Say Something Live music night - Bear Cavalry, Random Impulse, CODA, Rizzle Kicks

Say Something, a live music night and inspirational brain child of GU2 radio has been ambling alongside Surrey’s sub-standard union events since December 2009, slowly collecting fresh-faced and eager music fans along the way like a slow-motion snowball, frosty and determined. And, a lot like a snowball, mildly unnoticed by the majority until it gets MASSIVE and then causes an avalanche. More on this shrouded metaphor later. This year it lay deep in the merciless pit of fresher’s season cheese – sorry – fun, and provided a glimmer of hope for those seeking more alternative forms of entertainment.
The evening of the 6th October was loudly shaken out of its Thursday night sleepyness by none other than Bear Cavalry. Originating from Gosport, kooky four piece Bear Cavalry give a new definition to the word fusion. A group of musicians, all sensationally talented and with the most intricately mature sound I’ve heard from a ‘first-band-on-the-bill’ for a long time. Foals inspired licks combine with calypso rhythms and a bit of thrashing metal added in there for good measure. A valiant blend of Nordic folk harmonies, Vampire Weekend inspired cross-rhythms, and all tied up with the string of indie wide-boy cheekiness. A shame to have had such an intimate audience, they truly outstood their slot in the bill.
Next up is rapper and song writer Random Impulse. Nothing really random or impulsive about this dude but his tunes are catchy enough. An NERD inspired mixture of slamming guitar chords and bouncy hip hop lyrics with a grimey undercarriage.  A little too lyrically repetitive in his choruses compared to his quick witted verse spits, but he seems to get the crowd nodding. Openly inspired by the White Stripes (I think he mentions it in one of his songs) with a twist of WTF, Random Impulse could afford to test his genre fusing impulses a little more. A nod-worthy act for the second slot, which is always a hard one to fill.
The infallible CODA were next to grace the stage, the band who were tipped to headline the last Say Something before they unfortunately bowed out. With their soaring live trombone melody backed by pumping dub step, it’s almost impossible not to dance. Currently London based, this five-piece have been mastering the synthesis of dub step with live musicians since 2009. Their sets are a trippy blend of chilled out reggae and jazz rhythms, highlighted by live electric guitar and the most rock star trombone player I have ever seen. Beach-side paradise imagery gives way to ecstatic dancing as the bass kicks in and we are thrown a gushing bucket of a remixed The Prodigy’s Firestarter, finishing the set with tremendous energy and, yes, a lot of sweatiness.
By this point in the evening the dance floor had become increasingly difficult to move on, students piling in left right and centre to catch a glimpse of the infamous Rizzle Kicks. What did I say about an avalanche?!... The Rizzles kicked their way into their set, bounding on stage in Fresh Prince inspired attire to great applause. Through the sea of blackberries and i-phones that were immediately thrust into the air,  the most I saw was a few fuzzy barnets bobbing up and down and a heavily dreadlocked guitarist who seemed to be enjoying himself. Now, I don’t want to sound like a grump, but where were all these people when Bear Cavalry got down with their trumpet? The Rizzle Kick’s songs are full to the brim with identifiable lyrics and mainstream catchiness; and it’s clear by the audience’s reaction that these two baby-faced rappers are onto a winner. Slightly disappointing that they felt the need to rap over a recorded version of Jessie J’s Price Tag – sorry- who are we coming to see here?! – a mere way of padding out their limited set by getting the audience excited by other people’s songs. Still, the audience seemed to enjoy it so that’s the main thing right? But for this reviewer, it is very rare occurrence when the first act on the bill totally trump(et?) the 80’s inspired shorts off the headliners.


Crossing Borders: 4th October with Ben Duke

Ben Duke sits at ease on a sofa below the majestic ribboned ceiling of the Siobhan Davies studios. His appearance here comes as part of Independent Dance’s annual series of talks called Crossing Borders. The series aims to challenge and question the ideas behind inter-disciplinary work, and explores the ways in which different art forms can be enriched and informed through cross-collaboration. In collaboration itself with The Place’s postgraduate course Edge, and this time also with PAL (performing arts labs), Crossing Borders brings to its platform Lost Dog co-founder and choreographer, Ben Duke. From a company renowned for its inter-disciplinary use of movement, theatre, text and live music, Duke’s seems like a perfect brain to pick to kick-start this series of talks.
Sat in front of an impressively sized audience for the first in a series, Duke begins to contemplate how the concept of crossing the disciplinary border is addressed in his own choreographic work. He talks about beginning with a story and characters, the way one would assume a theatre director would begin. However he goes on to describe how his approach to ‘story’ is not necessarily in the linear narrative sense. He speaks of expanding a single moment, and exploring the millions of possible moments that could take place within a mere couple of seconds. Almost a theatrical approach to chaos theory, Duke explains how within his work these minute moments are stretched, sometimes through the use of dance or other abstract forms, to create a sense of parallel realities. As an agent of illusion, the physicality of movement seems to emerge, dream-like and embedded through an immersive narrative as a way of generating believable frames for the dance.
To create engaging pieces of work that successfully combine dance, text, music and narrative without ending up with a spangly tits and teeth musical theatre piece requires some serious thought. It begs the age-old question, mulled over by audiences and choreographers alike, how do you make it so that the characters within a piece believably choose to dance? Duke asks ‘how do you bridge the gap between reality and an abstract reality?’.  He provides us with an undesirable example of musical theatre and its harsh changes between spoken text and show-tunes (group-shudder).
The answer to this seems to hover around a certain element of subtlety. He describes a delicate balance between providing the framing devices of narrative and character for the dance in order to tie the piece together concisely and not leave the audience utterly perplexed, yet also leaving enough space for ambiguity and imagination. The level at which an audience’s emotions are directed can be controlled through the subtle marriage of text and movement. A choreographer must take control of an audience’s emotional journey through the piece if they have any hope of communicating some tangibly emotive meaning or leaving behind a form of reactive residue. Duke describes his use of layering as a way of inducing subtlety and combating the clunkyness that could arise if movement and text are put together haphazardly. By allowing an expansion of the audience’s imagination through carefully constructing this blurred connection between theatre and dance, the audience member then has the agency to interpret what they see differently. They can relate it to their own lives to make it more emotionally relevant, rather than some distant story about some removed characters that may or may not bare any social or cultural relationship to the viewer. Duke also adds here that in the building and layering of character; when developed in conjunction with text and theatre and most importantly improvisation, a feeling of immediacy can be conjured. Through the use of improvisation, characterisation and physicality can be kept alive, leading the audience to believe (but at the same time not really believe) that this series of events unfolding on stage is happening for the first time. A sensitive balance between letting the audience know that this is a performance (yes, very Brechtian) and tempting them to become emotionally involved within the story creates this two-way pull that seems to fuse the use of dance and theatre. Almost like saying – yes, audience, I know this is completely unbelievable because two people wouldn’t ever go from a very verbal confrontation to a twisty-turny-lovely-dancey phrase in normal life but, oh, don’t we wish we could... wouldn’t it make so much more sense...