An excitable crowd at Southampton’s The Brook was ordered to “get those knees up” and “wobble those legs” by Mr Scruff’s VJ as the man himself concentrated on sustaining a party spirit fused together with jazz, hip hop, electro, big beat, reggae and even salsa. Yes, Mr Scruff knows how to put five hours of musical entertainment to best use, and on this south coast appearance he drew on a wide range of musical genres and packaged them for dancefloor delight.
…it may have been close to freezing outside, but the summery, trumpet-led vibes made for a glowing warm-up atmosphere
Armed with three boxes of 12” vinyl, four boxes of 7” and a collection of CDs, Scruff was laying on the jazz funk when I arrived almost two hours into his five hour set. With the cloakroom already full, I wondered how busy the venue could be before 10PM — answer? Very. There was little room downstairs where those needing an early boogie were getting down to the beats on offer. After a quick trip to the bar, I found my way to the equally packed balcony, offering an unrivalled view of Scruff in action on the decks and two giant television screens controlled by the VJ. It may have been close to freezing outside, but the summery, trumpet-led vibes made for a glowing warm-up atmosphere. Scruff found the time right to drop a bass-heavy version of his “Honeydew” track, much to the delight of his legion of fans. Indeed, Scruff likes to provide a few surprises in his mixing of style, but the rough electro beats that followed were undermined by smooth, soulful house vocals.
Put off by his change of direction, I finally secured a prime seat on the balcony. From here I realised that while plenty of people had taken to the dancefloor, those standing or sitting upstairs were equally happy to relax and enjoy the music. The feel good mood was clearly resonating around the room as Scruff effortlessly switched between several decks while tweaking the sound to best effect. Not content with becoming too samey, the mood soon shifted to hip hop and then dirty bass lines with a hint of salsa. The dancefloor responded by bouncing along as the beats became heavier with ear-tickling, spine-tingling bass. “Shiver Me Timbers” flashed up on the giant screens — it was no place for the faint-hearted.
But something just did not feel right. There was a certain amount of apprehension in the air, a suggestion that while Scruff was putting on a great show, not many were feeling the same groove as the DJ. Perhaps a lack of recognition in the tracks was to blame — Scruff has eclectic taste. An outburst of 4/4 seemed to offer promise of the music taking a more structured flow before a Max Fresh track pulled it back into a more funky and infectious realm.
…he used the CDJ to loop, fade and galvanise us to maximum effect until the demands for the bass line could be felt around the room
There is certainly no stereotyping with Scruff, having already treated us to so many different styles and been rewarded by a consistently busy dancefloor, he played his trump card. As soon as the first bars of “Get a Move On” could be heard it was a mad rush to get in front of the speakers for what must be his most famous tune. Truly this was the moment every one had been waiting for, and Scruff delivered with interest. Not content with just playing the track, he used the CDJ to loop, fade and galvanise us to maximum effect until the demands for the bass line could be felt around the room. When it did kick in, arms were thrown in the air and howls of joy filled The Brook. Even those in the balcony wiggled their legs with delight.
For the last hour, Scruff slowed things down with some reggae rumblings along with a splash of Roots Manuva and Ian Dury. “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” is a demand many might shout at Mr Scruff again after this night at The Brook, but, for me, it was disappointing that the music never settled into a flow or style so that it could be explored fully. Only a few times did he really get the crowd unified in their appreciation of the music as the tunes tended to pass by without grabbing you. However, Scruff is undeniably a joy to listen to and will make you appreciate how jazz and funk can be combined with breakbeat and reggae to danceable effect. There was many a beaming face on tired legs at the end of the night, more than satisfied by another five hours of Mr Scruff and his many records. I was just content to have been part of the musical madness.