It took a while to get over the weirdness of Grandmaster Flash appearing in South West England. There was just something so incongruous about that juxtaposition to me. Looking at his tour dates though, he’s appearing at spurious provincial venues all over the country, so I guess I should just get over it and realise that the Grand Master walks among us mere mortals.
I arrived at the Phoenix just as Filthy Mitts wrapped up their set, which, as far as I could tell, involved mixing instrumentals on two decks and overlaying hip-hop vocals on top with the other two. The gimmick was interesting but the effect was a little underwhelming. Maybe I would have benefited from seeing the whole set and should shut my mouth, who knows.
Things really ratcheted up with the arrival of the headline act, however. All of my preconceptions of this God-figure in hip-hop immediately dissolved as Flash took the stage and started to interact with the crowd. What ensued was the best DJ performance I’ve ever seen.
Let me qualify that sweeping statement a little. Flash works the crowd better than any other DJ I’ve ever seen. Forget the David Guetta school of crowd interaction that involves hitting play on a prerecorded set while occasionally adopting the Christ pose from behind the decks. Flash is constantly bouncing off the crowd, cutting tracks in and out to let the crowd sing, and winding back records when they get a good reception. It’s old school technique, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
At the outset, Flash told us he’d be playing an eclectic set, and he wasn’t kidding. It was a blend of the best of hip-hop classics, with some rock riffs thrown in for good measure. It was all happily lapped up by the crowd from beginning to end. If for some reason, Flash ever returns, don’t miss out on the party he brings with him.