Hackney Colliery Band & Lealea Jones at Hootananny’s Brixton
Hootananny’s – a fantastically named converted pub 10 minutes away from Brixton train station – plays host nearly every day to any number of up-and-coming bands playing a variety of music, from roots and reggae to ska, dubstep, rock and blues. Awarded ‘Best Live Music Pub UK’ in 2010, ‘Best Music Venue’ and a ‘London Lifestyle Award’ in 2011, it is certainly a place to know about and be at for London’s cool, alternative and musically-oriented crowd.
The grounds and the pub itself take up an enormous amount of space, easily accommodating several hundred people – and capacity on this particular night was almost definitely exceeded, the beer garden crammed full of revellers drinking and eating jerk chicken from a tented stall set up in a corner. Inside the pub, more people stood jammed up against each other and the walls in the relatively small performance space, while out on the street the queue to get in got longer and longer as the night wore on.
We arrive half-way through Lealea Jones’s dubstep-centred set. The audience are responsive and loud and she banters with them, joking her way through a heavy, sweaty, electrifyingly energetic track list. Sweat pours down her face and chest as she bounces about the stage, powerfully belting out her tunes with the support of an equally bouncy (and sweaty) band, and by the end of her set it seems that we are just as sad to see her go as she is to leave the stage. But the sadness is fleeting, for the headline act – the ones everyone has been whispering about all evening – is about to come on, and nobody wants to miss this.
The Hackney Colliery Band formed in 2008 “out of a desire to play music that appealed to the feet as much as to the ears”, and their music makes both dance with unadulterated joy. Comprising of a couple of saxophones, trumpets, trombones, a sousaphone (no, I don’t know either) and two drum players controlling a snare drum, a bass drum and various other percussive instruments, the band make an incredible noise in the tight space. Their sexy, up-beat, jazzy tunes mix their own material – which sounds quite Madness-inspired, especially their zany hit A Bit of Common Decency – with instrumental brass versions of well-known hits such as Alicia Keys’s New York and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep.
On stage, they present one of the coolest ensemble band images you’ve ever seen: casual, jokey and calm, sipping on beers in their breaks, which are rare in an absolutely packed set. They appear supremely confident and cool, possibly drawing on the awesome experience they had a few weeks ago when they played in front of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in the Olympics Closing Ceremony alongside The Who and The Spice Girls, and you can’t help but be drawn along by their hypnotic trumpet blasts and the increasingly excitable crowd.
But something went wrong. After about 40 minutes on stage, the band announced their last song, played it, and left. Their audience was confused. The opus of their track list, their most popular song, had been neglected from the gig! Of course, it was all a subterfuge. The Hackney Colliery Band spring back on stage to an incredible wave of cheers and applause and launch into one of the funkiest versions of Toto’s Africa ever to be played, sending the crowd into a frenzy of singing and dancing and leaving the party on the highest note of the night.
Overall, an incredible pair of bands who offered us an incredible pair of performances, the boys from Hackney especially cementing themselves as one of our favourite performers on the London scene today.
Orestes Daniel Kouzof
Visit the Hootananny’s website here to see all their future gigs.
Check out the Hackney Colliery Band’s website here.