On the 17th May 2021, live music returned to the UK. Taking stock of this, Brum Radio’s Danny de Reybekill attended his first gig in over a year, courtesy of the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath.
For the most part, live music really has been on hold. Save for a short period where outdoor gigs in beer gardens were running in October last year, we’ve been stuck with live streamed gigs, or streamed DJ sets for a musical fix. It’s been a wild-west of links, online bookings and announcements, but it’s really not quite hit the spot I think we can agree? Nothing hits like the feeling of walking up to a venue, drink in hand and dazzling lights in view. And that’s just the one performing.
For the punters of Birmingham, it’s been a windy, soggy wait until indoor events can take place.
Red Brick Market in Digbeth has just opened, signing a ten year lease in the area, allowing independents to feature at stalls unmanned.
At The Kingsway in Kings Heath is another of the first to adapt and thrive, with markets and DJ sets to keep the atmosphere going under the fully covered outdoor marketspace.
But just up the road on Alcester Road stands a venue which has held its own for the last 14 years without fail. The Hare & Hounds has stood in total for around 200 years though in current form since 1907 where it’s held host to various greats from near and far. We don’t need to get into that, there’s plenty of examples; this one was from 2014 featured by the Guardian.
Sheltering locals from the rain part-way through their highstreet shops, or the destination location for a whole night of entertainment, the recently refurbished building boasts jazz, funk, reggae, hip-hop, disco, house, techno, drum & bass among its repertoire inside its two brilliant venue spaces. We stepped up for something which ticked a whole range of the above thanks to Leftfoot; Ed Geater headlining with Faye Elizabeth in support.
(I’ll be honest, I had a little apprehension on entry to the venue; it’s been a couple years really since I was able to let my hair down at the Hare and I knew I was piling a lot onto having a good time, considering gigs were literally only just returning. This event landed as part of the opening week of live music in the UK. The staff were still wet behind the ears, but all made the process as smooth a transition as possible.)
Ed Geater, a singer-songwriter, beatboxer and guitarist, managed to slot just one gig in between the lockdowns that hampered the last year; ‘An Audience with Ed Geater & ENiGMA Dubz’ at Deadwax, Digbeth came as a small stepping stone between the puddle of emptiness in 2020 and 2021 which so many artists experienced.
A warm and friendly welcome from Birmingham’s ShantyTown co-founder, Faye Smith – flanked by guitarists Paul Wetton and Nick Clarke either side of her. ‘Off Guard’ started off our collective return to live music with a buzz in the air. With warmth emanating, swelled by the classic trademark Hare & Hounds lighting set of venue 2, Faye’s face tells a story of relief and comfort on stage opening up. For performers, this is a relieving time to be unleashed.
The Hare & Hounds has been a venue brought back to life by a combination of clever bookings through their in-house events brands This Is Tmrw and Leftfoot, as well as the collective brainpower of Adam Regan, John Nash and Matt Beck.
A guitar interlude halfway through allows Faye to start losing herself, which really is a sight to see if you’ve not seen her live; Faye joined Brum Radio for an event held at the short-lived Natural Bar & Kitchen back in 2018 where she was support next to headliners Felix Shepherd and R John Webb for an early evening event one week in June.
Her final sign-off comes with a gratefulness at coming together after times of hardship and struggling with mental health: “I do this, what I do, Shanty Town, for moments like this” as she gestures to the crowd. A palpable atmosphere of happiness is felt, and it’s clear everyone has dropped an inch as their shoulders relax – Faye has something of a knack for showing her passion both with her vocals and simply her movements throughout her time on stage.
After Faye’s flowing music, it’s comforting to have the percussive plosives from Ed as he lays down his beats using loop-pedals and linked-up acoustic guitar. With an eager crowd, cheers and whoops erupt as he erupts into his first drop.
One resounding benefit of Ed’s growth into loop-pedal work is his ability to create the basic loop to which he can then introduce and set the tone of the track to. Doing this removes that sometimes uncomfortable, or worse, deafening, silence between tracks on stage. That being said, Ed is a complete natural on stage, bringing something of a comedy set throughout, with sharp wit and self-deprecation in steady flow.
Between the arms of phones held from the socially-distanced bench seating, Ed’s confidence moment comes with ‘Smile Vibration’ – a well loved track, and the first OFFICIAL Brum Radio A-List Track of the Week of 2021. ‘Emotion.null’ followed, Ed’s most recent release and something which, by his own admission is a “proper, full on Ed Geater track” – brought the room together and the togetherness was something which reminded us all why live music really is so special.
Mindfulness and mental wellness also seemed to be a theme throughout both creatives’ recollections. Amongst their collection of coping strategies over the last year, being able to express oneself shone through – a time where creative outlets effectively were cut off from that very outlet which did so much.
We got a sneak peak at a brand new piece of music – ‘Dematerialism’ comes laden with complex bass beatboxing, with as many snares and pops as there are words in the English language. This is an artform I’ve relished since I saw Reeps One (English beatboxer and composer) walking around tents at Bestival on the Isle of Wight making friends with people and teaching them how to put together chains of beatbox sounds. Reeps went on to co-author a paper published by Oxford Academic and in 2019 completed his third artist residency at Harvard University.
Ed’s influence from Reeps One is undeniable, and he now spends time training others how to replicate complicated rhythms which are synonymous with styles and genres in all corners of the music scene. His awareness that we enjoy multiple genres and styles of music all the time is refreshing, and couldn’t be reinforced any better than the spoken chorus, which exclaims “…Nothing wrong with the good things in life” channelling the spirit of Scroobius Pip himself as he half speaks, half delivers with a punch.
An ovation comes before one of Ed’s oldest incarnations ‘Steady Strides’ a colab/remix effort from ENiGMA Dubz – Birmingham dubstep and ambient electronic producer, signed to Brox Records and previously releasing with LU10 Records, Four40 Records through to DUPLOC and giants; SLIME Recordings.
Ed signs off with a recent track. One which arguably is his most successful – ‘Part of You ENiGMA Dubz Remix’ landed Spotify playlisting last year and gave a well-needed boost to a fledgling independent collective, that of Brox Records. A best-friend duo of Ed and manager Tom, Brox started with a misspelt text and has developed into a well-known name in Birmingham’s surprisingly small collective of home-grown labels.
A night of well-executed return for two artists with years ahead of them, leaving us only enough time to ask; are we seeing the rise of a British up & coming Marc Rebillet? Let’s hope so.