A sound lesson from the master
The Mad Professor with Earl 16 and Nolan Irie and Pitchblack. The Artery, December 29. Reviewed by Nick Ward.
The post-Christmas influx of summer people and Gathering attendees ensured a packed house for a gig few dub fans would have thought could happen here - a perfectly-timed gig which added more sweat and sensuality to an already sticky summer night.
Pitchblack hit the stage shortly before 11 and immediately grabbed the crowd's attention with a sound like 100 jumbo jets taking off during a particularly vicious thunderstorm, steadily building the vibe before dropping us deep into the world of bass and drums.
From there they held the dancers suspended on their fingertips for the best part of 45 minutes. This duo's growing status in the New Zealand dance community is well deserved, and the ovation at the end of their set showed it.
A mass exodus for fresh air and water preceded the arrival of the Mad Professor with Earl 16 and Nolan Irie. The bottom end of the speakers had received a good workout by now, but the Prof and his henchmen plumbed further depths of bass, to the delight of a packed, steaming room.
Those unfamiliar with dub and dance events might find the Professor's performance style slightly odd - a quiet academic, content to stand behind the desk and work his magic, letting the occasional smile slip to let us know he's thinking of our eardrums and our feet before unleashing more sonic sorcery.
Like all good Sound System DJs before him, he knows how to gauge the mood of the dancers and skankers, pulling them up and easing them down with riddims like seductive molten lead, all the while firing off spurts of vicious, bone-rattling bass. The man enjoys his work.
Irie handled the bulk of the toasting duties, with Earl 16's more mellow tenor providing a pleasant contrast, especially when they teamed up for a take on Bob Marley's Natural Mystic - though there were times when it would have been good for the toasting to be given a rest to allow the Professor's rhythms to speak for themselves. At the end, the dazed and the deafened again escaped for air, while the hardy and the faithful cheered the trio back for a pumping encore.
We have dived into the cauldron of dub and survived - an irie night, and a perfect warm-up for the Gathering. Thank you, Professor. Come back and teach us more.