Editors' pick

Planet of the Drums

Dance/Electronic
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Editorial Review

For fans of drum 'n' bass music, it doesn't get bigger than the annual Planet of the Drums tour, where some of the biggest names in American d'n'b team up for an ear-pounding night of breaks and mayhem. Pioneering DJs Dieselboy, AK1200 and Dara remain the headliners -- with Philly's Messinian on the mike! -- but that's not the end of the fun: Hipster Overkill's "Temple of Boom" room features the rolling dubstep and electro of the Bassbin Twins, Tittsworth, DJs Tru and Dimitris George (of Hipster Overkill's monthly Fringe parties) and trailblazing female breaks DJ Reid Speed. Toss in appearances by the Headhunterz and Smash Gordon, among others, and we'll be lucky if Club 24 is even standing at the end of the night. Did we mention that it's an 18-and-over party? Good times.

More than a decade ago, drum 'n' bass felt like the future. The nervous combination of chopped, skittering snare drums, chest-caving bass lines and ominous-to-ambient samples perfectly captured the anxiety of the modern age.

But what seemed panic-attack revelatory in the early 1990s quickly morphed into TV-commercial friendly. Drum 'n' bass also fell off the radar of music critics.

Just don't tell DJ AK1200 (Dave Minner) that DnB is dead: "I don't think anyone who knows about DJ culture questions whether or not drum 'n' bass is still around."

AK1200 has been spreading the DnB gospel for almost as long as the music's been around, and for the past eight years as part of the Planet of the Drums tour, featuring fellow spinners Dara and Dieselboy along with MC Messinian.

"We play strictly DnB," Minner said. "Sometimes Dieselboy adds a bit of hardcore or even metal in some of his darker sets. ... Some tunes, however, are fusing a bit of dubstep and breaks." But there is no pandering to modern tastes. The PoD dudes are purists -- and proud of it.

What makes Planet of the Drums a unique experience is how it takes over a whole club rather than cowering in some tiny corner of a house- or techno-oriented venue. "Main rooms in clubs, for the most part, are used to the 120 to 140 bpm range; that's the safest tempo for a club to stay," Minner said. (DnB runs 160 to 180 beats per minute.) "I don't think DnB will ever be as mainstream as other club music," Minner said, but "we draw as many people as the usual house or trance DJ in any given city in the USA."

--Christopher Porter (July 19, 2007, Express)