Marika Hackman at Mama Roux’s

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 to stiflingly hot at the front. My nonchalance won’t accommodate it.

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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

And give Francobollo and Our Girl a shout too

Photos taken on Nikon L35AF, on Fujifilm 400ISO film

The Mothers Earth Experiment

Saturday evening was stuffy with spring. Too warm for fur coats and not quite a Velvet Underground song, we stumbled outside. Into night and the freedom confined on a balcony, suspended above some provincial town on the outskirts of Birmingham.
The woman painting, enshrined in crystals and fairy lights peered into gloom, past our ghost faces. I imagine her turning on the light in her small kitchen the next morning. Cereal bowls Sigh. It was a Romantic yet impractical concept.
Horizontal eights on(not on) our wrists, sang of young adult novel, irony lost, as the world spun.
Bands limboing under half hearted ropes. Don’t drop those pedals. We sat in a makeshift paradise of soft chairs. Halfway between the smoke adorned sky and buzzing beer garden below. We were kicked out for not being in a band. Elitism exists in the most minor degree, and this time, musical laziness took the brunt.
Half-crippled by ill-chosen footwear we stood quietly on metals slats, and spoke unsteadily about boys that don’t exist. Auctioned smoke spun balloons. So quietly they could probably hear, despite the miles distance between us. Pretty boys have good hearing.
I pressed my head against the window, Cool Patterned Glass. Exhaustion pressing my heels up into my skull, camera around my neck as if 45mm of lens was all that held the sky. 

Photos on Minolta SRT 100X, 45mm lens and Kodak Colourplus 200

AN AGE

I haven’t been here for a little while. And somewhere from there to here I have lost sight of what I am doing. Ease myself back into it. Whatever the abstract it is. A haitus can’t last forever.

This is a confused rant sort of thing that I wrote at the start of December.

It’s been a couple of months now. A couple of months of painstakingly slow, almost in focus photos. Dragging myself out of black and white. Progression is important. Vitally so. In absence of progression, ideas will never develop. Just sit and fester at the base of our brains, until they sink down spinal chords to disappear forever.
At times of social change such as these, development is everywhere. But in which direction?

Our political situation is a mess. A shambles. An utter state. As we are carried away in this seemingly all-consuming surge of populism, what is the way forward? Are we not just running in circles, kicking up dust until we can’t see out own feet hit the track in front of us, let alone realise that we’ve been this way time and time again. Populist policies, brainwash the white working class. Creating divisions in place of unity. Heightening hatred.

The establishment consists of the elite, and society is constructed to benefit them. Even the art world itself has always been run by the elite. White, upper class men, approving of, purchasing and exhibiting work that they can relate to. The work of other white. Upper class. Men. But as art is pushed out of the comprehensive education, we are only moving backwards. Back-pedalling through treacle. State schools lack funding in terms of the arts. Comprehensive education should, by definition, consist of an accurate cross-section of society. Artists are unrepresented within the comprehensive education system. So comprehensive education is, no longer comprehensive.

The seemingly ever expanding populism of late, exists even within the art world. Just tune into Radio 1 on a Tuesday afternoon, and you’ll find yourself greeted by a sea of commercialised pop. An engineered, consumer driven system, creating popularity from nowhere, and encouraging conformism within the population. Conformism is not always a negative thing, don’t get me wrong, but conforming to predetermined social expectations, of beauty. Masculinity. Treatment of others. And the same damn melodies with slightly varying lyrics auto tuned over the top. A publicly funded platform of distribution, that force-feeds mind numbing, nonsense. Do we drive popular culture, or does popular culture drive us?

I think that maybe, we can trigger change through the arts. And why? Because art makes you feel. It’s all very well going to protests, and reading Noam Chomsky. Education is fucking important. Shout at the top of our voices, and make banners the size of houses (or a one bed flat at least) But art can change minds. Subtly nudge those who straddle the fence, even just to think. I don’t know what the solution is. I really don’t. But for me, art is the key. We, the people, will be the revolution. We can change the world. Go to protests. Keep making art. And dear God, listen to Radio 6 once in a while.

But I have an unnerving feeling that I’m just preaching to the choir.

15:12

JOKERMAN – BOB DYLAN
What inane list of vaguely pretentious songs would be complete without a bit of Dylan. Thanks to my dad, and the power of DAB in the form of radio six, Infidels is all that’s been humming around my brain of late. Released in 1983, Jokerman is classic Dylan, with a bit more groove. Not that it still won’t make you cry.

XMAS AT SPOONS – GINGER
I hate Christmas songs. I can stand a bit of classical, but new Christmas singles (predictably) drive me mad. But there’s something different about Ginger’s new Christmas EP – Baby it’s War Outside. I think I cried the first time I listened to it. The reality of every word hits me with an empathy I didn’t know I possessed. Brutal honesty with a few bells in the background. Don’t save the queen, save the NHS.

BEAST OF BURDEN – THE ROLLING STONES
On the latest LP shoved in between my chest of drawers and desk is Some Girls by the Rolling Stones. Filled with groovy tunes, dancing round my bedroom has become a bit of a thing of late. And I can’t dance. Beast of Burden is such an absolute tune though, and I find myself nudging the needle back to the B-Side’s penultimate track time and time again. Just for those “pretty pretty girls” harmonies.

SATELLITES – WILLIE J HEALEY
Willie J Healey will always have a special little place in my heart. There’s something uplifting in his sombre tones, and something different about this latest EP – Hey Big Moon. With an added poignant quality, and the feel of bedroom demos, I can’t help the feeling that I’m floating in pools of morning light and linen. If my dreams had a soundtrack, it would be this.