Mungo’s Hi Fi are arguably Scotland’s most strange export – a reggae and dancehall sound system hailing from Glasgow doesn’t quite seem right, yet when they play a show any initial doubts are quickly blown away. With a set spanning more genres than I could count, they brought all sorts of good vibes to Exeter.
I arrived as Danja was taking to the stage, a local grime MC who is signed to Sika Records. He has a fairly distinctive style and is always around at gigs in Exeter. It was early into the evening and the crowd just wanted some big reggae classics to skank to, so unfortunately his grime sound wasn’t really that appropriate. Although it was really clear that Danja was having a ball with his energy filled set, it unfortunately wasn’t really the right time or place.
Next up we had Laid Blak, who came from Bristol with a full live band set up. They had a solid ‘urban reggae’ style which hit all the right notes with the crowd. However, their set was not particularly impressive, but it wasn’t disappointing either; having never heard them before I can’t say I would now want to go to their gig, but they were still enjoyable. They played a mix of covers and their own material; the covers went down a lot better. When the chorus to Eyes Are Red started everyone was a bit confused as to why they were singing an Ed Sheeran song to end the set, as it was very out of line with the rest of the show. It turns out it is actually a Laid Blak original - Sheeran just covered the chorus to blend with one of his own songs.
As soon as Laid Blak had left the stage Solo Banton was on it. For 10 minutes or so he had a chat with the audience as the bands kit was cleared and the DJ equipment set up, with Mungo’s Hi Fi taking to the decks in the form of their DJ, Tommy Danger, in the meantime. The set was mainly a mix of original Mungo’s tunes and some special dubplates; for example we had an exclusive dub version of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car that I have been searching the internet for since the gig – sadly, it is nowhere to be found. It wasn’t hard to hear that the tunes were coming from members of a soundsystem rather than a producer in a studio due to the sheer amount of bass on the records. It genuinely must have tested the Phoenix speakers as it was seriously heavy. Banton was a good MC - he’s quite a funny guy on tunes and is even better live on stage; the crowd clearly warmed to him quickly and he rewarded them with a solid performance. His relationship with Danger was also something of note - as most DJ/MC combinations are for one night only they often find it hard to “get” each others vibe, but this was clearly no issue with this pair.
I was expecting a top draw reggae set from Mungo’s Hi Fi, and overall this is what it was. Every so often, however, Tommy dropped the needle on some other stuff; Sir Spyro’s Toppa Top, which has been getting a minimum of three reloads whenever it is dropped in a grime rave, was played and received a mixed reaction from the audience. Overall, it was a really good night, the Phoenix main auditorium was rammed and I would definitely recommend heading to a Mungo’s Hi Fi gig if you can.