It’s Friday night, 11 p.m., outside the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. It's a magnificent building on its own, but even more so basking in the glory of the Eiffel Tower just across the river. Tonight it’s blessed with an equally brilliant sound to match: Drum & Bass, the Eiffel Tower of electronic music – sparkling, energetic, passionate, dropping your jaw with its heavy drops. D & B is having a bit of a global renaissance, with 2015 being arguably its biggest year since the late-90s. But, Paris, really? The city that gave us Daft Punk, Justice, and baguettes? Yes, really; the city is sick with it. This year alone, Paris has hosted major events such as Animalz and Jungle Juice, with acts like Noisia, Mefjus, The Upbeats, Current Value and Ivy Lab. With Jungle Juice back in town, I wasn't going to miss it. Although the night is called "Jungle Juice," tonight there is nary a Junglist in sight. This event is all about Neuro and Drum & Bass, with a *SICK AF* lineup of heavy hitters: Phace, Optiv & BTK, Jade, RIDO, and more!
For those of you who are new-ish to the D&B scene, it might be useful to pause for a second and define "Neuro." As we know, electronic music is the most dynamic of all genres. Specifically, Drum & Bass has always evolved and mutated into sub-genres faster than any other sound. "Neurofunk," as it was initially called, emerged out of the Techstep scene of the late-90s, pioneered famously by Ed Rush & Optical. It pushed the sound into even harder, darker territory. "Neuro" as it was later shortened to, features backbeats rather than breaks and the space they create gives the tracks a funkier feel, at times even including Housey or Jazzy influences.
Starting off the night was local talent Bobby WLR, producer and founder behind Drum & Bass community WeLoveRemix, with a set of hard bass waves going through the sparse audience. It's just impossible to stand still when this music hits and the fact that the place was still filling up was compensated by the psyched-up crowd. And there it was, that euphoric Drum & Bass feeling when the sub bass mixes with your heart beats and the music takes over. We were flying off on a highly danceable sound lasting for an hour and a half. Monster hit 'Back To You' by Muzzy & Voicians came in towards the end of the set, a Liquid piece of harmony paired with the falling sweat drops. The audience suddenly grew huge at that moment and everyone was already letting loose. Bobby left the stage having done a stellar job, but that night had only just begun.
Next came Rido, known for his love of film soundtrack music. He definitely took us on a sonic journey, delivering the most varied, intellectual, and complex set of the night. His taste for syncopation made the set somewhat challenging to dance to, but genius tracks like Mefjus & InsideInfo “Leibniz” and the level of surprise put a smile on my face that remained throughout the night.
When Neurofunk pioneer Jade graced the stage, the venue was crammed. The founder of the already classic label Eatbrain served up tracks so menacing they could have been a backdrop for your nightmares, but in a good way. In fact, the dark and intense sounds made the green dragon beside me and the guy throwing mystical shapes with his lightbulb gloves seem as though they were characters popping out of the music itself.
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The whole place was on fire when Phace, one of the key figures in the second wave of Neurofunk, took over. A master of intense, breathtaking buildups, he caused a delirium with some of the toughest tunes this side of the English Channel. The distorted Reese basslines crawled under my skin as people all around me danced like maniacs, even standing on each other’s shoulders! When he dropped the famous breakbeat of 'Dead Limit' by Noisia and The Upbeats, the crowd went completely mental. Big up for a killer set!
It's now [what time?] but Optiv & BTK show us that the night is still young. They took us on a genius and varied set, dancing on the line between pure hard and smoothly melodic tunes. Their constant flirting with other genres without ever losing track of the tough, danceable basslines put the audience in a frenzied state. “LE BORDEL!” shouts the guy next to me. This would loosely translate into English as "SICK!" I couldn't have said it better myself.
When L 33 took to the decks, the audience showed no sign of fatigue, despite the early morning hour. The crowd might have been a bit thinner, but the remaining folks are as hardcore as the set itself. I quickly forget that my legs feel a bit heavy after more than five hours of dancing and from the stickiness of the soaked floor. L33 rounded out the night with a set so heavy it was impossible to stand still, spicing up the naughty Neuro with some interesting and unexpected breaks perfectly balancing the crowd between frustration and satisfaction. What a sparkling end to an awesome night!
Backstage I got a chance to chat to Optiv, BTK and L 33, all of them happy with the vibe of the night. "Drum & Bass is blossoming not only in Paris, but all over Europe," declares L33.
BTK, these days more into the Techno scene, saw a distinct difference between the audiences of the two genres: "The Drum & Bass crowd is younger." The younger audience has less patience and needs faster music. Maybe a perfect mirror of the speed of society itself: my only annoyance during the night was that the lack of reception made it hard to immediately upload a photo, oh well, the memory lasts.
With the bass still resonating in my heartbeat, I stumbled out of the venue and into the morning. It was now 6:30 a.m. and the light source has switched from the glowing Eiffel Tower hours earlier to the rising sun. The city of Paris has risen yet another step on the ladder as one of the world's top destinations for Drum & Bass. We're ready.