Friday, October 03, 2014

Red Bull Culture Clash SF: Dubs Get Dirty

Red Bull's latest Culture Clash event in San Fran was an unqualified success. Despite some issues with muddy sound quality, the night delivered on the promise of exclusive live appearances (from Too $hort, Mr. Vegas and more) and heated dubplate-laden battles between four supremely talented DJ crews. (More on the four crew's in Magnetic's preview). 

Each of the four crews performed 15 minute sets. After each complete round in which the various crews DJ'd, the crowd was asked to asked to cheer for their favorite and the noise level was recorded by a decibel meter. The loudest crowd response would determine the winner.

Here's an abbreviated recap of the four rounds. Any gaps in coverage are due to yours truly taking time to snap photos and enjoy the proceedings. 

Dub Mission

Round 1: Temperature's Rising
After doors opened at 9 p.m., crowds are still filling the venue at 10. Tormenta Tropical (DJ Oro11, Bersa Discos, DJ Theory) and Dirtybird (Claude Von Stroke, Justin Martin) have done their opening sets.

Triple Threat (DJ Apollo, Shortkut, Fran Boogie) play a batch of sing-a-long hip-hop anthems and get the first real crowd reaction, as the DMC-champ DJs flex some of their patented scratch prowess.

Dub Mission (DJ Sep, Maneesh The Twister, Kush Arora, J-Boogie) bring out live horns (trumpet, sax, trombone) to play over Dawn Penn's "No No No" instrumental. MC Zulu is the hosting the stage along with emcee Deuce Eclipse. DJ Sep spins the opening set. They get a strong reaction from their supporters.

Pretty standard sets from the other competitors: Tropical bass from Tormenta Tropical, and house and club beats from Dirtybird.

Round 2: The Selector
Dirtybird brings out DJ Craze (video) from Miami, the first big guest of the evening. They end their set with full-sized costumed bird mascots on stage dancing to a dubplate of house classic "Beat That Bitch" changed to "Beat That Bird (With A Bat)."

Triple Threat start their set with a selection of all-Bay Area hip-hop, then they bring on Lyrics Born who sings "Calling Out" live. Then Zumbi from Zion-I performs live, and the climax is a appearance by the entire Souls of Mischief. (video) They deliver their hit "That's When You Lost" live. The song's lyrics are, of course, directed as a diss at the other sound competitors.

Dub Mission's Maneesh The Twister hypes the crowd with his reggae-remix and drum & bass blends (Barrington Levy "Murderer") and then drops a different dubplate version of "Beat That Bird (With A  Bat)". The Dub Mission crew proceed to pantomime beating down one of the bird mascots on their stage.

Los Rakas
Tormenta Tropical start round two with a dancehall set, then they bring out Bay Area bilingual hip-hop/reggarton crew Los Rakas live. (video)

At this stage of competition, Triple Threat is the running favorite, with Dirtybird second, Dub Mission third.

Round 3: Sleeping With The Enemy
Each crew takes on another's style of music. 

Triple Threat play reggae against Dub Mission dropping Major Lazer,  J-Boog and Junior Gong dub plates. Then they announce they're going after all the crews and cleverly drop some tropical bass and house dubplates.

Dub Mission's J-Boogie (Om Records) plays hip-hop/ reggae remixes against Triple Threat. According to sources, Dub Mission's Kush Arora made a bunch of exclusive hip-hop dancehall mashups blending DJ Mustard instrumentals with dancehall vocals.  

Dirtybird bring out Diplo from Major Lazer to a very noticeable crowd reaction.

It is announced that Tormenta Tropical wins Round 3. Crowd is booing. 

Round 4: The Decider
Dub MIssion opens with J-Boog "Nice To Know You" dub plate. They bring Mega Banton on stage for "Never Heard A Sound" hip-hop remix, then bring out Timex Social Club's Michael Marshall live to sing hook of "I Got Five on It" (the Luniz hit), and also his own hit "Rumors." (video

Tormenta Tropical follow with heated dancehall and tropical bangers, then up the ante by bringing out Jamaican performer Mr. Vegas, who sings "Heads High" and "I Am Blessed."

Dirtybird open their set with two robot-clad figures dressed like Daft Punk (unconfirmed) behind the decks. 

They they amp the crowd up considerably by bringing up Pharoahe Monch who performs "Simon Says," immediately followed by Bay Area legend Too $hort.  It looks like game-over at this point.

Triple Threat open with more dubplates but play back a Cutty Ranks dub that Dub Mission had already spun. *(Almost every crew re-played something another crew had previously spun, a major foul in traditional dancehall sound clash rules.

Triple Threat playa Snoop Dogg dub plate, then bring out house singer Crystal Waters who performs "Gypsy Woman (Homeless)". 

The final voting:
The clash was decided by which crew received the loudest crowd-noise reading on the decibel meter. After each round, each crew's name was announced and a decibel reading was taken. No winner was announced for Round 1. Round Two was won by Triple Threat,  and Round 3 was won by Tormenta Tropical (under protest by Dirtybird's supporters). 

After the final round of crowd cheering, it was determined there was a tie between Dirtybird and Triple Threat. Equal amounts of the crowd began chanting in unison for their preferred crew, either Dir-ty-bird" or "Tri-ple Threat."

The judges announced that another crowd vote would be taken to break the tie. After the crowd cheer was recorded on the Db meter, Triple Threat was announced as winner. However, it seemed the crowd consensus that after all the big guests that Dirtybird had brought up, they deserved the win. But Triple Threat impressed with quality mixing throughout, big guests in the second and fourth rounds and original dubplates. Each of the crews deserve credit for the countless hours of practice, phone calls and organizing it took to get their special sets together.

Selected tweets:
"No matter the victor, this is the craziest thing I've ever been to."

"Jamaica's best performer of this generation @MrVegasMusic just showed San Fran how it's done #redbullcultureclash"

D-Sharp @djDSharp "This #redbullcultureclash event in SF is probably the best show I've been to in a minute!! #hellafresh"

Tormenta stage with emcee, dancers and diss signs

Mega Banton (left) and Timex Social Club's Michael Marshall

Apollo & Shortkut of Triple Threat

Lights and crowds at Red Bull Culture Clash SF