Monday, August 02, 2010
Bear's House @ The Mac, Saturday 31st July 2010
Spent Saturday night at a friend’s house. Okay, so it wasn’t strictly a house...more of a concrete basin in Cannon Hill Park...and I guess, as we’ve never even spoken to each other before, calling local poet made good Polar Bear a friend might be stretching the truth a little, but damn me after 60 seconds in his company he sure as hell felt like a mate.
Bear's House is the brainchild of Polar Bear (aka Steve Camden), a thirty something Brummie who’s become one of the shining stars of what I, for want of a better name, keep referring to as ‘street poetry’ (in my head it’s poetry inspired by everyday urban life and flavoured with a hip hop sensibility). His aim is simple, to give other rising street poets and musicians a much needed (and deserved) platform. As one of the performers I was talking to acknowledged, poetry seems to have a bit of an image problem in the minds of a lot of people. I guess it’s all tied up with the idea that poets lived centuries ago and lay around penning endless verses about daffodils and stuff using the kind of words that’ll score 129 points in Scrabble. What the hell has ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ (beautiful a line as it may be) got to do with most people’s lives’ today eh? Wander around looking up at clouds and you’re more likely to get ‘happy slapped’ these days. Anyway, sadly the very same people who’ll queue up to see Dizzy, Tinie and Lily for example perhaps aren’t aware that they’re actually already listening to and loving (I’ll use that word again) ‘street poetry’. In fact take out the musical element (putting all of the focus on the lyrical content) and any one of those performers could’ve fitted right in this evening. Hopefully (and judging by the sheer talent and passion on show tonight) it’s only a matter of time before gigs like this start to attract the kind of audiences they deserve.
The night kicked off with my new mate Polar Bear issuing a few rules of the house (don’t nick anything, turn off your mobiles, feel free to take off your shoes if you want, don’t get taking a leak in the geraniums...that sort of thing) before giving us a little insight into the journey that’s led him to where he is now (basically it involved a lot of performances for his cat...not a bad tip for aspiring performers actually...cats are critical buggers). Then he announced that he’d be giving away prizes throughout the evening from ‘his house’. To win you’d have to answer one of his random questions (example, Q: “Who’s the best superhero” A: “The Hulk”). Sadly I didn’t win anything (the Hulk? Seriously?) but a whole bunch of people won DVD’s, posters and books. It was a lovely idea and, for me at least, all future gigs will be a little emptier without the chance to scream out the name of my favourite biscuit in return for a signed N-Dubz poster...
Anyway, you get the idea of the kind of night it was now. The artists were every bit as refreshing. I honestly can’t pick favourites - each and every performer more than delivered the goods. Barnsey and Eliza Little (can't find a webpage for her...) both added a musical twist to the evening. Barnsey I’ve seen and enjoyed before (some classic era Weller swagger and Ray Davies quality writing), Eliza was a new one to me. As someone who thinks that we’re all in danger of disappearing up our own online sphincters (yes, I’m aware of the irony of writing this online) I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Her Ode To Facebook’ tune.
On to the spoken word performers then and Jodi Anne Bickley, who’s responsible for turning me on to this whole nascent local scene, almost got me shedding a tear or two (and I’m a hard bastard...oh alright then I’m as soft as a toasted marsh mellow) with some heartbreaking rhymes about love, life and lager n’ lime. Every once in a while I see someone perform with the kind of honesty that’s not really supposed to exist in today’s image obsessed times but Jodi does just that, making the most of her rare ability to convey vulnerability and strength in the same breath. Beautiful stuff.
LCB(or Leon Burke as he now prefers to be known) bounded onto the stage like Tigger on speed, an instantly likeable performer with some hilarious tales (and takeoffs) of his Jamaican granddad he was the evening’s most confident artist and soon had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Speaking of hands...or maybe that should be fists...Matt Windle, who’s as handy with his (he’s an impressive amateur boxer too) as he is with his words, gave us ‘Birth Certificate’. It’s a strikingly bleak poem about the consequences of getting ‘jiggy with it’ and should be read out at every school assembly up and down the land.
The final act of the night, Kim Trusty (you can catch up with her via the Apples and Snakes website which is devoted to performance poetry), read us a short (bedtime) story that summed up her significant relationships with men who...ahem...hadn’t exactly covered themselves in glory. Using the changing size of her heart as a metaphorical love life barometer it was an emotive end to what had been, at various points, a funny, sad, poignant, witty, though provoking and, most importantly of all, ruddy enjoyable evening all round. That’s my kind of House party. Spread the word(s).
PS: A special mention for AfroSaxon who span some wicked tunes before the set began and during the interval...proper old skool vinyl too.
PPS: Jodi hosts her own spoken word showcases at the Hare and Hounds. I think the next one’s in October...