Pop: Drum'n'bass for foodies

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The Independent Culture
ON THE face of it, drum'n'bass might appear to be an odd addition to the menu of a serious foodies' restaurant specialising in organic produce on a Mediterranean-meets-Middle-Eastern theme. Severnshed, the latest addition to Bristol's dockside strip of cafe-bars, nevertheless made the move from apple crumble to jungle appear as natural as its babaganoush or shakshouka. Two hundred tickets at pounds 19 a pop (including buffet) for Sunday's "Make it Happen" event sold out easily and the inaugural venture was so successful that similar nights could become part of the regular bill of fare. To cap it all, Goldie actually turned up.

Any fears of decadence, with the smart-set nodding their heads in and out of the trough to a soundtrack of inner-city strife, were unfounded. With the food out of the way, the feel was less that of after-dinner entertainment than a full-on drum'n'bass jam, with dirty dancing, wailing klaxons and the heaviest of break beats bridging the social gap.

This was due as much to design as to the DJs. A transit shed built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1863, the building has been refurbished by the architect Peter Meacock (who is a partner in the restaurant), with its principal feature being a full-width bar that can be moved hydraulically from its normal position in the middle of the room to the far end. The place is thus transformed into a large, open space ideal for gigs. Ironically, this has the effect of making an expensive and aesthetically pleasing environment look like any other dodgy dance venue. But, for authenticity's sake, that's exactly what you want.

The music was emphatically the real thing, too. Beginning with DJ sets by The General and then Roni Size's partners in the Full Cycle posse, DJ's Die and Suv, the volume of the distinctive Bristol drum'n'bass sound rendered any lingering after-dinner conversations inaudible. With DJ Krust, who followed, things got harder and weirder still, and by the time Roni Size hit the decks, the sound was a satisfying blur whose combination of beats per minute, old-school turntable-skills and genre-defying musique concrete turned one's brain into a sort of puree.

When Goldie - whose extravagant, gladhanding presence was almost sufficient in itself - took over, the beats became harder still (if notably less subtle), and the last vestiges of "After Eight"-style sophistication soon gave way to wholesale abandonment.

As the bass-lines began to approach that special mix of pitch and volume where one's spinal column appears to dissolve, Brunel's old shed was really rocking. It was great, and even with the bar back in place for lunchtime covers, knives and forks are likely to vibrate for some time yet.