It may have been open for a good year and a half now but this is the first time I’ve been to Ort Cafe. Yes I know, slack eh? It’s a pretty chilled out space too, just across the road from Moseley Baths and a mere 5 minute bus journey (on the number 50) from Birmingham City Centre. Part community centre, part cafe, part gig venue and part hangout for the various colourful characters that occupy Moseley’s hinterlands it’s the kind of place that makes you at least 23% cooler just by knowing about it. All of which makes it pretty much the perfect setting for tonight’s gig headlined by one man blues explosion, Funke and the Two Tone Baby.
First up though Sam Sallon, a singer songwriter with a distinctly late 60s early 70s vibe (both musically and appearance wise) together with a wonderfully clear vocal delivery and enunciation. You don’t often see the word enunciation in reviews do you eh? It’s worth mentioning in this case though as Mr Sallon’s an impressive lyricist too, arguably up there with Cat Stevens (surely an influence here?) and the late greats John Martyn and Nick Drake for writing deceptively simple but thought provoking songs, perhaps best demonstrated this evening in the enchantingly sublime You Are Home.
Beautiful stuff. Even after 20 odd years of gig going I’m constantly amazed at the sheer volume of talent...and we’re talking real talent here...that far too few people ever get to see or hear. Stick these songs on vinyl, rough it up a bit, disguise it as a lost 70s classic and you’d have the musos working themselves into a frenzy over it.
Headliner Funke and the Two Tone Baby (all one man incredibly enough) is a nothing short of a beatboxing, folk, blues, rock whirlwind. I’m frankly still exhausted just thinking about the gig a good 12 hours or so later. Using two mics and a variety of FX pedals and gizmos he builds up tracks live, playing with himself (...steady now) in a gloriously organic freeform style. It’s like a modern version of those one man bands with the dudes who had a foot operated drum on their back, a harmonica round their neck and a guitar with a cymbal on it. It’s also outrageously good, the sort of thing that would give Jack White an instant...and possibly fatal...stiffie. Stomping the floor so hard it shook the bottles on our table he launched into some blazing harmonica powered blues in a set that rarely dipped below what could safely be described as full on. Demonstrating the kind of co-ordination and nifty footwork that most premier league footballers would happily sacrifice their diamond encrusted hot tub for he blended hints of Waits, Beefheart and Beck on one of the set’s standout tracks (and recent single) Cecile’s Song, a primal funk blues banger. Appropriately enough he covers a Waits track too, 2.19, wryly observing that audiences in some parts of the UK have absolutely no idea who the hell he is. I blame the parents. His masterpiece (to date) Battles is a brooding beatbox beast of a track and tonight he beats the hell out of it, working up a significant sweat in the process (no mean feat given the unseasonably nippy weather outside). Encore, a fabulous blast through Paint It Black, capped off a hugely enjoyable set and, with a gentlemanly doff of his hat Funke left us all to catch our breath. Trust me, no one will put this baby in a corner...