Mr Scruff @ The Perth International Arts Festival Watershed, Perth (31/01/03)

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With a long line the first thing to greet us upon arrival at the Watershed on Friday night it was obvious from the beginning that there was a sense of excitement about the evenings one and only DJ, Mr Scruff. After a false billing at Vibes on a Summers Day two weeks earlier I dare say some were relieved just to be seeing and hearing him play.

True to his word, when walking into the venue at the 11pm start time it was Mr Scruff who was playing right from the word go. With the decks set up at the back of the stage and a seemingly constant cloud of smoke hovering around the front you could be forgiven for not noticing straight away. On closer inspection the familiar goatee and an unusual amount of enthusiasm and head bobbing for an opening warm-up DJ meant just one thing – it was Scruff Time. At this early stage he was playing around with some funky chilled break beats, reggae influenced dub and laidback hip-hop. With the venue half full and rapidly filling he seemed to love this early stage as he constantly worked the decks and his effects.

It wasn’t long before the venue was full and with the music he was playing a crowded dance floor was inevitable. Throughout the night he would cover a variety of genres, including break beat, funk, rock, reggae, hip hop, nu-jazz, deep house, funky house, disco and more. I’m not going to pretend I knew most of the tracks, from his interview I knew he would be taking great pride in throwing down a lot of tracks he had gone to great lengths to find. He was not one dependent on the big tracks to move a crowd.

What he did do was effortlessly mix genres seamlessly into each other to give the feeling of one giant long track. So as the night picked up in tempo and volume, moved from old school funk to percussive break beats or hip hop to nu-jazz, it all seemed like a natural progression. During the peak of the night when things were at their funkiest it seemed he could do no wrong as he blended tracks, played around with his sampler and mixed up a storm he did so with an infectious smile and enthusiasm to match.

As the evening approached 2am he seemed to lose a few from the floor as he went into deep house territory. It was at this stage where this reviewer ran out of steam. But on he played and those who stayed with him were rewarded as he would later come back to the funkier side of things. When he finally finished soon after 3am, four hours after beginning, you couldn’t help but wonder how his legendary seven sets end up and the range of music that must get played.

Walking away from the gig I suddenly wanted to go and buy loads of old funk albums. For with both the new and old sounding music that he played he managed to maintain the funky soulful vibe that you associate with so many of those old recordings. His work behind the decks was inspiring. Watching him bob from side to side, dial to dial, it really did seem as though he had been playing a musical instrument all night instead of just mixing in and out of records.

All in all it was a night where you couldn’t help but enjoy yourself. The music was all about fun and good vibes. The venue, although seeming to trap the heat in the still conditions, was a perfect environment for enhancing all of this with its mini amphitheatre style set up. In the end Perth ended up far better off with Mr Scruff at the Watershed than Vibes with more time to play and the more intimate setting all adding to a better Scruff experience. We can only hope it’s not so long between visits next time.

Special thanks to Griggle for help with info on the last hour of the night when the toll of a hellish week got the better of this piker :)

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