Oxide & Neutrino/MJ Cole/Pay As U Go : London Hackney Ocean

...live UK garage and bloodshed don't always go hand in hand...

8.15pm – The scenes outside the Hackney Ocean suggest

that east London has become the centrepoint of the complete

collapse of Western civilisation, rather than just the

third date of the MTV-sponsored Five Night Stand. There

are guards with pitbulls, bowtied Nation Of Islam members

selling ‘The Final Call’, police cars circling and crowds

of immaculately dressed women milling around a security

system that makes Pentonville Prison look positively slipshod.

Welcome to UK garage night.

8.20 – After passing through an airport-style metal

detector, emptying out our bags and enduring a frisk

so thorough we’re now probably carrying the bouncer’s

children, NME is through.

8.25 – Imagining that the evening would run on

classically tardy garage time, we’re an hour late.

Unfortunately, we didn’t bank on the TV crews

insistence that everything runs to a strict timetable.

This means that we’ve missed PAs from mucky So

Solid-aligned duo The Reelists, ex-con turned

crooner Felon and nu-junglists Shy FX and T Power.

But then again, so has most of the audience – the

hall is about a third full. Thanks also to the

cameras and general air of repression, the atmosphere

is subdued to say the least. Even the four blokes

jigging about on the balcony can’t get the party started.

8.30 – Pay As U Go take the stage, a 10-strong

collective from down the road in Leyton. They’re

determined to at least grab our attention – you can

feel the basslines in your throat, while their

attire comprises bright orange trackies and

pristine white flat caps, rendering them unlikely

to be run over on the way home.

8.45 – After an invigorating blast of Bubba

Sparxxx’s ‘Ugly’, JMC and Valiant Crew (replacing

the More Fire Crew – who were chucked out because

they had too many bodyguards!) step in to the

breach with a combination of old-school hip hop

and garage all too obviously cobbled together at

the last minute.

8.50 – The two good Sugababes are in the bar! Things are looking up.

9.00 – MJ Cole plays a reliable DJ set while Pay As U Go throw mad shapes.

9.15 – NME discovers that the bands have had to

pass through another metal detector [I]on their

way onto the stage[/I]. Great – no wonder things

have been so sulky. Are the Super Furries in for

the same treatment tomorrow night? Doubtful.

9.30 – Headliners Oxide & Neutrino come on and

finally we can get excited. The hall is now full,

the crowd is hyped, and O&N are looking fine in

burgundy leather overalls (Oxide) and a tasty

gold specs/black tank top combo (Neutrino). Unlike

everyone else, they have a band, film projections

and dancers. Oxide plonks an open bottle of Cristal

by the decks and cues up ‘Only Wanna Know U Cos Ur

Famous’. It’s automatically the most thrilling and

menacing thing that’s happened this side of the metal


9.40 – The dancers come back on in orange flak jackets and

wave sticks about like, well, Morris dancers. It’s a

black inner city urban recontextualisation of white

rural traditions, as they’d say on Newsnight Review.

9.50 – The massive security presence is automatically

explained by the emergence of the core members of So

Solid Crew. Kaish (AKA The One With The Scary Eyes) is

joined by Swiss, Megaman (waving a bottle of Tattinger

rather than Cristal – is he down on his luck or something?),

Romeo and Lisa Maffia. They crash into the Prodigy-sampling

‘No Good (Start The Dance)’.

9.55 – Er, that’s it. Everyone files backstage, probably for another strip search.

10.00 – There’s a solo Oxide DJ spot. He plays

drum ‘n’ bass, to the crowd’s rowdy appreciation.

10.10 – …and a costume change for Neutrino (into Mickey

Mouse t-shirt and different jeans). Speculation in the

audience about their relative sexual prowess is now rampant.

10.20 – Tune! It’s ‘Up Middle Finger’!

10.25 – Double tune! It’s ‘Rap Dis’, for which So Solid

make a reappearance. All is furrowed-brow menace on the

video screen behind, which luckily obscures the fact that

some of the lyrics are aimed at those notorious gangstas,

S Club 7.

10.29 – A very rockist drum roll… and that’s about the

size of things. A strange night: that South Central

LA-via-the number 73 bus atmos and level of security

that would’ve made Hannibal Lecter feel at home took the

edge off the audience’s fun, but at least it proved to

tabloid hacks and edgy promoters that live UK garage and

bloodshed don’t always go hand in hand.

Alex Needham