Just for a change of pace: no loud guitars, no stage-diving, no hyperactive frontmen. Instead we have two nondescript physics students, lurking behind rows of samplers and decks, dropping some block-rockin' beats.
It's July 1996 and I'm at the ( short-lived ) Phoenix festival with my mate Glenn. It's a baking hot day, temperature around 30 degrees, we've seen a few good bands ( Echobelly, Specials ) , a few dodgy ones ( Senser, Ian Astbury ), drunk orange juice with Hare Krishnas, enjoyed the sunshine, and now we're counting down the last couple of hours until the Sex Pistols hit the main stage. ( A future post beckons, methinks. ) Glenn goes off to watch Terrorvision while I head to the Megadog Tent to see the Chemicals.
I'd first heard Tom 'n' Ed on some NME compilation, along with other exponents of the Big Beat like Leftfield and Fatboy Slim. The Chemicals had made an instant impression so I went out and bought their first album Exit Planet Dust. It might sound a bit primitive now, when compared to more recent tracks like Galvanize and Do It Again, but the grooves are awesome.
So anyway, I force my way into the tent, past all the people hanging around outside, and push into the heaving mass at the front. The dry-ice is working overtime, lasers and strobes fire out all around, hideous papier-mache sculptures rotate above our heads, the basslines slam into our spines, whistles are blowing, there's no air but nobody's bothered, condensation rains down from the tent roof. Many people are to be seen performing the ancient art of "big fish, little fish, put it in the box" - ah, for simpler times! Without the distractions of a typical rock band preening and prancing on the stage ( the Bros bounce around a bit and wave their arms occasionally ) we can concentrate on the music: bleeps, pulses, washes of synths, slamming drum samples, melodies weaving in and out, sirens blaring, fantastic! Superstar DJs, Here we go!
The Pistols are gonna have to work hard to beat this. Will they do it? Stay tuned...
Above, the Brothers, workin' it out.
Let Forever Be, Leave Home, Galvanize, Block Rockin' Beats by The Chemicals.