Last night the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath hosted a BBCIntroducing night in association with BBC Six Music with three local bands playing. The evening introduced by Tom Robinson was part of a series of events going on in Birmingham this week to coincide with the BBC Music Awards. The bands: Boat to Row, Lady Sanity and Hoopla Blue were chosen to represent different genres of music and to give a taste of some of the great music coming out of the Midlands at the moment.
Before I get going with the review of the night I just want to underline that this type of thing is a big part of what makes the BBC distinctive. This is why the licence fee is so important and why I hope in the current review of public service broadcasting the government don’t slaughter what is good about the BBC and also Channel Four. Our music industry and Film industry are what they are at the moment, in a large part due to these institutions.
Anyway rant over and on to the music. The first group on were a five piece folk outfit called Boat to Row. They were very accomplished and played a range of contemporary folk with a clear traditional feel to it. Their overall look together with the musical feel showed that for all the jokes people make about it that Hipster culture really has reinvigorated the British folk scene. I could see them working quite well at Cambridge doing an early afternoon slot.
They were clearly really accomplished musicians but in some ways they seemed to fail to fully connect with the crowd. I don’t know if this was because they were the first group on or whether it was their slightly melancholy material didn’t really lend itself to enthusiasm. In my mind I was struck with the contrast between them and the high octane energy of Skinny Lister the folk band who I have been most impressed by this year.
That said it was clear from the effort that Tom Robinson had to put into getting the crowd to sing along to Glad to Be Gay, one of two numbers he played during the changeover, that this were not an easy crowd to engage. He did, of course, get there but it was not without having to put in far more repartee than I’ve seen him have to do elsewhere.
The next artist Lady Sanity however, connected with the crowd amazingly and showed how she really is a star in the making. She is a poet, rapper and performer who is best described as having the lyrical ability of Kate Tempest, the stage presence of the early rap groups like Public Enemy and Run DMC and the style of singers like Sade and Mica Paris. In short she is the full package of looks, ability to work an audience, voice and lyrics.
Lady Sanity’s versatility and range of influences was shown throughout the set including when she covered Rage Against the Machine in her own style. Watching her engage the audience one was clear that the size of stage didn’t matter and you could as easily imagine her doing the same set and getting the same reaction on a big festival stage as she did on this one. Greenbelt might consider booking her before she gets way too expensive for them.
At the same time she seemed a genuine person. When I saw her standing at the back of the crowd just before the next band came on I asked if I could get her picture to include in my review. She had no problem with this, although I was slightly embarrassed when her friend suggested that I get in the picture too. Still I get the feeling it will be the sort of picture I will end up treasuring and I will one day use to say, “I have the evidence I once saw here in a pub in Kings Heath”.
Music is a subjective thing and we all have our own tastes, likes and dislikes. I have to admit that whilst I like rock and metal I have a real aversion to anything which sounds as if it might have been influenced by 70’s prog rock. Thus my opinion of Hoopla Blue was a subjective one.
They had enthusiasm and were good at what they did, yet they simply weren’t my personal taste.
That was the thing about this gig though, it was intended to showcase a range of styles of music breaking through in the region. Overall a great night which was thoroughly enjoyable.