If you haven’t heard of FWD>> then it’s probably because co-founder Sarah Lockhart didn’t want you to. Not to offend you, but it is a love of the underground scene and the sound it generates that reveals the mystic of FWD>> club nights to those worthy. If people start to flock because they’ve heard that its the new ‘place to be’ then it quickly retreats back to the shadows, closing its residency at Plastic People until the buzz dies down. Why the guarded behaviour? It is apparent that keeping the same underground, family atmosphere that has been present from the start is fundamental to its success. FWD>> has and always will be about the music. It is this attitude that has made it one of the most respected outlets for new sounds including the now worldwide genre Dubstep, which FWD>> embraced and nurtured from conception until it was ready to hit the masses. It seems it’s always been about quality and never quantity and so, teamed with Rinse FM and record label Tempa it has given way to a plethora of the finest DJs London has to offer.
We now see the culmination of 11 years of FWD>> club nights showcased in one. August 18th gave us a retrospective of the sound and artists that have driven the underground bass scene for over a decade with twelve different DJs, each chosen to represent the sounds of the year they left their mark on.
The build up to the night was like a game of Guess Who on the Facebook event page, not only which DJs would be playing but which year they would be covering. The ever obscure FWD>> were not giving anything up with not so much as a location or venue, let alone a line up on the posters plastered across London. It is this again that shows their desire to keep it out of the mainstream and let the name speak for itself, to those who understand it of course.
Standing in the queue made it clear that most of the people following the FWD>> movement had been there from the beginning. A lot older than me and with clearly a lot more raves under their belt I felt a little out of place. It was the knowledge that I too shared their love for underground music that made me feel at ease and on mutual ground to these loyal fans. Bustling into the foyer of a warehouse in The Truman Brewery in the middle of Brick Lane with my music obsessed mates at my side, I could feel the music already. I say feel because I couldn’t actually hear it yet, but the bass was emulating through the concrete floor, making the empty room echo in anticipation.
Walking into the warehouse the bass coming from the four stacks of RC1 speakers was overwhelming. It felt as if your lungs were pulsating against your ribs as each beat pummelled through the room. The size of the sound system and the intimacy of the venue did not add up, however the effect it gave the music was unreal. Songs i’ve raved to time and time again sounded like they had a new groove and flow. Looking around it was obvious to see that the sound system was too much for some. Yellow foam plugs stuck out of their ears were the giveaway, but they raved on. After doing some research on the system used that night I found that the speakers alone have quite a cult following, with people specifically traveling to events because the RC1 will be there. Built out of sheer love for loud music, creator Jon Evelegh took it upon himself at the turn of the millennium to create a system that could do the music it played justice, and boy did he succeed.
The atmosphere had a communal feel to it, as if this was a commonplace where people could just let go and let the music do its job. Kode9 was the next DJ to step up so I thought I’d head to the front to get a look, a task that was surprisingly easy. The crowd parted as I came through and let me take my spot in front of the barrier just feet away from the decks. As we traveled through time the classics of each year made the crowd surge with roars and gun fingers pointing high, the room began to fill. Heading to the bar I heard the low melody of Skream’s Midnight Request Line coming in over the other track and I wasn’t the only one. The room exploded with demands for a pull up, and again, and again. After the third wheel the crowd gave in and let the song play out. A definite highlight of the night and a commemoration to Skream’s influence on shaping the scene as we know it.
Another highlight of the night was Joker, representing 2010, dropping James Blake’s, Limit to your love. The bass on that track is resonating on even the bleakest of speakers but in this setting, with that system and in the presence of people who really understand the elements of the track it was nothing short of magical.
The night wound on and the faces of FWD>>, Rinse and Tempa started to make their way into the crowd by which point felt like a reunited family. Making conversation with the DJs and presenters of this all mighty collective was like talking to long lost cousins, discussing music, ‘Draw Something’ and everything in between. FWD>> has succeeded for another year in keeping the rave scene alive and keeping it underground, for this FWD>>, I thank you.
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Written by Cassey O’Grady.
Photography by Grand Stephenson.