This week saw me visiting Talking Heads in Southampton for their fortnightly free entry Maple Leaf Lounge Sessions. It’s the first time I’ve been along to one of these, but it definitely won’t be the last.
A Maple Leaf Lounge Session is described on their Facebook page as a lovely chilled evening filled with candles, fairy lights, beautiful music, a friendly atmosphere and free cupcakes. It didn’t disappoint. I arrived at 8:30 – things kicked off at 8:00 and I was disappointed to find I’d missed TheRealRaj, but I was in time for Lucas and King. Pint acquired, I found a table at the back, propped myself against the fire alarm ‘break glass’ thing and settled in. A quiet chap in a hat asked if the next chair to me was free, and on being informed it was all his, sat down.
Lucas & King are a Southampton-based duo, new to the scene, made up of Bo Lucas (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Hayleigh King (electric guitar, backing vocals). A simple, yet very effective combination. Bo has a smooth, distinct, voice with more than a touch of Stevie Nicks about it. The overall sound was one of bluesy folk, with a definite American flavour. Really chilled, and just what was needed on a Friday night to ease you into the weekend. They played for about 20 minutes, then left the stage to resounding applause.
Next on were Sombrero Fallout. These were the guys I wanted to see, after reading the description on the Session Facebook page. I was looking forward to seeing a Southampton based psych-folk-dub trio with Bouzouki, Fretless Bass and Trombone, loops, samples and visuals sync’d together .They often (as in this occasion ) feature the Southampton based Poet Issa Farrah whos reflective and evocative words uplift and give emotional depth and rhythm. They were pretty damn good.
Playing live to an audiovisual dancey backing track (with the video projected on a screen beside the stage), three guys produced real audio delight. Bouzouki through an effects unit (guess what I’m going to be dusting off tomorrow), coupled with trombone and bass goes surprisingly well.
As they transitioned one track into another, the video also changed. From a surreal (what am I saying? *A* surreal? They were all very surreal!) video involving giant teddy bears attacking traffic, via what can only be described as a biblical rock climber and an umbrella-bearing tightrope walker, we were taken on an under-sea safari. The whole atmosphere made me think of a lazy summer afternoon, lying under a tree, watching the world go by.
The aquatic video gave way to clips from Easy Rider, with audio samples. This was good. Everything was timed to perfection, with the instrumentation somehow fitting perfectly with the video. Then the Clangers appeared. Clangers and Easy Rider were mixed for a while, then they appeared on their own on a surging psychedelic background.
Sombrero Fallout ended their techno jazz fusion trip with a tune accompanied by clips from the title sequence of The Tomorrow People. The MC reappeared, saying there would be a ten minute break, during which the teapot would be passed round for donations to the musicians, then they would all do another 20 minutes each. Excellent! I’d get to see TheRealRaj.
In the interval, a black dog, who’s name I didn’t catch, dragged his owner mercilessly around the corner of the bar I was sitting in. The dog had his own seat at the bar. I’m liking the new Talking Heads.
It came to the second half, and the quiet chap that was sitting next to me got up, walked to the stage, picked up a guitar and started playing it. So he’s TheRealRaj! He’s a singer-songwriter and this evening played all his own material, on acoustic guitar with tambourine and either a stomp box or a drum (it was difficult to see from the back). His set was bluesy, with smooth, powerful vocals. One song, ‘Bad Luck’, had an almost African feel to it at times, reminding me very much of Songhoy Blues. It was a really chilled, professional set that the audience absorbed with much appreciation. All in all, if his first set was even half as good as this, I’m sorry to have missed it.
Lucas and King were soon back on, starting with some great vocal harmonies, and played a great second set with a slightly more country vibe to it than the first, backed by their subtle combination of electric and acoustic guitar.
Sombrero Fallout were joined on stage by local poet Issa Farrah on vocals. Their eclectic mix of instrumentation might not work that well without the sampled beat, but with it, it’s something special. And with the poetic rapping of Issa Farrah, telling stories of travelling in Wales, then a final song about Southampton some 16 years ago, they closed the evening to great applause.
Raj had returned to his seat after his set and we had a good chat about the folk scene and where to go to find audiences for Shantyhead. He plays the folk club circuit and had some great advice to give. Cheers, Raj!
After tonight, I definitely rate the Maple Leaf Lounge Sessions. A real mix of great tunes and inspiring artists tonight. If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a look.
(There’s better photos than mine, and videos from tonight, on the Maple Leaf Lounge Sessions Facebook page if you’re interested.)