Monday 18 November 2013

Big Up Tom Robinson & Melissa James

Tom Robinson
My last gig before the summer break was a modest but brilliant gig by two singers who I have since developed a healthy respect for. Hosted by Melissa James and supported by Kaz Simmons, this was the launch of the 'Gig in a Gallery' series of events to raise awareness and funds for the Small Steps Project. Now 3 months on, (30/10/2013) we found that the ball which Melissa James had got rolling in July was now a boulder of Indiana Jones chasing proportions. Here and now at the Queen of Hoxton James had organised a charity night that featured the likes of Orlando Seale and the Swell, Danni Nicholls, Sarah Bleach, Vincent Burke, Ardie Collins, Dean Atta, Lux Lisbon, Swami Baracus and the headliner Tom Robinson.

Orlando Seale
All the creative people performing tonight were part of a song writing group called 'Strictly Vanilla' who had spent a weekend together at Bore Place, Kent this time last year. The brainchild of Tom Robinson who wrapped his fatherly arms around them and fostered an environment in which they flourished artistically and collaboratively.

Danni Nicholls
I'm setting my stall out early to say that although I sketched nearly everyone who performed I couldn't include them all here. We had a brief 20 minutes to grow accustomed to each act with its new music, style and a whole range of shapes, ages and genres. While we were at our freshest, Orlando Seale and his Swell, swashbuckled themselves straight into our gunnels, with Seale's dark piercing eyes it is near impossible to you look anywhere else. Sarah Bennington saved us from shipwrecking ourselves on his shores with her flute which charmed us away from his hypnotic gaze.

Vincent Burke
Where Seale foppishly raked us with curly locks our second performer had a direct steely presence that was perfectly projected through her serene chiselled visage. With the paint still wet on her debut album release 'A Little Redemption' Danni Nicholls gave us a short 2 tune set which culminated with a penetrating 'Jolene' and a guest appearance from rapper Swami Baracus who stamped his own modern footprint on the 2013 crowd

Leslie Baldock
While Sarah Bleach played her 3 tunes I grabbed the opportunity to draw a fascinating gentleman in front of me who was holding a copy of Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell closely to his bosom. Dressed in vertical stripes and leather jacket he looked like a cross between an American football umpire and a well maintained Fonz. He turned out to be Orlando Seale uberfan Leslie Baldock, who like many of the crowd who packed out the venue, had come to experience their favourite performer but stayed on to hear the rest because the night's menu was plentiful. That's not to say we didn't tire and lag a little in places. However successful, 10 acts takes some concentrating and devotion, even diehards like 'Gig in a Gallery' regulars Dr & Mrs Fizzy stretched a leg or two, to ward off acoustic cramp.

Ardie Collins
One of my favourites to draw and hear was Vincent Burke, he tumbled out of the 50's in appearance but his deadpan tune 'He paid to have himself murdered' is relevant and humorous in any era, a real delight for anyone afflicted with dryhumouritus, like myself. Some people would also like his 'Stronger than a mountain' and I count myself in that camp too.

Dean Atta - Performance Poet
"The Key to quality is quantity" was anoraked Tom Robinson's quote to the audience. Here before us was the man who released 365 songs in one year, Ardie Collins. Unfortunately this self-effacing songwriter left us 363 tunes short and despite his simmering wit I imagine there's much more to come from under his heavy fringe.

Lux Lisbon's Stuart Rook
Just as I thought I had hit my sketching summit with Burke we were entertained and socially pricked by spikey poet Dean Atta. I often lose track of words while drawing so I cannot vouch so clearly for his content but I can for the sentiment and his pulsating energy which seemed to leap directly onto my page.

Melissa James
The train containing all these performers was rattling along at a runaway pace but took a total right angle turn with Lux Lisbon whose roaring aggressive stance certainly knocked me from my feet and into the lap of the charming singer Kaz Simmons who rested beside me. The juxtaposition with the earlier folk-flavoured bias was refreshing and you cannot doubt the commitment of frontman Stuart Rook who pogoed and ranted until his face turned a healthy puce. Who would get him so hot under the collar? It seems three scallywags from the Bullingdon Club, bullyboys Osborne, Johnson and Cameron.

Swami Baracus
"She sings the blues in the way it's supposed to be sung" was what Tom Robinson said as he announced her arrival. Melissa James gave us what we wanted, a gutsy 4 song set with the absolute standout being 'Don't keep yourself down', which was the best of the whole night and featured the man who would now follow in her steps, the ninth act this evening, Swami Baracus. Who was entertaining for me as an artist with his Halloween inspired black and orange combo, ritualistic rapping hand gestures and rapid fire delivery. Pow!

I never thought I would hear the call to arms 'Big Up Tom Robinson'. It reminded me of a gig in Westminster Reference Library with the jazz group Polar Bear and an unnamed rapper who called to the audience, "Yeah you in the periodicals, wave your hands in the air man!". But Mr Baracus was right, Big Up Tom Robinson, who discarded his dark green anorak, his translucent rimmed specs and got sweaty with the rest of us.

Big Up too to Melissa James.


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