Camden's hive of scum and villainy were out in force last night and were foaming at the mouth for a piece of the Def Jux head honcho. Backed by a band dressed in combat gear and balaclavas El-P arrived on stage in Guantanamo Bay's Spring/Summer collection, a short sleeve orange boiler suit complete with head wounds and a bloody nose. This choice of attire together with El-P's admission "Sorry but we don't have any happy songs," set the tone early and I started to take one step back from my much coveted front and centre position.
As the bass-heavy intro to new album opener Tasmanian Pain Coaster started, the rabid dogs around me moved into position and Dingwalls erupted. It's a fantastic start to the album and it had equal impact here, with the chorus "This is the sound of what you don't want killing you," being spat back by the brawling pit as venomously as it was being dished out by what looked like the cast of Con Air. This was then followed by Fantastic Damage's Deep Space 9mm to the delight of the old school contingency. When El delivered the line "I signed to Rawkus" the crowd were only too happy to scream back the reply "I'd rather be mouth-fucked by Nazis unconscious," which was nice. And so it continued with much of the new album getting an airing. Heavy hitters like Flyentology, Drive and Smithereens kicked out furiously and it seems El's fans are receiving this new stuff as passionately as they did Fantastic Damage. And so they should as when put next to the older work these songs dispalyed a might all of their own.
An unexpected bonus was the addition of the mighty Mr. Dibbs on beat duty. His beats were as tight as always and he played them with an all-consuming passion and concentration that sometimes rivaled the big man for visual attention. During a short interval - while El-P went off to mop up the blood from his dripping ears - we were treated to the skills of Dibbs, an expert mash up of hip hop favorites - together with Radiohead's National Anthem more than kept the crowd occupied.
Despite the slightly cliched dress code (Sage Francis was rocking the orange boiler suit and bandages years ago) this was an awesome display of El-P's shock and awe brutality and was delivered with all the passion you'd expect from this man. Gripping the mic like he was throttling a chicken he screamed down its neck like a man possessed. His back-up MC shadowed him all the time and whipped the crowd into a violent, heaving frenzy that continued until the last giving the front man cause to show real appreciation at this reception and as we all limped home with real blood stains on our clothes we clung to our ringing ears like trophies of a job well done.