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Getting Thumped

The bass line is everything in dubstep, whose core moves like robo-elephants, stomping and booming along.

A hustle of concertgoers, maybe 250 people, is inside Engine Room, pressed up as close to a wall of subwoofers as they can get.

There is only a little bit of light in the room, located near the bar and adjacent to the DJ station. It does not flicker and it does not shoot lasers. It does not do anything except exist as a little bit of light.

There is no confetti and there are no smoke machines, either. DJ + speakers + people. That's about it. It all feels very industrial.

Suraj K, fifth from left with the rest of the Gritsy crew, started a dubstep night in Houston early in 2006. Today Houston is regarded as one of the best dubstep markets in the United States.
Marco Torres
Suraj K, fifth from left with the rest of the Gritsy crew, started a dubstep night in Houston early in 2006. Today Houston is regarded as one of the best dubstep markets in the United States.
Gritsy crowds, such as this New Year's Eve 2011 show at Warehouse Live, have been filling Houston-area venues for several years.
GRITSY.COM
Gritsy crowds, such as this New Year's Eve 2011 show at Warehouse Live, have been filling Houston-area venues for several years.

Pejman, one of Gritsy's DJs, works through a set of heavy, traditional dubstep. He's only been spinning for ten minutes and already has the crowd wholly engaged.

As he grows the beat towards a crescendo, the crowd's energy rises. They follow the leader.

grows. rises.

Grows. Rises.

GRows. RIses.

GROws. RISes.

GROWs. RISES.

GROWS! RISES!

GROWS!! RISES!!

GROWS!!! RISES!!!

Then a pause.

And then obliteration.

It's a hundred capital letters followed by a hundred exclamation points. Everybody on the planet with a cell phone set it to Vibrate and then placed it on the floor, and then Thor called them all at the same time. Bumblebee body-slammed Megatron into a heap of Decepticon remains while Optimus Prime masturbated.

The menace that comes out of the speakers is hard to describe. It might require shaking someone by his shoulders or dropping a townhome filled with rhinos on their sternums. It is literally physically moving.

The bottoms of your pant legs, your cheeks, the hair on your arms, eyebrows and at the crown of your forehead, it all moves.

The people lose it.

Hands are in the air and chins are in the air. Feet are on the ground, but only because gravity isn't yet a dubstep fan. Soon it will be, and people will float.

Bodies writhe and sweat and jump and sway. Nobody seems to know exactly what to do, so they all must be doing it right.

Pejman is unfazed. He has two 12-inch studio monitors facing directly at his head to help him keep track of the assault. He is plugged into The Matrix. After 20 seconds, he lets everyone breathe.

Then he starts the growing again and the crowd starts the rising again. They'll go through the whole process several more times before the end of his set. Earth will only have lower-case letters afterwards.

Nobody will be able to express excitement via text, because he will have gobbled up all the exclamation points in existence.

Six days later, something very similar happens at a separate dubstep concert, except it happens in a completely different way.

Night Culture has booked Knife Party, an act that is thriving within dubstep's more modernized soundscape, and the Australian duo is now onstage at Richmond nightclub Stereo Live. Stereo Live looks somewhat similar to Engine Room: Mostly it's empty space but it's about six times as big.

Rather than standing in relative darkness, the twosome is flanked by light and laser towers. Rather than empty airspace, smoke sprays from cannons toward the crowd every few minutes.

Rather than set up directly in front of the DJs, speakers hang from the ceiling. The crowd wears sunglasses that blink, gloves with fingertips that light up, what appear to be bathing-suit tops for shirts, and some dudes wear no shirt at all.

This crowd is about seven times as large as the one at Gritsy. Cosmetically and ideologically, the Knife Party show is altogether different from the one at Engine Room.

If the point of a Gritsy show, and by extension a traditional dubstep concert, is to nurture and propagate the music, then the point of a Night Culture show — and by extension a latter-day dubstep concert — is to nurture and propagate the party.

But viscerally, the two are exactly the same.

All of the parts. All of the fun. All of the energy. All of the excitement.

As Knife Party manipulates their machinery, the crowd senses the apex, follows along, then goes yo-yo when the music reaches its peak.

The most immediately fun Knife Party song is called "Internet Friends." It is narrated by an obsessive femme automaton and builds itself up into a hyper-creepy swell wherein the music rapidly evolves into horror-movie atmospherics and everything gets magnified by ten.

You hear the sound of someone walking, then knocking on a door, then a cell phone ringing and vibrating and being messaged, then a window smash, then a dead "You blocked me on Facebook. And now you're going to die."

It's a brilliant bit of marksmanship, and maybe the smartest moment of any of the songs Knife Party (and maybe any of their contemporaries) has made. Even if it was accidental, the use of Internet terminology is still insightful, shorthand for exactly what dubstep is and exactly how it got here.

But as soon as the drop comes, the feeding frenzy starts, and all of everything not immediately instinctive gets pushed to the posterior.

Because that moment, more specifically what that moment represents, fucking rocks balls.

That's sort of the point of this whole thing, maybe.

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19 comments
Claystone
Claystone

They forgot the rampant bromosexuality, hand in hand with weed mentality, and "dubstep is dirtier than..." jokes....

This article is more of a joke than laptop DJs...

Michael_jozwiak
Michael_jozwiak

Being not sure if I ever heard a "dubstep" song, I searched the term "dubstep" at YouTube. The three samples heard seems to suggest a melody or ambient melody backed by a screwed version of drum and bass that morphes in and out of electronic avante gard. The genre's great-grandfather could be a band called Neu. What is DJ Chris Anderson's opinion of this genre? How does sheet music of dubstep compare to sheet music of Beatle songs?

Corey
Corey

Here Gritsy is a clan of Houston DJ's who play music that was once relevant (if I hear snake eater again I may puke) but now has gone commercial and is the teeny bopper genre of the moment. Go see them if you want some bass to stand up the hairs on your arm, and if you're over 21 god forbid normally some good drink specials. Outside of that, there is real music.

Al Likes Music
Al Likes Music

It's 3am on the night of the St. Pat's Day Freebie and my chest has been up against one of the Wall of Bass subwoofers for Suraj's set for over an hour and it felt like my life was hangin' by a string! It's that kind of bass! Music fo yo chest! Big up Gritsy! Respect & salute! :)

Rory Hohensee
Rory Hohensee

Ugrayed is the shit ! big ups to Gritsy and all the Bassheads makin it happen

Regina
Regina

Who ever wrote this did a terrible job . Lets try for once having an article about dubstep without mentioning Skrillex ,because dubstep is bigger than one person. Obvioulsy who ever did their reseach didnt research enough considering they couldn't even explain what makes girtsy what it is ,and that would be EVERYONE in it. Damn couldnt even explain how collectivley they make what girsty is , and couldnt even put their names under the picture. Lazy reporting and writing. Sad what a waste this could have been a great article.

Corey
Corey

Du(M)bstep had it's time, 2-3 years ago now it's a fad on it's last legs. Though I will say Suraj and Ted are ace gents, I'm just bored of the same LFO modulated square bass lines. There is more to music than macho bass.

Dudley "Booger" Dawson
Dudley "Booger" Dawson

Dubstep is absolute crap. Shitty music imported from the UK that makes suicide look great. I'd rather listen to Bette Middler rap NWA songs than listen to this WUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUB.

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Wow, people have finally figured out a way to make reggae nervous-making.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Good article man. I still don't like dubstep or, more precisely, what it has become, but it was a good read.

SS
SS

Wow. "Unlike with other kinds of EDM (fairly or unfairly), the stigma of heavy drug use has never been attached to dubstep."

Corey
Corey

Kids won't even know neu, or any krautrock, and the beatles are considered prehistoric. But your screwed up drum beat is because it's in 3/4 time, or 2/3, not 4/4 like house or most western music, strangely in the same time signature as a waltz. But as far as innovation you're quite right, there is none, and it's about as ambient as a sledgehammer.

Basslover
Basslover

learn to spell when giving props homie !

Josh
Josh

Dubstep: serious fuckin business

Erin
Erin

Regina its spelled G.R.I.T.S.Y

Geezy
Geezy

Gotta agree with Hex here. I'm a pretty big fan overall of most EDM music and have been around long enough to remember the 90's. I guess, like everything sooner or later it will evolve- the commercialization of what was once such an underground preference and adapted taste in music is a bit overwhelming.

Congrats to Gritsy though, seem to be doing their thing and that's a big plus for the Houston music scene.

 
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