Junction 2, Cambridge 22/5/2011

Perhaps whoever put Brighton-based group, The Agitator, on the bill tonight thought that a dub/ska/reggae headline act equals a load of hippies who will lap up the apparent protest stance of what seems an otherwise odd choice for support duties. A trio consisting of two drummers and frontman Derek Meins - (formerly of Eastern Lane)- this amount of percussion and mock-tribal backing vocals is only tantamount to early Adam Ant, if not a little bit Wham. Needless to say, an audience that generally consists of sharp trilby hats and stoner dreadlocks are a bit bemused at first, becoming increasingly so as the singer reveals a rather calculated camp side, a nod towards Frankie Goes to Hollywood in the way he looks, a cabaret style in the way that he swoons then growls his way through a set which is exciting at first then somehow just… weird.

Groin-thrusting seems to be incorrigible, particularly terrifying when Meins jumps into the audience and stands there screaming like a dislocated Muppet (I was too scared to see if he was still thrusting his groin at this point), and this was all after a rather 50’s-style barber quartet style arrangement lulled us into our happy places before hurtling us into the primal world of tracks like ‘Get ready’. Because The Agitator want to provoke. Because The Agitator are not here to work by the rules. They are loud. They are passionate. They are fed up with everything in society. I’m not sure where the groin-thrusting comes into their mission to change the world but their performance regardless is intriguing. Just overall, they left me a little petrified. Still, a band that have got something to say is always refreshing. Whether The Agitator genuinely believe it or are just art-school ponces who think they’re on to the next big thing remains to be seen. Cambridge is only half convinced.

Thankfully I have recovered when Gentleman’s Dub Club appear. And if I hadn’t, I soon would have. Where The Agitator were a bit serious, a bit theatrical and undeniably and proudly pretentious, GDC hold wide grins and trumpets without a care in the world- the secret ingredients for a special Sunday evening party proper. Suddenly the room is alive. The man in front of us has his mind on another planet whilst on this one looks like he’s crapped himself. Maybe he has. No-one here cares. They are here to dance and have a good time and what better people to make it happen than an eight-headed monster that is suited, booted and in command of strong dub beats yet with a classic live sound and image reminiscent of The Specials or Madness. Nice.

An absolutely infectious atmosphere only achievable by a crowd looking to lose themselves and a band that are only happy to help them do so, from the laidback reggae of ‘Procedure Fire’ to the crowd-pleasing modern ska of recent single ‘Emergency’, it is more than justified that, since forming in Leeds five years ago, GDC have gone on to blast festivals and covet the same stage as The Streets and Finlay Quaye. Feeding off the energy that they have created, horn players Matt and Kieren jump up, down and then across the stage pretty much constantly, almost colliding with singer Johnny who, as ringleader of this communal grin, looks as wide-eyed as anyone that is this high on life. By the time the evening is over, the band aren’t the only ones to leave with a smile on their chops. And as the chorus of ‘High Grade’ wafts over Cambridge, we only question “When I’m grey and old/will I still be getting involved?” I’d put money on it. A class act destined never to disappoint.

Thanks to the lovely Rachel White PR for such a good night.

Anna C