Red Bull Music Academy: 12 x 12

Featuring Peter Hook, Arthur Baker, Jazzie B, Roni Size...
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The concept of 12x12 reminds me of the flight of fancy of a bored Abu Dhabi sheikh: ‘Oil fields are so borrrring. I want the finest DJs, playing their finest songs, I want them now. Yalla!’

Happily, Red Bull have balls and taste in surplus and put on a night one of the most singular line ups to ever plaster underpasses. Peter Hook from New Order alongside Shy FX, Martyn Ware from Human League alongside Dynamite MC. It appeared to be a hugely exciting prospect, something a Red Bull source told me is explained by “the fact that they can afford to experiment because they aren’t in it for the money”.

The concept is as follows: 12 DJs playing 12 of their own 12”s that sum up London, for 12 minutes. This night had legendary potential, but there were doubters. Humbugs. Curmudgeons. People who said it couldn’t work, members of rival cabals for whom the roster didn’t quite fit.

The final track summed it up. Peter Hook played ‘Blue Monday’ to a very Heaven crowd, while Shy FX stood in the sidelines with Stamina MC and looked, frankly, scared. Peter Hook’s set was one of the best, as he mixed the track some of its infinite mutations since it came out 28 years ago including a pretty galvanizing trance version. Ahem. And all the while looking pretty debonair too.

The artists stood against a wall behind the decks waiting to play, resembling a police ID parade of legends of widely zigzagging appearance and stature – Roni Size, slight with his mane of dreads set next to Martyn Ware’s pomaded coiffure and well-filled trouser. Ware’s performance was one of the most memorable yet weaker performances. The song is unavoidably huge: ‘Temptation’ by Heaven 17. The excitement of seeing it performed live was levelled by Ware’s visible nerves and high-pitched squeals. Pretty incredible though.

The killer party set was Roni Size’s as Bristol Rovers’ baddest fan tore through a party hip hop set including Witness, followed by his own ‘Trust Me’ before dropping in his own eagerly anticipated ‘Brown Paper Bag’, scratching the vocal cry before the break for a gusset-soaking few seconds. He also had the temerity to stray beyond his own jungle repertoire with M Beat’s ‘Incredible’, and was slapped down by original bad boy Shy FX who dropped his very own VIP Dubplate of the track during his ‘set’.

With more godfathers than a christening, it takes someone really special to stand out: A Guy Called Gerald manages it pretty well. His album ‘28 Gun Bad Boy’ pretty much invented jungle, and although he probably gets sick of people warbling on about his Hacienda anthem ‘Voodoo Ray’ he played a pretty impressive, chunky tough version of his epic.

The tightest performance was Arthur Baker’s who came out with a brilliant version of his ‘Afrika Bambaataa’ track, complemented with some wicked visuals which on the night came from Ninja Tune’s Hexstatic.

Overall, I wasn’t convinced the night worked as a cohesive unit. However it was a freak of pellucid beauty – the jarring combinations created a sort of wonderful friction. Red Bull are making history with their gigs this year – nights like this and Culture Clash truly put the cat amongst the pigeons in a scene of hermetic arenas and strictly policed musical borders.

Words by Miguel Cullin

Find out more about Red Bull Music Academy on ClashMusic HERE.

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