[sprawl of sound] Tectonic Youth

Entering the Avalon Bar on a Sunday in late December, I encountered a 41Dub party in progress. It had a vibe unlike any other I've experienced in Orange County.

The Avalon's small dance floor was crowded with guys and gals bending their knees and bobbing their heads in time to the subsonic bass waves and clipped, brutish beats of dubstep, a relatively new electronic-music genre that originated in London. They were clearly enjoying themselves, but in a more introverted manner than typical. The BPMs seemed much slower than those usually heard at OC venues—less coke-fueled, more ganja-powered. You could feel your internal organs rippling due to the massive low-end vibrations emanating from the records spun by DJs Kelly D, Steady and Uome. MCs Taylor Smith and LD periodically hyped the crowd with exhortations to make some fucking noise while dropping casual rhymes and big-upping the OC dubstep scene.

A fusion of dub reggae and 2-step (a.k.a. U.K. garage), dubstep arose in the early '00s but didn't really break out of its insular London origins until around 2005, when releases by Skream, Digital Mystikz, Burial and Kode 9 started garnering rave reviews. (The Tempa label has issued a series of compilations titled Dubstep Allstars, all of which serve as excellent intros to the genre.) Around this time, some American cities—including Seattle, New York and San Francisco—started DJ nights devoted to the sound. Now, finally, 41Dub's Taylor Smith, LD and Post789 are bringing it to Orange County on alternate Sundays at Avalon Bar.

Oddly, the Avalon's décor partially inspired the three organizers to start 41Dub (it debuted Dec. 16; the name derives from the apartment number where the triumvirate dwell), as it reminded them of a now-defunct LA venue that hosted weekly dubstep parties. According to Smith, “We felt the urge to do something local during a lull in the LA dubstep scene. Like many other junglists, Post and LD were very influenced by the drum-and-bass scene, and as they got older and life started changing and sounds evolved, they were drawn to the mellow vibe, but still bass-heavy sound, of dubstep.”

Smith—who is also a hip-hop producer/MC—got turned on to dubstep while listening to a CD mix of it by DJ Ricky Def. “I immediately fell in love with the bass-heavy sound but still [provocative] melodies and have been going to shows and listening since. After moving in with LD, I was introduced to a lot of influential DJs and have been in love ever since. I find a lot of hip-hop influence in some of the beats and really enjoy the overall soundscape/composition of the style. It's just a 'feel-good' kind of music, taken well with dancing, friends and drinks.”

“I look at it as a cross between drum and bass and hip-hop/reggae, all of which I love dearly,” adds LD. “The amount of energy I put into drum and bass in the past eight years has worn me out, but dubstep still maintains a lot of the things I love from that scene. The feeling I got when I first heard drum and bass, which I never thought I'd have again, has arisen in dubstep.”

Post is especially fond of dubstep's “heavy, sometimes glitchy beats, the sub-bass frequencies and slow tempo. The sheer movement of air being pushed by speakers, the energies of the crowd at shows, or the looks that you get driving down the coast with the windows down. As I watch the musical genome develop, as genres and subgenres split and come together, dubstep . . . offers a platform very open to development and experimentation. DJs take more creative liberty, and thus have more fun creating and playing in a field that lacks the hard definition and overly developed expectations found in neighboring scenes. Dubstep right now almost defies convention because it shares the quality of being obscure, but it's also very inviting due to its derivation from so many other genres we're feeding off.”

I was impressed by the turnout at the Dec. 30 41Dub, especially for a Sunday, the night before New Year's Eve. I asked the guys how they built such a strong following so quickly.

“We feel that the 'buzz' surrounding the dubstep sound is finally extending beyond the underground, and people are eager to hear it,” Smith says. “That, coupled with our close relationships with DJs and the underground community, the solid reputation that we and modernorganic [a multigenre music collective started by Post] have built up, and our consistent promotional efforts have been key. Throwing it on a Sunday helps because it doesn't put us in direct competition with any of the other clubs and parties in the scene.”

Besides showcasing regional talent, 41Dub plans to fly in quality DJs from elsewhere. Luckily, Smith has decided to remain here and help nurture OC's dubstep scene, after contemplating a move to San Francisco.

“Orange County, to me, is kind of like a weird episode of Cheers,” he says, “but I love it here.”

41Dub takes place at Avalon Bar, 820 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 515-4650. every second and fourth Sun., 9 p.m. Free. The next show is Jan. 27, featuring Jason, Rebellion, Kial and Sweet Beets. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/41dub and modernorganic.org.


One Reply to “[sprawl of sound] Tectonic Youth”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *