Friday, 25 September 2015

From Punter to Promoter and Back Again – A Tale of Two Gigs

The Newest Venue in Camberwell
Citymapper has become my constant companion and friend since moving to London and never more so than on a gig night. Input the venue address and decide what time I want to arrive and instantly (sequences have been shortened!) I have a choice of routes. However on Sunday 6th September there was no need for Citymapper, and no need to travel, as the newest venue in Camberwell opened its doors to a carefully selected audience. Hattie Briggs, BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Nominee, was headlining on its opening night. It is hard not to feel decadent as you have the luxury of listening to a fantastic up and coming artist from the comfort of your own sofa.

Friday 11th September and again there are sofas. This time, however, Citymapper comes into its own as I have to travel and find Venue 2 at 229 and the first London show of Rocky Dawuni. Rocky is a musician and humanitarian activist from Ghana, West Africa and was named one of Africa's Top 10 global stars by CNN!

In many ways the contrast between these two gigs couldn’t be greater!

Hattie Briggs…                                             
In the comfort my front room…   

...Rocky Dawuni
               in a trendy London basement 
venue complete with the 
friendliest bouncer who will
ever search your bag and 
take your bottle of water from you!

An audience sat in silent                              
concentration and listening to every          
word sung and note played…                      

the crowd dancing, 
dating and drinking.

A very calm, deliberate and poised
set, punctuated by the need to perfect
the guitar tuning but with no such
problem for her exquisite voice…                

energy, passion and charisma 
used to carry the tune 
at the times the voice failed to!

Support from a home-grown, amateur,
but ultimately fun group…                          

intense reggae disco 
before the artist!

By her own admission many
depressing songs, yet hauntingly
beautiful and sung with effortless

upbeat and motivational, 
delivered through driving rhythms.

Solo artist telling the stories behind
the songs, tales of sibling memories,
long lasting friendship and fear of the
music business…                                          

full band, little interaction 
with the audience between 
songs of epic continental 
proportions seeking to 
unite the whole human race!

The intimate performer, the girl
next door…                                                     

the dreadlocked showman.

The corporate musical ladder to stardom…
Yet there was so much that held them in common. The integrity of the music – can you get more polar opposites than English Folk Music and Afrobeat? Yet, each artist believes in their music as an agent of change that touches the heart of the listener and makes their outlook on life dive from the surface tension of the mundane to the depth of beauty. A shift that recognises that the basis of life is not the selfish, violent, and divided place of soap operas and news broadcasts. Rather it is a place where love not only lives in the space between individuals, but also binds communities together, banishes selfishness and dissolves violence.

For each, it is their music that is important not climbing the corporate musical ladder to stardom. Each song is carefully crafted, not to sell, but to touch the spirit of the listener.

Rocky talked about music bringing a community together and uniting people. Yet it will only unite people if we allow the music to be central. I hear people talking over the music at gigs because they are on a night out with mates - the night out is the event, the music is only the setting. Music becomes secondary in the background and unites no one but an existing group of friends! Background music is an oxymoron, a travesty and a sin. Yet so often we put music in the background, in the car, in the office and in the shop. I fall into the trap. I am currently listening to (sorry I should re-phrase that – in the background I have on) Cate Le Bon, while writing this blog…

…sorry I stopped writing and started listening properly! No wonder so much modern music is dreadful. The fat cat music exec knows we don’t really listen to it anymore. Yet, when we do we are rewarded with an intensity of experience that is not only legal but offers a fantastic high. And when we listen (really listen) en masse we are united in that experience.

Corbyn voting musos…
Hattie, during her living room tour, is bringing communities together. At our living room gig we met friends of friends. We became a community for the night and maybe even longer, as we allowed ourselves to listen carefully. At Rocky’s gig there were diverse elements in the audience, not just middle aged, middle class, white Guardian reading, Corbyn voting, musos who actually Rocked Against Racism in the 70’s. And they became one.

Each audience left both gigs feeling uplifted and alive in the knowledge that above all there is something greater than profit and loss, power and privilege, number 1 and Wembley Arena. Music, laid back and acoustic, or in your face and amplified, when played for the right reasons, and listened to intently, has the capacity to touch the soul in a way that record company execs do not understand and the many who constantly relegate music to the background miss out on.

Gigs: 19 & 20 of 50
Date of Gigs: Sun. 6th & Friday 11th September 2015

My Living Room, Camberwell
Venue 2, 229

That'll be an Ecumenical Matter
Hattie Briggs
Rocky Dawuni

Running total of artists seen 45

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