Thundering bass, constant drops and a club full of exhilarated students: Mike Skinner’s DJ set at Fibbers was loud, raucous and fun. Whilst the music was slightly lacking in individuality, Skinner nevertheless entertained the crowd with exhilarating, fast-paced tracks.
On Friday 23rd October, Fibbers hosted legendary rapper and music producer Mike Skinner. Supported by Nicola Bear, Skinner performed his DJ set to a young and excited crowd who seemed to be having the time of their lives. Mike Skinner is undoubtedly still most well-known to people as the former frontman of Birmingham-based music project The Streets, with whom he produced the critically acclaimed debut album Original Pirate Material, followed by four more studio albums and a collection of successful singles in the noughties, including “Has It Come To This?” and “When You Wasn’t Famous”. Following The Streets’ disbandment in 2011, Skinner has continued to produce music under his own name, as well as creating new project The D.O.T. with Rob Harvey and remixing tracks of various genres (his latest being a remix of Mercury Prize-nominated Slaves’ “Cheer Up London”).
Upon his well-met stage entrance at 1am (doors having opened at 11), Skinner briefly greeted the expectant crowd and wasted little time in beginning his set, though he did manage to make a quick joke about the gentleman’s club he’d noticed next to Fibbers which was greeted by laughter (and a few cheers). Blending genres as he did with spoken words and beats in The Streets, the set combined Drum’n’bass, house, pop and R&B, sampling songs such as Skepta’s popular ‘That’s Not Me”, creating a heady mix of songs that enabled people to spend the night dancing to exhaustion. Whilst the event and its general atmosphere would possibly have benefitted from a slightly larger crowd, the gig consequently felt quite intimate, with everyone able to see the performer and feel close to the stage. The central dancing area of the club was adequately full and a smaller crowd brought the distinct advantage of a lower temperature, making for a somewhat less hot experience compared to what one expects from a night in Fibbers (although there was excessive use of the smoke machines).
“Though certainly a highlight, “Fit But You Know It” jarred with the rest of the set and seemed a conspicuous, clumsy attempt to provide continuity between Skinner’s career as a DJ and the music of The Streets”
Around halfway through the set, the pounding bass was briefly abandoned and cheers were heard as people recognised the opening notes of hugely successful Streets’ song (and former Willow disco favourite) “Fit But You Know It”. Despite an initial worry that it was simply a transitional appearance before the next song as the notes slowed down to a lethargic pulse, these fears were unfounded and delighted fans were soon singing along to the familiar chorus. Though it was certainly a highlight for the majority of people there, the song jarred somewhat with the rest of the set and seemed a conspicuous, clumsy attempt to provide continuity between Skinner’s career as a DJ and the (very different) music of The Streets. Whilst a high point of the set, the huge response the song received in the club served to draw attention to the main reason that people had bought tickets: to see Mike Skinner of The Streets and witness the performance from a phenomenal musician, rapper and producer – attributes which the set at Fibbers largely failed to exhibit. Whilst perhaps unreasonable to expect Skinner’s full musical talent to be shown during a DJ set, the music was by no means groundbreaking and suggested his current popularity is far more reliant on his earlier music than current output.
Whilst one can speculate over how long Skinner’s star power can continue to fill venues if his sets remain largely unremarkable, it seems likely that his prowess as a musician, producer and word-poet will lead to more innovative and exciting music before too long. Overall the set at Fibbers was thoroughly enjoyable and did show some of Skinner’s skill as a DJ, the combination of of styles blending well with the general DnB formula of build ups and drops, constantly accompanied by a mosh of people dancing happily along to the music. However, it felt as though Skinner was underplaying his abilities, and the man once hailed as the voice of a generation undoubtedly has more to offer.