Do not fight a gorilla, even pandas are tough
I write this mail with a sense of sadness. Tonight, the first Friday of the month, would have been a Klub Kakofanney night, and I realised that it is now one year since our last Klub Kakofanney gig before the onset of the covid crisis. Do you remember that last Friday night gig? Kaiju Blue came over from Cheltenham, supported by Seb James's band, Screamin' Irene, along with an opening set from Matt Sewell and Phil Freizinger. Then, a couple of days later, we had our last Sunday social acoustic session downstairs when we had Franklin's Tower, with support from The Scott Gordon Band, White Tips, and Asterox.
Music is under threat,... again
I'm sure everyone was dismayed to find out over the past week that the current home of Klub Kakofanney, The Wheatsheaf, is under threat as a music venue. After the loss of The Cellar in 2018, The Wheatsheaf is the last remaining city centre music space. I've just checked and in 2019, Klub Kakofanney ran 27 events there altogether, a total of 92 sets from artists and bands, and goodness how many individual musicians and audience members, and we are just one of the many promoters who organise music there. But now the owners of the property have applied for planning permission to convert the upstairs venue room and a part of the downstairs pub into lucrative student flats. If the Wheatsheaf is lost as a venue, it is lost forever. There is a Facebook group, Save The Sheaf, with the links for lodging objections.
I am also informed that the new management at the pub no longer wishes to have Sunday afternoon gigs in the ground floor bar, so it looks like we've had our last social and acoustic session there.
I was saddened this week when I learnt that Larry Reddington had passed away towards the end of January. Larry was known to audience members as the front man of The Mad Larry Band, and to many musicians as the guy from The Music Box. I've uploaded a couple of recordings from his appearances at Klub Kakofanney, so that his music may live on.
Any fond recollections or enduring memories that you would like to share as comments on the video are most welcome. Thank you for the music Larry.
Days of crowded streets
Whenever Hong Kong features in the news at the moment, it is always depressing, with sad scenes of state crackdowns ordered by Beijing, and prohibitions on protests by people who, by and large, do not consider themselves to be Chinese. Just this week, 47 democracy campaigners have been arrested in Hong Kong on charges of insurrection. This next video is from a few years ago and shows a much happier mass gathering in one of the most densely populated cities on the planet.
Videos like this are a good reminder that people the world over have the same basic emotions, find the same joy in lively upbeat music. We are all one human race.
The lottery of life
The streets of Oxford have been quiet over the last year, although there was a notable BLM protest outside Oriel College last June when protestors called on the college to remove the statue of imperialist and colonialist, Cecil Rhodes. Sadly, not a lot has happened, not much engagement, and instead the college did what bureaucracies always do when challenged,... they set up a committee. On the other side of the equation, the "Rhodes Must Fall" group, (which originated in South Africa), created this marvellous piece of musical protest, complete with face masks, filmed on the socially distanced Oxford High Street.
Wherever we live in this world, music and movement taps deep into our emotions, and allows us to express powerful ideas. The song in the video is "My Power", and some of the lyrics you heard are in the southern African Zulu language.
Stand up and make some noise
I would always encourage live performance bands to think not just about how they sound, but also about their showmanship in front of an audience. A great example of an act which oozes showmanship is the Japanese group, Moimiro Clover Z. They may look like a cross between the Nolan Sisters and squeaky Power Rangers, but do not mistake them for a manufactured "idol" band. They began as an indie band playing in their local park, and nowadays they are a supergroup within Japanese culture. In this video, the Japanese vocal pitch may be too high for western tastes, but pay particular attention to the colour coding of their various costumes.
The costumes and theatre are part of their own brand of showmanship. Each band member has a theme colour which has remained constant throughout the history of the band and which helps the audience identify them. Whatever costumes they are wearing for a performance, each one will, without fail, be themed with their own colour, and the current line-up is Red, Pink, Yellow, Purple, and Green.
The band founder, 26 year old Kanako Momota, (Red), is also insanely agile, athletic, and acrobatic, a skilled gymnast who can perform a shrimp jump from a standing position. That's like a pike jump, jumping and touching your toes whilst airborne, but made even more impossible by arching backwards instead of forwards. If you find that hard to visualise, look at this amazing photograph which captured Kanako at the top of the jump during rehearsals.
If you saw that in a movie you'd swear they were using hidden wires, a trampoline, and a stunt double. I know, I know, I'm showing my age, I'm a dinosaur, and hidden wires are old hat. Everything these days is obviously CGI. Bonus points if you regonised MCZ as being the band singing the sugary Santa-san-san and having the custard pie fight in the video which I listed in my Christmas email.
No place for complacency
More of us are being vaccinated each day, and the covid numbers are slowly coming down. Please do not be tempted to let your guard down too soon. Keep up the good habits we've established over the last year, and soon we'll be having our own crowded streets and noisy gigs again.