The Outlook Festival is the largest soundsystem culture festival in Europe, bringing together the biggest names from the most vibrant and cutting edge dance scenes around. When I heard they were hosting a launch party here in NYC I had to be there so see what they had in store for the Soundsystem fans. The press leading up to the event was daunting, Brooklyn’s own Dub-Stuy collective would be hosting the party, brining out their 15,000-watt wooden sound system, The Tower of Sound.
I got off the train in Brooklyn and wandered through the closed industrial buildings, across dark streets to find myself at Paper Box. The Paper Box is an independently owned music and arts complex in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The venue was perfect for this type of event. With a main room for the headlining systems a smaller second room and a beautiful back patio. The crowd swirled through the venue, working up a sweat on the dance floor then heading out to the patio to cool off or have a quick smoke.
The venue was packed when I arrived and more people continued to stream in throughout the night. The main room started by treating fans to great reggae from local soundsystems including Scratch Famous of Deadly Dragon Sound and Dub-Stuy’s resident DJs. For those who have never experienced a soundsystem event, loud does not accurately describe it. 15,000 watts makes the music a physical experience. Something you can both hear and feel as the beat hits you in the chest.
The main room hosted the legendary Mungo’s Hi Fi from Glasgow and the French-Swiss O.B.F. They did not disappoint. While this was not a soundclash in the usual sense, they took turns juggling music into the early hours of the morning, with a packed crowd. At one point the speakers lost some of their sound and I was worried that the night might be over, but any good soundsystem is made of DJs and engineers. A few wires here and there and boom the sound was back.
Dubplates scortched the turntables, rocksteady, roots and dancehall. MCs stepped up and hit the mic, spitting lyrics over the riddims. For the first time in a long time I saw lighters in the air. No cell phones, just fire, as the yellow glow from the crowd showed their support for their favorite soundsystem.
Overall the night was a huge success. Not everyone from NYC will be able to travel to Europe for the Outlook festival, but they gave the city a taste of what they will be missing.