Stephen Pennell watches another promising new Birmingham talent, at another promising new Birmingham venue.
Lekky and friends.
We have a diary in our house in which me and the missus enter our plans so they don’t clash. It was my wife’s idea – whoever gets in first, wins, and no arguments. And if you believe that I’ve got a bridge for sale. “I’m at the hairdressers Wednesday night at 7.30,” she said, all matter-of-fact. “You might wanna check the diary,” I countered. “I’m out that night”.
“Sod the diary,” she said, apart from the ‘sod’ bit. “It’s Valentine’s Day the next day, then my birthday. I’m going to the hairdressers.” Negotiations over. She wears the trousers in our house. I just iron them. But as it turned out she went straight from work and they saw her early. I rang to find out what time she’d be home and she asked if I was missing her. Hmmm… This was awkward.
“Of course I’m missing you,” I said, “but I was thinking I might be able to make it to the gig”. I’d annoyed her again, but by eight o’clock I was on the bus, at half-past I was on the tram, and by twenty to nine I was saying hello to Lekky outside the joint. I’ve long been a fan of her mix of RnB, indie, rap, melodic singing and catchy choruses, and was chuffed to bits to speak to her.
“Have you been on?” I asked, a bit perturbed. “Yeah, you missed me.” Missing people was becoming a theme. Luckily, she was winding me up and I’d made it in plenty of time.
Legend has it that Billy Page wrote the seminal Mod classic The ‘In’ Crowd for Dobie Gray after arriving in San Francisco one night and asking a taxi driver to take him to a cool hangout. The cabbie allegedly informed him that the ‘in’ crowd were at the Fillmore theatre watching Aretha Franklin. This can’t be true, as the song was written in 1964, when the Queen of Soul was still crooning jazz standards for Columbia Records, and wouldn’t have attracted the kind of crowd that would fill the Fillmore.
But it’s a cool yarn and I lived a microcosm of it on Wednesday at the jam-packed Acapella bar in the Jewellery Quarter’s Frederick Street, where a veritable who’s who of Birmingham’s urban music ‘in’ crowd was in attendance.
Multi-talented writer, singer and all-round socio-cultural authority AffieJam was standing at the bar as I walked in, while brilliant lyricist and rapper Truemendous, back home from London for a few days, was near the stage. Erstwhile Lady Sanity producer and Ambitious Studios owner Adam Nightingale was there with his entourage, and the lovely soul singer Janel Antoneshia arrived just after me.
As I mentioned before, the main attraction of tonight’s line-up, Lekky (formerly known as Elektric), was meeting and greeting her fans in the blazing area. My late arrival meant I’d sadly missed the set of electro-popster Esther Turner, who played and left early as she had another gig in Derby, but I’ve seen her many times busking around town and can vouch for her impressive talent. Despite mingling with the glitterati, I was not too star-struck to enjoy the haunting melodies of Naomi Dawes, and rapper S Maverick also grabbed my attention with a gritty, energetic and entertaining performance.
Melody warrior Lekky was the one who I’d risked domestic strife to see and she didn’t disappoint. The Leamington-born, assimilated Brummie opened with the cool, calm vibes of new single Tippy Toe, which has been on repeat in our house since it dropped a few days ago, and played live the full-fat-funk of the band soon had the crowd getting into the groove along with them.
New song Flicker For Me was next – a first listen for me but the beat was infectious and I’m eagerly looking forward to being able to play it at home. The short, sweet set closed with the gorgeous, mellow vibes of Meditate, a song that does exactly what it says on the tin with its trippy, trance-like chorus, the ‘breathe in, breathe out’ mantra verging on therapeutic.
Top of the bill was Gambimi, who entertained us with some smooth and sexy RnB. There followed a series of minute-long open mic spots that only went to show the amazing depth of talent with which Birmingham is blessed. Even so, it was great to see the more established stars Janel Antoneshia and AffieJam get up for a laugh, in the process saving the venue some coin on cleaning as they wiped the floor with everybody.
Acapella is a smart new venue, a real asset to JQ nightlife with a relaxed and friendly door policy, and it was a great night put on by I Luv Live and the venue owner Seamus. “You don’t sound Irish,” I said to him, confused by his Middle Eastern-sounding accent. “No, it’s the Turkish version of Seamus,” he replied with a smile. He’ll fit right in in Brum.