Freerange Presents AJ Tracey at Analog, Bristol
We’ve been keeping a close eye on Freerange; we went to one of their first nights in Bristol last year, Champion at Timbuk2, and they have continued to deliver top lineups ever since. Saturday night was no different, with grime’s current hot topic AJ Tracey headlining an impressive roster. The decision to gamble on the venue was rewarded. Although Analog directly replaced the student sports night favourite Bunker, the club has been significantly altered and upgraded since the days of its previous incarnation. Whilst the (slightly seizure inducing) light rig was an improvement, best of all was the new speaker system, which was ample for the room and made up for the subzero temperatures (which contributed to perhaps the greatest collection of north face coats done all the way up in the country).
Murlo did an excellent job of warming up, with a combination of album tracks, VIPs and exclusives, and was arguably the standout performer of the night. The melodic grime master set the tone early on with some high tempo bassline, courtesy of Freerange favourite Champion, straight into ‘B-Line fi Blow’ by Bristol dub legends Smith & Mighty. From this happy medium, Murlo brought in garage vibes with DJ Bigga G’s iconic ‘Mind, Body and Soul’ before playing a few of his own songs, including ‘Cold Stroke’ and ‘Furnace’, with a remix of Flowdan’s ‘Horror Show Style’ wedged perfectly in between. Other highlights included a Killa P dub of Sinjin Hawke’s remix of Scratch DVA ‘Worst’, whilst a considerably slowed version of Murlo and JT the Goon ‘Plume’ completed the set.
The track that got the best reaction, though, was Sir Spyro’s ‘Topper Top’, which was spun at least three times across the night. This repetition seemed to be a real theme and was certainly exhibited in Rinse FM guru Slimzee’s set, which was enjoyable but predictable. Songs included ever-presents; Lethal Bizzle with ‘Pow’, Danny Weed’s ‘Creeper’ and the horribly overplayed and surely now disposable ‘Rhythm and Gash’. Following on, President T did a good job and upped the atmosphere, again mixing grime classics with his own feature verses. Jumping into perhaps his best-known feature on Sir Spyro’s ‘Side by Side’ almost straight away; he seemed to be up for the occasion.
This was more than could be said for disappointing headliner AJ Tracey. Whilst his talent is undeniable, it is frustrating to see someone turn up late, then play for less than their allotted time, especially when promoting an EP. There were surprisingly few songs from the ‘‘Lil Tracey EP’, with the set-ending ‘Buster Cannon’ being most memorable. The huge squad on stage, including Big Zuu, who brought volume and energy but very few actual lyrics, improved proceedings, but the atmosphere was slightly off. Strangest of all was when the Ladbroke Grove rapper played fan favourite ‘Thiago Silva’ (minus the fantastic Santan Dave). Any view of the stage was totally blocked by the sheer number of people Snapchatting or filming the song (the vast majority of the crowd), many with the flashes on, which was needless and frustrating. The crowd, in general, let the night down slightly. Apart from the almost comical boy/girl imbalance, many were also needlessly aggressive, which contributed to the event’s almost lad-rock-gig feel, a sad trend that seems to have shadowed the increasing popularity of grime as a genre.
Although some flaws, the night impressed through the sets of Murlo and Slimzee and didn’t reflect badly on the night as a whole.
Freerange are playing host to bassline queen Flava D on March 17th at Junk in Southampton so don’t miss out. Tickets and info here.
THE GIG IN REVIEW
- Newly renovated venue
- Excellent sets from Murlo and Slimzee
- Underrated performance from headliner
- Poor/aggressive crowd