Camden’s Ballroom may claim to be Electric, but its acoustics carry about as much charge as my razor. And as my mug’s five o’clock shadow tends to clock in around three hours earlier than most, there’s room for improvement all round.
George Evelyn AKA DJ EASE AKA Nightmares On Wax is down in the Big Smell all the way from Leeds, and frankly he deserves better. Ever since his home-brewed acid-hop helped put Warp Records on the musical map, Evelyn has delivered consistent product, but the NOW roadshow finds itself squeezing into a square space with uncannily similar dimensions to a football stadium’s technical area.
It may have been the psychoactive effects of the Stella Artois, but at one stage I could’ve sworn I saw Stuart Pearce running around its perimeter. 1995’s Smoker’s Delight made roach-rollers everywhere take NOW to their hearts, but Evelyn’s skill in freestyling hip-hop, soul, techno and dub has always had just too much frisky kinetics to belong solely to the Rizla massive.
But spliffin’ ‘eck, if there’s a better place to be for the NOW crowd north of the river than a joint-passing distance from Camden tube station, I haven’t seen it. Though the lucky recipient of a reviewer’s freebie, the occupational hazard of a guest-list mix-up offers a firsthand view of the post-market trade while awaiting hopeful resolution. Well-catered for by street salesman, Camden has a herbaceous border all its own. This wasn’t so much bring the noise, as bring the Hob-Nobs. But once inside, it was the swampy sound that really took the biscuit.
NOW’s new album In A Space, Outta Sound promises much for the tour, as did Evelyn’s recent stint on BBC 6’s celebrated 6 Mix. With a slick mix borne of the most impeccable taste, Evelyn proved that emulation needn’t be a hindrance to inspiration. Just about visible through the densely assembled up-fer-it party crowd, Evelyn himself hunched over the decks and programming desk, that faultless taste extending to the nattiest porkpie hat since Ranking Roger took his mirror to the bathroom. Hemmed in with singers Chyna B, Sara Garvey and Moses, even the Ballroom’s lofty balcony afforded little opportunity to eyeball Evelyn and co.
But odd glimpse that there was, a question arose that has troubled great thinkers from Descartes, Spinoza, Derrida to Richard Littlejohn: namely, do PA’s qualify as ‘gigs’? In the era of superstar DJ’s, techno-led music makers found the path to higher cash blocked by the simple fact of faceless artists not having the marketing hook of a personality to flog tickets to concert venues. Which is why we ended up with The Prodigy and the like.
As the waves parted, it seemed as though Moses himself might have the answer to our dilemma: “We’re going back to the beginning back to science… it’s all about science…” Curious that anyone calling himself Moses would attempt to beat a path back to the Enlightenment, but sadly this was merely a reference to NOW’s first record A Word Of Science.
Just a little earlier, after a quick run-through Mind Elevation’s Know My Name, Garvey and, errr, ‘B’ reprised The Spinners It’s A Shame. Which, all things considered, was entirely apposite.