I've been away. On my holidays. To Kephalonia. Very nice it was too. They had litres of local wine for just a few Euros. Bargain...or it would be if the £ was worth anything these days. Happily our chums at Kamikaze! haven't gone bust, merged with a massive Japanese conglomerate or applied to good 'ol George W for a massive bailout yet, so I guess there's still hope for us all. Well, of course there isn't. We're all going to hell in a handcart for stuffing our fat faces with cheap and easy credit and filling our vacuous lives with polyester t-shirts, computer games and lard. But one thing's for certain, we're going to need a soundtrack for it all...just so future generations can be flogged albums (well they'll download them anyway) called Now That's What I Call The Credit Crunch Vol II. Perhaps Streetsoul Productions (emcees R.E.P and Vice) will be on it. The days of white hip hop artists being viewed with a certain disdain are happily fading into the distance. Like him or loathe him (for the record I like him) Mike Skinner has played a huge role in this and, naturally, there's a Streets-y element to some of Streetsoul's tracks. The addition of Rob Carvalho on backing vocals really lifted the live show to another level (with one track paying respect to emcee Vice's gran who is, according to the song, well into hip hop...respect due). On top of another Rob backed tune, Searching, I especially loved the feel of Relax, a worthy companion piece to J5's Concrete Schoolyard. As well as putting on impressive, feelgood shows, the Streetsoul Productions team seem to be something of a cottage industry at the moment too, with 4 albums due for release in the next few months and, I believe, a clothing range. P.Diddy, P.Schmiddy.
Next up the frankly bonkers, genre screwing The Fighting Cocks. Reggae, ska, gypsy, punk, drum n'bass, oi, pop, metal, electro...fuck it...let's just chuck everything into the pot, boil it up on a campfire and serve it in a bowl full of sexy, sassy mentalism (I'm not sure you can have such a bowl but...like The Fighting Cocks...making sense of things just don't really matter). Imagine Shampoo, Daphne and Celeste (at last...I'm not the only person in the world to love Daphne and Celeste...and no, I'm not being ironic...they were pop genius)The Slits, Gogol Bordello, Ian Dury and Goldie having a good old cockney (sorry...Essex) knees up...in Bollywood. There...that's what they sound like...kind of. If the UK was ever looking for a band to write a new National Anthem The Fighting Cocks would be the dream choice. Stand by the side of a busy road in any inner city area, record all of the different music blaring out of the cars that go past, mix it all up and, eventually, you'd have the perfect Fighting Cocks track. It's 2008 in musical form. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's nuttier than a squirral's bowel movement. No matter what kind of a day you're having I defy you to listen to any of their stuff and not feel a little better. They should be on the NHS. You get the picture...I really rather liked them.
Last up drum n'bass grimesters The Dizzolvers. Older readers may recall a glorious Birmingham drum n'bass band called Plutonik from back in the day. Like Plutonik The Dizzolvers do most of their shows 'live' using real instruments. It makes a big difference. I've been to hip hop shows that use backing tracks. They're all very good but live music should be (in my humble opinion) just that. Live. Whether you have a full band or just stand there banging a tamborine, it helps bring the whole thing to life a lot more. The Dizzolvers are full of life. Lead vocalist Lady Boogaloo has a soulful voice that's a smooth as silk, MC Jim Stryde spits the rhymes ten to the dozen and the rest of the band add that magic ingredient X that changes a mere performance into a show. They're less than a year old but already drumskin tight. Definately one of THE Birmingham bands to watch out for in 2009. Check out their track Keeping Up...see...next year has a theme tune already.
After the live bands the night carried on with the Urban Disturbance DJ's. For all I know they could still be there...the night certainly seemed in full flow when we left. Congrats to Carlo, George and the team for a darn fine show.