There’s something about the Fox Theater Oakland that attracts touring acts whom many U.S. fans don’t usually have the chance to see. In keeping up with this tradition, Gorgon City and Rudimental chose The Fox as the final of five venues for their co-headlining spring tour last Thursday.
As two live-produced electronic acts hailing from London, both have experienced a fast rise in popularity, taking their respective house- and drum-and-bass-inspired sounds from the UK’s underground club scene to some of the world’s largest music festivals. Although the idea of sharing a headlining tour was unexpected, the two groups complemented each other well.
With Gorgon City taking the stage first, the three-piece band manned their respective decks with Kyle Gibbon and Matt Robson-Scott running the keyboards and percussion. In addition to their standard live setup, the English duo brought with them two vocalists and a drummer, filling in their digital gaps with an acoustic drum kit. Kicking off their set with “Sky High”, a punchy fan favorite not yet released on an official album, Gorgon City spared no time setting the pace and energy for the rest of the night.
Even though Gorgon City’s catalog may seem formulaic, adding vocalists Josh Barry and Lulu James on tracks like “Unmissable” and “Real”, respectively, made for excellent contributions. Combine that with the tireless energy of touring drummer Nathan Curran, and it’s clear that Gorgon City have found the right formula when it comes to translating their DJ-oriented sound into a full live-band production. The contribution of each musician’s skill set reached its peak as Gorgon City closed their set with a superb cover of Drake’s recent hit “One Dance”, leading into their own single “Go All Night”.
Combining soaring melodies with some infectious 4/4 kick drum patterns, Gorgon City did a masterful job crafting live-produced house music. Such mastery was best captured as they moved seamlessly from track to track with as many as five performers onstage. Overhearing my fellow concertgoers chat about the set while waiting for the bathroom, it was evident that Gorgon City had won over more than a couple new fans on this night.
As the road crew quickly wheeled out Gorgon City’s drum kit to make room for Rudimental’s even larger setup, the crowd waited anxiously for the next headliner to take the stage. As a Hackney-based band comprised of Piers Agget, Amir Amor, Kesi Dryden and Leon Rolle (aka DJ Locksmith), Rudimental’s live production expands into a seven-piece band featuring two additional vocalists and a live drummer. Though Rudimental are rooted first and foremost in drum and bass, which in its own right is rooted in the infamous Amen break, the group is skilled at taking this repetitive style and flipping it on its head to cross the sonic offerings of pop, R&B and reggae, the latter of which was most fully exemplified in the crowd-pleasing cover of Damian Marley’s anthem “Welcome to Jamrock”.
Through Rudimental tracks like “Not Giving In”, “Free” and “Waiting All Night”, the most unique element of the group’s live production was their charisma. Simply put, they look like they’re having fun. These aren’t tortured artists or cathartic performers — Rudimental are a band that loves the music they make. Even the band’s drummer, Beanie, easily one of the hardest working rhythmists on tour right now, managed to keep a smile on his face, racing through Rudimental’s repertoire of songs that were anywhere from 145 to 160 BPMs. The septet’s de-facto leader, DJ Locksmith, was surprisingly more in the background than you would expect from a typical DnB hype man. As Rudimental wrapped up their set with their chart-topping hit “Feel the Love”, the crowd joined in as the song ended, creating a shared moment at The Fox that perfectly reflected the intention of Rudimental — to spread the love.
It’s a shame that Gorgon City and Rudimental could only put on four live shows across their five-date tour. These two acts, despite their differences sonically, are symbiotic by design, taking underground electronic music and turning it into an infectious, upbeat dance party that any fan can appreciate. Considering the logistical challenges of coordinating a tour like this one, it’s understandable that they are not hitting every major city in the U.S. Instead, we should just be thankful — as we should be everyday — that we get to live in a place like the Bay Area with music venues as coveted as The Fox.