The last time I reviewed Gentleman’s Dub Club, I could barely fit enough positivity into the article; they blew the roof off The Croft in what was one of the most exhilarating nights of live music I’d ever seen. This gig therefore, upgraded in capacity aboard Bristol’s perma-docked ship ‘Thekla’, had a lot to live up to.
Now the fourth time I’d seen the band in just under a year (including the excellent Outlook Festival and its reunion party), it was no longer a surprise to find the band to be so large, to dress in classic ska-style suits, or to come armed with a host of instruments. Having seen them bombard audiences with near-peerless energy and force-of-nature style walls of bass before, I anticipated no surprises musically either... I just expected them to be brilliant. Anything less would be a sub-par performance given such a high track-record.
Fortunately, they were on fire! Drawing the crowd in eagerly from the bar and upper decks, a slowly escalating introductory piece started with a few instruments, then gained in volume and complexity; people eagerly awaited the tipping point at which the fizzing ambience would boil over. With the full band emerging on stage one by one as the composition swelled, anticipation grew steadily, the music gearing itself higher and higher before reaching a lofty precipice, at which point the audio-avalanche began as huge bass absolutely hammered its way through the boat with the first pivotal ‘drop’. In a knee-jerk reaction, the whole place exploded into skanking bedlam that would continue for the rest of the energetic evening.
Following the opening explosion, some new tunes were mixed into the set in a move towards more ambient and contemplative sounding territory. A cool contrast to their established tour de force, the easier tones offered a rhythmic tranquillity for a short while, before the inevitable and eagerly awaited pummelling arrived as tunes dropped into the carnage so loved by the fans.
On such a note, “Tough At The Top”, GDC’s recent collaboration with P Money, proved an absolute hit amongst the Bristol crowd. Received with a massive reaction, the bubbling introduction weaved its way ominously, before having the treble/middle rug pulled from beneath its musical feet as the tune slammed into the low frequencies that launched the crowd into even greater animation than before. Further to the driving bass and excellent instruments was the snarling vocal, which flicked between relaxed and rapid-fire tempos, involving you with a flow that draws you in further, almost hypnotically, whether you can make out the lyrics amongst the chaos or not.
With their typical party atmosphere on stage that seemed to entertain the band as much as the fans, the relaxed vibe allowed people to mess around and enjoy themselves more so than at many other gigs – some of the dance moves I saw in the crowd were not just unusual, but hilarious (and intentionally so!). People gave it their all, both naturally with their über-involvement in the music and just to make their mates smile even wider amongst the madness.
However, whilst loud enough to sink many smaller vessels and perhaps collapse a few lungs, I wondered if the volume and bass could’ve been tweaked up a bit further on board the Thekla (though perhaps I’ve just inadvertently discovered that I’m going deaf?). Whether there really was room for an increase or not, the bass shook the hull confidently and the band’s instruments and vocals were crisp and enjoyable, to say the least.
Aside from the raging inferno of Chase and Status and the in-your-face charisma of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, I can’t think of many live acts I’ve seen in the past few years that can touch on Gentleman’s Dub Club’s live experience with regard to sheer electricity. Always ticking the essential boxes for a good gig, they keep their performance free from unnecessary distractions; they provide great music and massive energy, from which the rest unfolds naturally. As simple as it may be, I’m yet to see this formula fail.
If you’re yet to see them live, regardless of your preference in music, you’re missing out on a great party! A friend who wasn’t previously aware of GDC’s music (nor especially bothered by their genre in general), came along on my assurance that they would “blow his head off!”... he’s since declared the gig to be the best he’s ever seen, such was the impact.
Personally, whilst the euphoric spark of novelty may be fading (as is inevitable with anything, music-related or otherwise), I was still beaming from ear to ear throughout, revelling in the instinctive rhythms, boat-rattling bass, inspiring energy and no-nonsense atmosphere that rocked the evening from start to finish. Even four gigs in, a point at which I'd find lesser bands may have grown boring or contrived, Gentleman’s Dub Club kick ass!
9 / 10
Darren Paul Thompson
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