that was the clincher for me in terms of getting me ticket, and they put in a blinding set, I couldn’t really say either band were better than the other. They truly were co headliners. Bit of a masterstroke really. Hats off to ever came up with the idea.
And of course hats off to Matt, for providing a lift home once the train drivers had gone to bed.
Right. I’m off to look at the venue website now to see who else they have lined up.