Monday, November 05, 2007

Gigbeth. Thurs opening cermony

It’s the morning after the weekend before and I feel slightly sick, very tired, and for all intents and purposes, deaf. Gigbeth is a music festival that happens over three day days in and around the music venues in Digbeth, it has just finished its second year and I was there making notes and drinking drinks, so please excuse me while I try to decipher those notes and rummage clumsy through my memory.

There is a reason that festivals happen during the summer and sell booze, which I discovered last night when I arrived ten minutes early to the Gigbeth opening ceremony.

With no clear entrance I joined the crowd, waiting by one edge of the barricade. Well if you could call it a crowd, I’m not sure if twenty or so people, mainly made up of bored passing pedestrians and the mentally sub-normal, can be called a “crowd”. We were told that the event wouldn’t start until half past seven. At twenty to eight we were told we were queuing in the wrong place, and after climbing over a fence, let in.

We shouldn’t have rushed though, the first act wasn’t very good, his name was Pete and the Sound Engineers his songs were mainly cryptically called things like “channel 26”, “Still buzzing on the slave Amp” and who can forget the classic “I’m Gonna Have to put the Snare Through Mono”. And at 45 mins his was by far the longest set; unfortunately it only consisted of single instrument being half hearted played at varying levels of volume and static. Shambolic to say the least, but determined not to let the hour and a quarter I had stood in the cold, beerless reflect on the bands, the first band started.

Nizlopi are a two piece band, Gigbeth veterans that use a mixture of a beat-boxing double bass player and the standard singer/acoustic guitar front man who uses an endearing half singing half white boy rap hybrid. Their enthusiasm and cheerfulness couldn’t help but warm the crowd up and the mixture of approaches lift the duo beyond the tired singer – songwriter format. Unfortunately the left hand side speakers stopped working halfway through, and during the end song when they tried to bring in the drummers from Achanak their mikes only worked intermittently. The crowd didn’t care at this point and enthusiastically joined in, something more down too underdog rooting and blitz spirit than the cheesy uplifting political message of the song itself. Like all of the bands it would have been nice to see the full set, and I am really trying not to catalogue all the gaffs and technical difficulties, but its kinda hard not to.

Achanak were surprisingly good, I say surprising not because I expected them not to be very good, but because I never expected to enjoy a Bangra drum band so much. It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer energy of the performance and speed of the drums, mixed with Rap samples, including a cheekily reclaimed Buster Rhymes excerpt. And again although beset with sound problems, the band soldiered on with smiles on their faces and even an embarrassing bit of dad dancing at the end.

Soweto Kinch started with his brand of jazz noddlings. This was made all the more disjointed by running the sax through an effects pedal, which, although confusing, was enjoyable and had the added bonus of making the crowd feel as cool and sophisticated as he was dressed. Soweto oozed charisma as he glided through some freestyle rap accompanied by slow bass. As the self proclaimed “Victor Meldrew of hip-hop” began his next song he explained it as an attack on hip-hop culture, the song “SO!”, he asks of the rap community “Can I have some Art please?” and I know from bitter experience that if you are going to start an argument like that, you had better be bloody good yourself, and fortunately for him, he is.

Speaking of talented people, Mr Hudson (and the Library) controlled the stage like a battle general, switching mic’s, gesturing to sound engineers and bring troops on and off the stage. The first song was a little weak with the guest rapper embarrassing himself by repeating the “free styling” he had just done with Soweto, and Mr Hudson reduced to live samples. Mr Hudson has a good voice, which is excellently harmonized by the backing singer, but for someone who played up his brummie roots when he sings he sounds more cockney than Danny Dyer at a chimneysweep convention. The bands sound defiantly benefits from the live performance, its multi-layered, melancholy reggae beat sounding a little flat on there debut CD.

The crowd, all 10 of us, defiantly enjoyed the gig. With a rousing and seemingly impromptu performance of “Pass the Duthcie” and a badly remembered version of “Rudy” that made up for enthusiasm that it lacked in accuracy. The technical difficulties endeared the musicians to us rather than alienating the crowd. It was sad to see the event woefully unattended but the smaller audience gave it a more personal feel, and maybe a larger crowd would have been less forgiving. Especially without any beer to placate them.



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