Event review: the Alternative Dubstep Orchestra plays Croydon Minster, Thursday 23rd July

By - Friday 31st July, 2015

Dubstep, drinks and dancing in the aisles – Lauren Furey on the night ADO rocked Croydon Minster

ADO commands the congregation at Croydon Minster.
Photo author’s own.

Ambition Festival gave us lots of treats and it was hard to know which event to attend. But one in particular really grabbed my attention – the Alternative Dubstep Orchestra (ADO). The group, from Birmingham, lays its own instrumental style onto classic dubstep songs, re-working and re-shaping them into a unique blend.

In the late nineties, Croydon’s Big Apple Records was the humble home of a titanic shift taking place in British music. The pioneers, in its early days, included a young Skream and Benga, who had used their love of dub and garage to fuse a new electronic sound. Radio stations, including Rinse and Radio 1, helped to give dubstep a platform and champions of electronic music like Annie Nightingale and the late, great John Peel were big advocates. London venues like Fabric and Cable were continuously supporting dubstep events and drawing stellar line-ups from the UK and overseas, and in Croydon, the Black Sheep Bar gave us Croydub.

Croydub was special. It showed a real love and appreciation of the original sound and very much had a foothold in its hometown. Unfortunately, since the closure of Sheep, Croydub has not returned to Croydon. It still exists but just not here, and that makes me sad.

There’s no doubt the Minster can deliver on acoustics

So you can imagine my joy when I spotted that Ambition was bringing the Alternative Dubstep Orchestra home to Croydon and, to add to the intrigue, the event was being held at Croydon Minster – a venue, I concluded, that was unlikely to be famed for its ties to weighty electronic music but would no doubt deliver on acoustics. In the run-up to the event, I’d tried to refrain from researching ADO as I wanted to be pleasantly surprised but, like the impatient type I am, I couldn’t resist for long and scoured YouTube for some examples of the group’s work. I wasn’t disappointed and, in all honesty, it made me more excited to catch them live.

We filed into the church and met with some of the amazing organisers of Ambition, before I spied something I didn’t expect to see – a bar! Is this allowed? The bar was present courtesy of everyone’s favourite Croydon pub – the Oval Tavern. Cheers, Esther! To make it even more apt, they were serving two flavours of Cronx beer, among other tasty beverages.

Drinks in hand, we went down the aisle and into our pew for the main event. Except it wasn’t. Traffic meant that the band was delayed and support act, Noemie, had yet to take to the stage. I have to confess, I got side-lined catching up with familiar faces and I actually missed Noemie’s performance. I feel bad that I can’t offer a personal reflection on her set but I’m told she was very good.

I was ready for dancing, but you never know how to behave in a church

When ADO took to the stage and gathered their instruments, there was a collective shuffle as we all diverted our attention from conversations and drinks to the stage ahead. Straight away the music rose through the church and, just as we’d suspected, the spectacular acoustics carried the sound and projected it in all its beautiful highs and lows.

ADO’s cool blend of violin, bass, drums, trumpet, guitar, vocals and synths create a brilliantly atmospheric twist on the genre. Flashes of familiarity shone through the performance but they were almost immediately followed up by an unexpected shift into new territory. It meant it was fresh and kept the intrigue. From the get-go, I was ready to be up and dancing but you never really know how to conduct yourself in a place of worship. It wasn’t until ADO broke into their second song that lead vocalist, Mish Maybe, encouraged us to make use of the gorgeous space and show some appreciation. Almost immediately, the majority of the congregation was on their feet and dancing. It was amazing.

Thanks for bringing dubstep home, even for just one night

ADO delivered in every possible way. The vocals soared through the arches of the church and the bass crept through the rafters and down into the floor below. The half-time beat, focused basslines and intermittent wobbles reminded us that this was very much dubstep, but like we’d never heard it before. A particular favourite was their epic re-working of Skism’s ‘Power’. The smiles and dancing continued as ADO settled comfortably into their set and dominated the crowd.

Dubstep may be nothing but a fond memory to Croydon now, but its legacy still reaches far and wide and shows there are still surprises to be had. ADO absolutely smashed it and I would highly recommend keeping an eye out for them again. Day one of the Ambition Festival couldn’t have gone any better and I’m grateful to ADO for bringing dubstep home, even for just one night.

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Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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  • lizsheppardjourno

    Gutted I missed this, Lauren Furey :(

    • Lauren Furey

      It was very good! Definitely keep a look out for them :)

  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article, although I am not a dubstep fan.