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Wednesday the 23rd of October saw a homecoming of sorts for Gentleman’s Dub Club, as they returned to the stage at Mine in Leeds. It was the venue for their first gig back in 2006 and was a gig that evidently meant something special for the nine-piece band. Charged with nostalgic emotion about how far they had come since their humble beginnings, coupled with a sheer energy that left you in its wake, it was clear that this show stirred a genuine passion for the hottest band on the British reggae scene right now.
Naming their forthcoming album 44 after their time spent living at 44 Headingley Lane, Leeds evidently holds a central place in GDC’s hearts, as they have since ascended to become one of the great success stories of the city’s music scene.
Although I had previously heard the name Gentleman’s Dub Club whispered in hushed tones before, I only really registered and became enthralled by the band when they were featured by David Rodigan as his scorcher of choice. To get recognition from such an established icon of the reggae and dub scene is testament to the journey the band have made, ranked alongside the hottest new beats of this generation. Truth be told, I didn’t know what to expect when entering Mine, and my straight-man-date for the night even less so. But hell, they broke it down. It’s not often you leave a gig and overhear about 5 separate conversations claiming it as “the best gig I’ve ever been to”, but Wednesday was one of those nights, one that left you smiling and rocking for the whole next day.
The night opened with the inescapable beat of ‘Emergency’, sending shockwaves through the crowd that took us from hot bopping mess to lulled reflection in a blink of an eye. I’ve never been to a gig where the band showed such mastery of manipulation, routinely toying with the baying crowd and pulling them between intense moments of pure ecstatic breakdown, then moments later the hushed beauty of a chilled reggae interlude. It was incredible, and ‘Emergency’ set the tone for the night as the crowd started jumping.
GDC, through the enticing vocals and sheer stage presence of their lead, put me in mind of a dirtier, grittier Madness. This is a good thing. The passion for the music and the talent on show from all parts of the band was evident, as they crafted multi-layered instrumentals and sent the crowd into a skanking fury for the whole night. As the band played ‘High Grade’, we ventured into the centre of the venue and just let a bit loose. I dusted off my GrandDub dancing, and the world was a better place for it.
A personal highlight of the night was the anthemic ‘Give it Away’. As the band chanted “pushing it forward” and I was trapped in a dub hole, pushing and being pushed in every direction, everything felt a bit meta.
The one truly resonant note from the night was the sheer energy on show from the crowd. For a band who, by their own admission, are outside the mainstream, it was truly heartening to see at least three quarters of the packed room chanting their lyrics right back at them. The diverse crowd, ranging from hardcore stoners, to geeks with mopcuts, to rahs on the lash, all found common ground in the unique stylings and energy of GDC. Whilst usually, with bands who play with a reggae sound, there is the temptation to pay tribute to classic tunes to connect to the crowd, GDC’s tracks were strong enough to completely capture the hearts of the room and sustain everyone’s interest. They routinely reduced the crowd into a sweaty, raving mess. That said, I would like to request a cover of ‘Jammin’ for the future, as the band would no doubt make the iconic tune grittier and utterly their own.
All in all, I was one of those people walking home shouting “best gig ever”. GDC enthused the room with a sweaty euphoria and a belief that reggae is alive and well in the UK. As they closed their set, the band thanked the crowd for coming out and supporting music beyond the remit of Radio 1. Gentleman’s Dub Club, through their intense and infectious live shows, are the lifeblood of the current scene, and no doubt have inspired many along the way to give reggae another chance. It’s an experience that truly needs to be lived, and I would encourage you all to do so.
By all means explore the band’s sound on YouTube and buy their music, but to get a true sense of the sheer power of the beats you just have to see them live. Whilst the current tour has come to an end, next time you see the name, just go for it. You won’t regret it.