Ever been to a gig where, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to get into it? The sort of show where, despite singing along to all the choruses, bobbing your head to each tune, and maybe even jumping up and down a bit, by the last half an hour your feet ache, you’re hopelessly sober and just want to go home. Gentleman’s Dub Club at Wylam Brewery was not one of those gigs.
Scenic Exhibition Park on a chilly north-eastern evening definitely appears far flung from the DIY scene of Kingston from which dub originated, but as this sold out show attests even after five decades, the music of Jamaica still holds a special sort of resonance around the globe. Georgia & Seth, “Lively Up’s first ever live music resident artists” were up first, donning the classic acoustic-guitar-and-voice combo to perform a variety of stripped-back covers. The duo showcased some impressive vocal skills, such as some tight harmonies on Curtis Mayfield’s soul classic ‘Move On Up’, while Seth’s highly rhythmic guitar style provided apt accompaniment. However, on the whole, their set felt somewhat unpolished.
A cheeky but pretty ingenious way to get the crowd moving as quickly as possible
Admirably they brought out a loop pedal for several songs; this however saw variable success, at times adding interesting textures to the performance, but at others not quite going to plan (in one particularly unfortunate instance the vocal “em-be-bedees” became gratingly out of synch with the “ooooohhhhh-ooohs”). While providing a fun start to the night – I in particular enjoyed their cover of Toots and the Maytal’s ‘54-46 Was My Number’ – the duo undoubtedly require more work to reach their full potential.
Taking to the stage one by one, Gentleman’s Dub Club kicked off the set with a snippet of their biggest track to date ‘High Grade’, before breaking into a smooth rendition of ‘Music is The Girl I Love’ – a cheeky but pretty ingenious way to get crowd moving as quickly as possible. And get the crowd moving they did; from the word go, the entire room was skanking and swaying along, kept up to the very end.
Featuring a blistering solo by trumpeter Matt Roberts
Dress codes for bands appear increasingly rare these days, however GDC had theirs absolutely nailed, each rocking a shirt and tie, stubble and short hair – really the exact look one would expect from a band named Gentlemen’s Dub Club.
Singer Jonathan Scratchley made no attempts to hide how much fun he was having, sporting a huge smile as he moved about the stage effortlessly matching the energy and positive vibes of the crowd. Nor was he afraid of a bit of audience interaction, such as getting the entire room jumping along with him for the ska-heavy ‘Emergency’. This is not to diminish the vigour of the rest of the band; within the first half an hour, each member was drenched in sweat (fortunately some towels had been distributed around the stage pre-set).
The band proved they could also channel more laidback reggae vibes with the cool and aptly-named ‘Dancing in the Breeze’, off their most recent release Dubtopia.
The set came to a close with a performance of ‘High Grade’ – this time not only in full, but with an extended intro – which featured a blistering solo by trumpeter Matt Roberts. Cries for more from the crowd were not left unheeded, and GDC returned with a suitably fiery rendition of ‘Fire’ for the encore.
Many complex adjectives could be used to sum up Gentleman Dub Club’s performance, however I am going to go with simply a lot of fun.