“Having seen Slamboree at Beat Herder festival 2012, I’m afraid I’ve
been badgering as many people as I can to watch their live performances
on Youtube or better still, in the flesh. I can count on the fingers of
a recently deported cleric’s hand, the number of bands whose live
performances have had such a huge and immediate impact on me. I make an early commitment to attend the gig and don’t manage to convince any of
my friends to come with me. Ahhh. Nervously reading more and more about Rumpus, I get the feeling that heading out alone won’t be a problem, the evening sounds like I’ll be in the company of plenty of “friends I
haven’t met yet”.
The reports make the event sound like an indoor festival and butterflies
stir my stomach and onlookers gaze on as I make my train journey into
London in fancy dress. I arrive at the venue (an old theatre), and make
my way to the bar as the theme from Star Wars’ Mos Eisley Cantina plays
in the background. The musical choice seems very appropriate as I gaze
around my fellow creatures inhabiting the beautifully decorated venue.
Succumbing to my urge to explore, I take a wander up the stairs to a DJ
spinning some great tunes. I’ve no idea who it is but there’s an
eclectic mix of ska and bass heavy beats getting an airing and plenty of
bodies swaying appreciatively. Upstairs again and another bar area but
this one has a completely different vibe to it. The hair and make-up
artists of ‘Hairy Poppins Pop Up Hair Salon’ set about transforming
punters. Taking direction in beautification, they set about their work
with broad smiles on their faces and fast working fingers.
A tarot reader has developed quite a following and there’s a lovely
selection of handmade jewellery for sale too.
Meanwhile back on planet Rumpus and out into a ‘Blade Runner’ style
alleyway come smoking area, further ‘rooms’ lead to strange places. A
ball pit (adult size), and art gallery with all manner of weird and
wonderful paintings and 3D pieces are on display are busy with people.
The Travelling Tavern is playing some blissful deep dub with a bass so
heavy I can feel it in my chest. It’s lovely. Just up a set of stairs,
‘Suck My Rock’ has put together a photo shoot set and plenty of people
are getting snapped. The maze like venue is a perfect location for this
kind of event.
I catch the end of Gypsy Hill whose fast paced Balkan style sets the
scene perfectly for my highlight Slamboree. Slamboree take to the stage
and I’m really not quite sure how it’s happened but I’ve managed to get
to the front of a packed crowd. The madness begins. Now, if you haven’t
seen it, I feel like I’m about to ruin something quite magical by trying
to describe Slamboree with something as clumsy as words. Apologies, I’ll
try not to let them down.
Excitement mounts among the expectant crowd at the front; we all know
we’re in for a real treat. Mike Freear appears, almost conductor like
and takes his place behind the decks. He is accompanied by musicians and
performers and the whole place explodes into life. The brass section on
stage introduces a track and a Balkan stomp envelops us. A wordless call
to dance has been signalled and we are GO!
The next hour and a half moves seamlessly through a musical and
theatrical masterpiece. At one point I notice the Cheshire cat is
projected onto a backdrop, but really, when there’s this much happening
on the stage, the projections seem superfluous.
During the set, the singer’s lungs seem to be supplying endless fuel to
a deep and powerful voice as she moves to the barrier. A few feet away I
hear the unamplified and amplified version of her vocals. She is
amazing. I’m captivated and forget for a moment that I really ought to
take some photos. On stage, the trombone player has laid down his brass
and is stomping around the stage. He seems to have been possessed and
has become an unlikely accident out of wedlock from Dr Zeuss, Jim Henson
and Albert Hoffman.
While the music grabs us by the ears lobes and shakes, on stage there’s
fire! One of the performers is spinning a hula hoop on each limb (no
mean feat on its own), whilst moving rhythmically, to the tunes. There’s
juggling, street dance and the Balkan circus rave is born.
Somewhere behind me in the crowd, (seemingly about 15 metres away), I
can hear a trumpet. It seems like a trick by the soundman, a sound
magically thrown to the back of the room. As I turn around I see a man a
few paces away, playing what looks like a half sized trumpet. I’ve had
this before at gigs, people who aren’t on stage playing instruments.
Almost every other time it’s been awful. Not this time. The man is
ushered forward to the barrier by those on stage.
Again the singer comes to the front with a microphone and he is
amplified properly. Nobody wants the mic taken away, he’s bang on the
money and everyone is lapping it up. I hope someone from the band gets
his number; this is a magical Slamboree experience!
A crescendo is reached and things calm slightly as a barefoot Beans On
Toast makes a guest appearance. His poetic rapping and poetry with folk
undertones are known to me and it’s a great surprise to see him in this
Musical highlights are the Slamboree take on ‘Zorba The Greek’, the slow
hand clap building and building, and the 1980s’ video game sound of
‘Little Boxes’. I’m afraid a lot of the rest of the set I can’t put
names to, but one thing’s for sure, these guys are on form. Miss them
performing near you and you’re bound to regret it.
Rumpus is a great night out, I make new friends, talk to loads of people
and I’m sad when it’s all over. Looking back I wonder where the night
has gone, isn’t that the way the best nights out end?”