I knew what to expect when I walked into the Troxy music hall, somewhere in east London, to see Gentleman’s Dub Club.
That was because I’ve seen them play five (six?) times before. So despite the Facebook posts teasing new material, and despite the fact it would be their biggest headline show to date, I had a pretty good idea where the night was going.
What I expected was a raucous, painstakingly-rehearsed, knees-to-your-chest performance. I expected energy, I expected fun, I expected mischief. I expected, sonically, their signature UK mixture of ska, dub, reggae and rap. I expected to be eased in by the sweet vocals of Eva Lazarus and the (in the event, mediocre) dub of Mad Professor, then swept up by the Gents, shaken around for a bit, and then gently let down, panting, for a short interlude before Benny Page tore up the rest of the night with some jungle.
It’s safe to say my expectations were met, and then some.
For the uninitiated, Gentleman’s Dub Club are a band pretty accurately described by their name. A fully kitted out nine-piece band – including a trumpet and sax – they always perform smartly dressed, all in white-shirt-black-tie, except for their blacked-out frontman.
They first made waves in the UK bass music scene with a couple of hard-hitting EPs. “If the truth be told I’m a sucker for the high grade” is still the go-to singalong hook you’ll hear coming from some portable speakers at the back of a coach on the way to any decent festival, anywhere from Hampshire to Pula, Croatia.
Their first full length, FOURty Four, came out in 2013, followed, in late 2015, by their sophomore The Big Smoke.
I was a little surprised, then, to see them promoting their new album Dubtopia just over a year after their last release. Could they, I wondered, really be releasing an album’s worth of good-quality music so quickly? Or were they just churning out another album to get much-needed cash to divide between their nine members?
From what I heard last night – and they played a very decent amount of new material – I shouldn’t have questioned them.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that GDC are one of the most hard-working bands on the UK scene right now. And although their new material sounded in much the same vein as their tried-and-tested formula, it was never stale.
Dancehall MC Lady Chann made an appearance midway through their set, to perform her part on new song Young Girl. Riding high after her soundbwoy-killing bars on last year’s Topper Top by Spyro, it was good to see her taking a political angle in her collaboration with the Gents.
Her lyrics “Young girl, I know what you’re going through / The silly things they make you do” show that both she and GDC are willing to sing about far more than smoking weed and winning soundclashes. I can’t remember much else from that song, but I look forward to hearing it in full in April when Dubtopia comes out.
All in all it was one of the best performances I’ve seen from GDC, right up there with their show to a packed-out, sun-soaked Lion’s Den stage at Boomtown in 2015. If you haven’t seen them yet, you’re basically mugging yourself off. But have no fear: there’s not much risk of them selling out and making pop-dancehall any time soon.