Plenty of 18th birthday parties have queues for the keg. Few have kegs full of beer specially brewed for the event. So as clued-up electro and roots fans grab a pint of Rodney P’s personal ale and raise a toast to birthday boys Paul Jonas and Robert Luis, the Roundhouse unanimously agrees that Tru Thoughts know how to throw a party. The terrace is crammed with pop up food stalls, the drinks are dedicated to the label’s biggest names and, from the off, the vibes are hotter than Carrie’s prom.
It’s one-in-one-out at the Basement Bar showcasing new acts like Flowdan and Anchorsong, the Terrace Bar jumps to DJs TM Juke, J-Felix and Maddslinky and the main colosseum pulses along to Rodney P and Skitz’s reggae-flecked hip-hop that undoubtedly deserves its own-brand booze. The sheer buzz of the night is testament to the standing of the label. Tru Thoughts rose from a Brighton club night called ‘Phonic: Hoop And Shake Yer Wig, starting in 1999 in an improvised office under Luis’ stairs, to become one of the most respected indie labels in the country, home to Quantic, Alice Russell, Bonobo, Riz MC and many more.
“For me it’s all about the family vibe,” says Alice Russell, inviting us into her dressing room to gather her thoughts on the label that has been home to her, on and off, since 2004. “They’ve managed to keep that throughout. It’s mad that it’s eighteen years. I’ve worked with so many different people from within the label. It’s one of those vibes where everyone works with everyone else.
Watch: Highlights of the party filmed by Gigwise (review contiued below)
“They were learning at the same time as us – we were all learning together, breaking our teeth on the live thing and moving and changing as the industry has changed. A lot of the bigger labels take a lot longer to change because it’s a massive, chunky machine, whereas with Tru Thoughts it’s a much smaller, lighter machine. I remember when Pinnacle went down, Tru Thoughts stayed strong throughout that. It showed how tough and tenacious they were.”
Have they built a community around the label in Brighton? “Definitely, and it’s grown worldwide. They’ve got people in the States now.”
If this 18th birthday shindig at the Roundhouse is the gathering of the tribe, Hot 8 Brass Band are its spirit made puff-cheeked flesh. Like a block party marching band or a New Orleans funeral cortege throwing in a bunch of covers to lighten the mood, they parp up a storm of classic sousaphone funk and soul, from George Clinton’s ‘Atomic Dog’ (the one Snoop nicked) to ‘Sexual Healing’, ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and a funked up take on jazz standard ‘Summertime’ that gets more than the fish jumping.
Their high-spirited reimagining of classic soul and proto-hip-hop tunes is a core tenet of Tru Thoughts – here old school and roots music gets a thorough 21st Century brush-up. Take Wrongtom Meets The Ragga Twins, delivering a classic ragga MC set including both lyrics about playing PS4 and chant-along choruses about being a raging git for the spliff. And then there’s Alice Russell herself, clad in a kinda kimono-cum-pyjama suit, unleashing keening noir soul like ‘Heartbreak, Pt. 2’ and ‘Citizens’ adorned with tripping West Coast hop-hip synth lines. Verging towards melodic desert rock as the set progresses, she cashes in a Tru Thoughts family favour for a finale of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, backed by horn-hungry men mountains of Hot 8. It’s so enchanting no-one even thinks about Jeremy Corbyn.
Quantic wraps up the night with a wide-reaching party DJ set of Afrotronica, space reggae, future funk and, if we’re not mistaken, a bit of a Wings song. Tru to the spirit, tru to the night, tru to his label.
Pictured: Robert Luis
Punters enjoying a fine ale
Hot 8 Brass Band
Werkha feat. Bryony
Wrongtom meets The Ragga Twins