JuJus’s Bar and Stage (Brick Lane)
OnDJ Ritu’s ‘A World In London’ at Resonance Radio on the 15.3.17 we had special guests; the fantastic all female ‘Let Drum Beat’. It was on this radio show that they told us of their top-secret gig coming up in London that was being presented by Sofar Sounds. Eager indeed to hear these women play again, I applied via the Sofar Sounds website for the date that they had confirmed they would be playing. I was intrigued as to the Sofar Sounds process; I was told it was top secret; the venue and the acts, and that I would receive and email the day before the date with the details of the following event. So I signed up on their website, and waited.
Surely enough on Sunday night, I received an email, albeit a tad more informative; I still had no idea of the acts I would be seeing along side Let Drum Beat, but I did however know that the event was being held in JuJus’s Bar and Stage. JuJu’s Bar and Stage is a little hidden, noticeable by only a sandwich board, consequently my ‘Google Maps’ that often enjoys sending me on incorrect wild chicken chases, I ended up at the wrong end of Brick Lane. Not all was lost however, asthis detour allowed me a world famous ‘Salted Beef Bagel’ (mustard free for me) from ‘Beigel Bake’ (159 Brick Lane). A must for any visitors, and a delicious treat for any home town Londoners.
Bagel baked, and lips licked, I eventually found JuJu’s, had my name found on the intimate list of guests, and in I went. Juju’s is a fantastic space, with a spacious ‘stage’ elevated from the floor to the right, with room to dance, with a bar that stretches far left with high ceilings and an open feel, JuJu’s seemed perfect to hold a Sofar Sounds project.
Blankets, Camera, Action!
The evening was hosted by a Sofar sounds representative who took the moment to explain a little how the evenings worked and how they came out. Supposedly the project has been running for over eight years now, and has been awarded funding from Richard Branson. Since this investment, they have grown substantially, now being active in over 300 cities world wide including LA and Paris. The idea is simple, if you have a venue, be it your living room or your bar, you can apply to volunteer your space for an evening of music. From there Sofar Sounds will find suitable acts, lights and cameras, blankets and all manner of things to make the evening comfortable. They also encourage you to bring your own alcohol and food. Sofar Sounds films the evening that is performed acoustically, with simply just a few recording mics, then makes a rather fancy looking video that can be used by everyone involved.
This is an idea I can totally get on board with. The host said “Are you frustrated with going to concerts and you can’t see because people are on their phones” - this I could relate to easily, having recently been frustrated by a group of elderly people at a balkan concert who filmed the entire event ‘live to Facebook’. I also find myself frequently wondering if I am stood behind quite possibly the tallest man alive, and have to make do with seeing half the performances faces, as the gentleman in front allows an ‘every other beat’ window of vision with his side-to-side swaying. These are the kinds of things that can become grating at concerts.
Sofar Sounds has really capitalised on these annoyances, and created a live space for music lovers, where they can come together with a shared respect for the music, and have a relaxed chilled out evening, enjoying, seeing and hearing all the music. Keeping the capacity to 50 people max, is probably a sensible number to keep under control. Finally the matter of the anonymous performers I think is actually a touch of genius. It’s ideas such as this, that I believe are imperative to the survival of live music events such as these.
Anyway, on to the music!
So the first band to be introduced were our friends ‘Let Drum Beat’. The performance area had their wonderful exotic collection of percussion instruments from Brazil, Benin and I’m sure miscellaneous other collections. Un-like when these wonderful women played on ‘A World In London’, they had no bass player, but instead a double bass player. They joined their instruments on stage, each women looking exotically beautiful and worldly. They then proceeded to treat us to some perfectly gorgeous Aro-Brazillan tracks the first of which started soft and gentle, and gradually built up to a climactic end. It seemed as though, as the track grew thicker, the audiences smiles grew broader. Like the arrival of spring coming through the darkness. It really felt as if Let Drum Beat were a breath of fresh air. Their second song compromised of simply an acoustic guitar and the Berimbau, a west African mouth bow, but a more modern Brazilian adaption. This song had such as driving force behind it, and an almost dangerous sounding thrive. It somewhat reminded me of the soundtrack to the world wide ‘Breaking Bad’ TV series. The third song really heard the cello fusing with the Brazilian, telling us that this song was inspire by North East Brazil. They spoke of how the ‘Tukra’ language had inspired them, and how they have been fusing the more melodic instruments to their percussion heavy repertoire. They said that;
“Through music, we can keep everything alive”.
The band are recording and EP and have a few gigs coming up that can be found on all standard platforms.
As they left the performance area, we were told there’d be a 10/15 minute break before the next act. I was unaware of the structure of the evening initially, however having thought about it, having three half hour sets, with small breaks seems like a good balance, and a nice amount of music for one evening. Allowing the audience to stretch, chat, and get back to enjoying the music.
The next band that performed were introduced as ‘Lectures’. They consisted of a bass, acoustic guitar and vocals, a Prophet ’08 keys and synth and a small acoustic drums set up. Their music can be described as ambient, soft, indie, perhaps a little rock too. I rather liked the unique voice of the singer, and the calm energy radiating from their performance. Their overall sound reminded me of a mash up between Alt J and Jake Bugg, however in saying that, they certainly sounded original to their own sound, and had more soulful melodic lines. Their EP ‘Entree Point’ came out the week previous to this concert, and they played u the title track. From this title track I shall certainly be giving the whole Ep a listen. The rest of their tracks came with an effortless soulful groove. I particularly liked the old school keys to synth combination creating an ambient structure for their songs. For their song; ‘Peaches’ started with a driving drum gently thumping throughout, of which I like as a rhythm. However this is where my first criticism comes in, it seemed that the acoustic environment should perhaps have allowed for simply drums and vocals, as the combination of the two drowned one another out, making it very hard to hear and follow the lyrics. Although this was a shame, their last song pulled through and finished the set on an up. As with most their songs, the endings are somewhat abrupt and out the blue, a trait that I found I had warmed too in their musicality, almost taken a back, the audience realises the songs over, then reply with a warm applause.
Next up was the Carmen Souza Trio. Quite the introduction they received, having released five albums, and soon to be releasing their sixth, this afro-jazz and soul band were perhaps the most experienced of the three acts to the performing that evening. Immediately I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the singers guitar and specialised guitar amp. I couldn’t quite get the make of the two, however the guitar was quite the spectacle of beauty. Accompanying this stunning set up was a bass guitarist and a small acoustic jazz drum set up. The band went forth and played a stunning set of soulful, jazzy tunes, sung I believe in French. The singer had the most stunning high end trills in her voice, frequently skipping octaves all together. There was an overall impression of professionality. They traveled through a variety of genre sounds whilst keeping it rapped up in this smooth delivery. I thought I heard some Seben guitar, a little Brazilian rhythms. Their songs were entitled things such as ‘Bird’, and ‘Hand of God’. The drummer took a chance to shine with a small drumming solo, that had each member of the audience air tapping along on their legs, the bass was strong and driving throughout, accompanied by an awesome, what we call in the industry - Bass Face. The band asked for some audience participation. Perhaps it is because of the smaller more particular audience, however the “sing along with me Mozambe!” back and forth chanting sounded remarkably professional and actually rather poetic. So ten out of ten to the beautifully sounding audience, that really made their set special, all inclusive, and really rather lovely.
As I left that evening at a gorgeously reasonable 10pm. I felt fulfilled having seen three professional bands, with a quick and efficient turn around, a comfortable and accessible view and an evening of lovely entertainment. I am rather impressed with the Sofar Sounds set-up, and hope that it will continue, and also inspire like minded people to create more of these environments for live music.