Breath rises in the neon lights as the crowd shuffles despondently outside the O2 Academy. Yesterday’s snow is today’s ice and a press agent has just confirmed the circulating rumours that Fake Blood is too ill to play, having already cancelled a gig in Manchester. Luckily, there is more than enough talent remaining in the line-up.
The O2 Academy has a shoe-box smoking area, a ridiculous queuing system and an air-con unit that works like an emphysaemic lung. However, its cavernous space is fast becoming an attractive prospect for major electro, dubstep and drum n’ bass DJs.
Toddla T’s set covers all of these genres and everything else in between. He moves seamlessly through dance-floor classics both new and old, while incorporating his own tropical style.
His tracks sound like someone taking garage on a day-out to Notting Hill Carnival: it’s bouncy, jump-up music. Backstage, he explained that track-swapping and collaborations between DJs have created a rapidly expanding community that is open to every influence. This sonic explosion applies to Toddla T in every sense possible. His first single ‘Do You Know?’ was released less than two years ago. In a few months he will be releasing a compilation album on the prestigious Fabriclive label.
In person, he is full of an infectious enthusiasm that fuels his manic onstage performance. With a schedule that regularly demands two separate gigs in a night it is fortunate that he obviously enjoys his sets as much as his fans. Unlike most DJs he has not made the move to London, preferring to stay in his hometown of Sheffield.
‘That scene is always so extreme,’ he explains, ‘it’s nice to get away from it during the week.’ Sheffield, with its cultural diversity and eclectic musical history, is at the heart of his sound. A heavy reggae influence soars over the top of grimy two-step rhythms and he seems capable of interacting with anything and everything around him. At one point, a raver stumbles backstage in search of a toilet, Toddla talks to him until his eyes water with desperation.
The remainder of the Fuse Night bill was just as strong. On stage, Lee Mortimer has taken the slot left in Fake Blood’s absence. Techno has been less in the spotlight recently, what with the excitement surrounding dubstep and electro. Mortimer’s set proves it is still incredibly popular. He keeps the crowd at boiling point until it is finally time for Stanton Warriors to take charge.
Previous sets by the Stanton Warrior’s have ranged from the frustratingly minimal to the borderline mainstream. This time they absolutely smash it.
In a two and a half hour set that demonstrates their substantial archive of tracks, they prove that they are two of the most talented DJs around. Their remix of ‘Handz Up’ by Deekline and Solo kicks off the show with its up-tempo rap and whirling drops. They then unleash ‘Pop Ya Cork’ and ‘Shake It Up’ to drive the crowd to fever pitch. It’s certainly too much for the air-con which gives a final cough before retiring for the evening. The next hour is an exploration of the new album Stanton Sessions Vol.3. Although this album lacks the singles that made Stanton Sessions Vol.2 so popular, it brings plenty of fresh vocal samples to their original breakbeat sound, demonstrating a new direction for the Warriors.
Just as the crowd begins to flag, they return to their impressive collection of remixes. They play two encores finishing with a massive edit of their ‘Feel Good Inc.’ remix. Any trace of disappointment from the beginning of the night has evaporated into the pulsing, sweaty atmosphere.
But the night belonged to Toddla T. He tries to emphasise the importance of ‘the party’ in his music, and explains that he doesn’t ever intend to restrict himself to one sound or genre, asserting ‘I love everything me.’ It is refreshing to speak to someone who is so obviously enjoying himself. His aim seems genuinely just to make sure his crowds have the best time possible and he certainly achieved this end tonight.