Digbeth was bleak enough to bathe in, on Tuesday afternoon. Stumbling out of the car to load a roll of film, I ambled, dreamlike, through the underpass and down, down to the custard factory and it’s lights of nostalgia. I lingered for abnormally long, revelling in lonely exhilaration. The grey sky on the 29th of May was wonderful.
I thought that I had missed the first band. Lazy smile in my minds eye. Floated in, on compliments of £3 jackets.
Francobollo had started their set as I ducked into Mama Roux’s dark interior. The title track of their new EP kicked the evening off to a ‘groovy’ start, as my dazed self noted. A bit of synth running through the tranquil guitar lines. 20:08 and already rocking out. I found myself swaying as it lulls like a Willie J Healey song, just a slightly different dream state. Turn around on my heels, to see the kids piling in. Lowering the average age demographic, yet mingling with inhabitual ease with the elderly couples disproportionately scattered before the stage. “You could have everything that you want, but you gotta give it time”. The song fades to crazed applause, and the band, their first time in Birmingham, slide into the next song of their set. ‘Finally’ struck me as being more chill from the offset, but quickly crescendoed into something a little heavier. Almost chilling whispered vocals. This is something more than the generic indie scene. ‘Worried Times’ came next, after a week of radio play. Synths going mad, and with a drawn out instrumental. I remember thinking that the vocals didn’t come soon enough for mainstream radio’s taste. As tends to be the case with all the best songs. The almost summery vocals vibrated through my head, as it rested on the wall. Maintaining their established theme of increased delicacy, surging. I can’t see the stage when they finish.
I go outside, still stumbling on nothing but exhaustion. I offer a lighter to the girl leaning against the wall wearing dungarees, she teaches at a high school and is friends with Marika’s bassist. I ramble about art for a while. Spinning stories of London futures. I feel the most that I have for a while. I never caught her name. “There’s a bottle of wine in the van”, laughs a girl, as she rounds the corner. Marika and Jelly, drifting on nerves, well concealed in cans. We talk for two minutes, like old acquaintances, and slip inside.
As Our Girl played, I drifted to the front, not burdening anyone with my prescence for too long. I’m not here to be heavy; stagnant. Head on the speaker I thought I might go deaf with chilled rock. Pangs of guilt at the stark flash from my camera. I can’t remember what songs they played, for the autofocus meter at the bottom of my eyeline. I sunk into the music like a sea of sound, filling my head as sound only can at too many decibels straight into your left ear. There is something in listening to a band for the first time live. Something lodges in your ribcage somewhere. I leave early, leaning on the speakers can’t be good for my hearing, and its too stiflingly hot at the front. My nonchalance won’t accommodate it.
Then outside again, and guy with a guitar. “The promoters are brutal”, he half laughs, sincerity in his grin. I can tell in his generous calm that he’ll make it soon enough. An abnormal amount of time was spent talking about art with strangers that evening. Again I don’t stay for long. Grateful, but that night my existence was selfish. I rise to leave as the man on the door sparks up a conversation. I don’t have the headspace, and the sound of the band on stage drags me inside. Some magnetic force to that sweaty sphere of sound.
It’s hot in that room, done up like a New Orleans bar. The band say so, laughing. These things always are; sardines in unrefrigerated basements. ‘My Lover Cindy’ and ‘Violet’ I can place, as my feet sink into the floor, not the same but still too close to the speakers. The set sways for a moment and then I don’t recognise the song. Not sure if it was new, or just uremembered. The lyrics are almost ballad-like, of a girl who killed the sun. I think of The Sun newspaper and laugh again. If only. I don’t remember the next song either, but I can recall turning to look at the people sat up on the steps, swaying in fairy light haze. “That was the first time we’ve played that version”. ‘Time’s Been Reckless’ is the next track, apology sodden lyrics. The bassist drinks in the instrumental, and I can feel the world swirl. A girl at the front holds up a lighter, and my vision blurs with the boy next to her, who’s been swishing his hair for almost an hour. His head must be spinning. Him and his friends link arms, dancing, almost on the stage as Marika announces their last song (almost last). ‘Boyfriend’ fills the room with dancing. The only real kinetic madness of the evening, bouncing around the room. Live wire.
“I’m gonna take it all the way down”, she says next, and as the band leaves she breaks out the riff; ‘Cigarette’. More lighters come out now, perhaps fitting for the song’s title. Even the kids at the front just sway now, and I can see that on stage, her trainers don’t touch the pedals once. Drifting. A tranquility returns, that always slips away with more than one person on stage. Fingerpicked melodies are refreshing now. Cleansed with lazy raw vocals. Almost too soon it’s whisked away. A new song, ‘Blah Blah Blah’ comes last. The band come back, and the reverberations start to hurt my ears again. A welcome discomfort.
Marika’s album is out this Friday, check her Spotify here
Photos taken on Nikon L35AF, on Fujifilm 400ISO film