Live: Trouble & Bass Brings Bristol Producer Joker to Santos Party House


Trouble & Bass featuring Joker, Nomad, and Bok Bok & L-Vis 1990
Santos Party House
Saturday, November 21

Joker’s hypeman MC Nomad wants to know if the audience can FEEL IT IN THE RIBCAGE, which the audience, arms raised, responds to with a loud, slurry sound. By the looks of the floor, the ribcage isn’t the only place people are feeling it, and the bass isn’t the only thing they’re feeling.

I’ve come as a passionate skeptic to see how people are going to dance to a set by Joker, a 20-year old producer from Bristol who makes high-gloss, cinematic funk that sounds better suited to night driving than dancing. His best music–tracks like “Purple City” and “Digidesign”–don’t have any nuance or subtlety, but don’t need it–the confidence is in the synthesizer melodies, primary in color and brighter than an interrogation room. (Joker, not directly on the subject of nuance but perhaps relevant: “I hate boring shit.”) The bass is deep and the funk is agile. 8-bit garbage fries at the edges of the mix. It’s more like grime or crunk than techno, and people dance accordingly: Sort of like jellyfish. (That said, my favorite dancer is wearing headphones. No idea what he’s listening to.) Joker looks stoic and impassive onstage, but does what any good self-promoting producer would: Brings a bouncy hype man and saves the set’s most climactic moments for his own tunes. To my surprise and delight, it all works beautifully.

Bok Bok & L-Vis, two London-area kids who run a party called Night Slugs, are almost as impressive: A splatterhouse mix unrestrained by time or genre, sometimes falling into straight-on four-four, sometimes dwelling on kinky, shuffling stuff, sometimes big and chordal and dramatic, other times needling and aggressive. (My partner, an English guy of an older generation, squints and smiles at the selections: “This tune was big, like, twelve years ago.” And Bok Bok’s Caesar cut? “What the hardcore kids used to wear.”) That Americans know–and appreciate–this hyperterritorial underbrush of British dance music continues to impress and confound me. If I want a “Sex, Drugs, and Dubstep” T-shirt, do I have to buy it online? A guy next to me in the crowd looks anxiously back and forth between the stage and his friend, loudly ID’ing tracks in the friend’s ear. OH YOU HAVEN’T HEARD THIS? THIS IS THE REMIX. OH IT’S GREAT. NO, THE REMIX. But in the end, we’re still New York: The track that really puts everyone over the moon sounds a whole lot like “A Milli.”