Live: Elli Ingram X Will Heard @ Bush Hall

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Admittedly, my friend Louise and I initially bought tickets for this gig to see Will Heard live again. We had both first heard him at Laughing Boy, a music and comedy night I've been to regularly over the years, and Louise totally fell in love with his voice so asked me (at repeated intervals) to let me know if I heard of him doing any more gigs. So when I found out he was supporting Elli Ingram at Bush Hall, we bought tickets pretty sharpish. One of the best things about discovering up and coming talent is how cheap the tickets are - we got these for £8 and I still remember going to see Ed Sheeran for a tenner at a pub in Balham before he blew up. Since Will was supporting this other artist, Louise and I decided we better check her out. And what a treat!

But first Will Heard. Despite having tuning problems with his guitar, he still delivered a raw, soulful performance. His throaty voice cuts right through you as he delivers songs that would be perfect played on a sun kissed beach (or in the garden more likely..this is England)

He seemed a little rushed on his cover of Drake's 'Girls Love Beyonce', I've seen him perform it better, but the chorus still got all the girls singing along.

Will's relaxed style is charming and he is clearly still developing so can still seem quite contained in his performance but he is clearly into his music which is infectious.

And then for Elli Ingram. Before she came out, some vintage-esque props were added to the set - I'm all for a strong aesthetic theme, so this went down well with me.

Brighton hailing 20 year old Elli has just signed to Island Records and she is probably about to be the next big British female vocalist. She moves with such ease on stage, grinding away clearly in tune with her womanly physique and sensuality; her stage presence is effortless. Very down to earth, she became more chatty with the audience as her set went on and confided in her girlish voice that she had thought her management were crazy for booking Bush Hall; she seemed genuinely shocked and humbled that it had sold out.

She is clearly influenced by R'n'B and hip-hop, from her incredible cover of Kendrick Lamar and Drake's Poetic Justice to her dark lipliner, and it works beautifully with her soulful, jazzy tone. Her voice floats languidly over the music and has drawn comparisons with Amy Winehouse, her lyrics full up with bad boys and drinking too much, another similarity. Personally I love a sweetly sung F bomb and Elli has plenty of them.

Her band were amazing - a huge double bass was brought out for tender ballad 'The River' and a saxophonist grooved over the tracks so sexily. Looking at the band screwing up their faces because they felt the music so much, around at the crowd clapping and singing along as Elli dipped it low and asked the audience why they were there if they didn't wanna party - it felt like I'd witnessed the birth of a star.

Shanika Says: Check out these hot new artists now!
Elli's EP's 'Sober' and 'The Doghouse' are available through her website

Eat: Death by Burrito @ The Candlemaker

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

When we found The Candlemaker pub nestled on Battersea high street, it felt a bit like stumbling on a cool Shoreditch bar...but this is South London so the vibe was a little more chilled and a little less contrived. The staff were still pierced and tattooed but really friendly and helpful and while most of the clientele were in there twenties there were a few patrons you could tell had just popped into their local for a few drinks.

I'm a big fan of Mexican food so was very excited to try Death By Burrito from the Rebel Dining Society, who having previously had a pop up at Catch bar in Shoreditch, now have a permanent home at The Candlemaker for their contemporary Mexican street food. Maybe they nicked their staff too? But first drinks!

We saw the frozen Margarita machine and were going to go for those but our friendly barman suggested some of The Candlemaker's home-made bottled cocktails which were the same price (£6.50) so we went for those instead.

We went for Oh my Pie! - Cinnamon vodka, Disaronno, apple, lemon and cane sugar but our fave was the Whiskey Shed - Jack Daniels honey, pineapple, lemon and honey. Yum!

Now the food. Being Good Friday both Kirsty and I went for fish; the Baja fish burrito for me and the tequila and beer battered Death by Burrito burger with lime and chilli mayo for Kirsty. The fish burger was served on deliciously soft, sweet brioche bun and the fish burrito had a nice spicy kick.

We also had fries which came with chipotle ketchup; the smoky sweet flavour was a nice touch.

My friend Portia joined us a bit later on and went for the chilli and Agave glazed chicken wings. (She forgot it was Good Friday which means fish and then felt terrible LOL)

On Sundays, DBB do bigger dishes like baby back ribs, flat iron chicken and stuffed aubergine served with sweet potato mash, spicy slaw and salsa. On Monday's The Candlemaker have a quiz night and I also spotted various board games dotted about, including my absolute favourite Articulate.

There is some nice art referring to the proximity of the old candle making factory from which the pub gets its name, a knight in shining armour and softly lit outdoor areas that would be lovely to relax in during warmer weather.

Shanika Says: The Candlemaker has a wonderfully chilled vibe and later on they were playing some on point hip hop, both old and new. I'll be back to sip home-made cocktails outside when we get some proper sun!

Read: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

I found out the personal parallels between author Lionel Shriver and her protagonist Pandora Halfdanarson only after reading the book, for which I'm glad. It gave an additional layer of poignancy and I can see that perhaps the novel was a work of catharsis but had I known in advance, Pandora's character would have been painted with even more self-indulgence.

Shriver's own brother was morbidly obese and died of cardiac arrest. The book explores the complicated relationship the Western world, but particularly America, has with food.
The book begins with Pandora stating her case to take in her annoying yet brilliant brother Edison who has hit hard times, despite her husbands blatant dislike for him; he is her big brother who she hero worships and has done since they were children growing up with a fame hungry TV star father. However his arrival is a shock, in the few years since they have last seen each other Edison has gained so much weight he is barely recognisable and has become the sort of person that other people are visibly disgusted by without the lingering aftertaste of sympathy. He is HUGE.

He is also brash, loud and an incessant brag who elicits pity from Pandora's teen step daughter Cody but fails to impress her step son Tanner and constantly rubs her perpetually on a restricted calorie diet husband Fletcher up the wrong way. In many ways Fletcher and Edison represent Shriver's views on the two opposing relationships Americans have with food - over indulgent, glutinous and perilous versus pious, restrictive and joyless. Pandora's character seems to stand for a female take on food; all her food memories are tied to events and occasions rather than flavours, her favourite photographs based on how thin she looks.

Pandora takes on the mammoth task of spearheading her brothers weight loss - moving in with him and even joining him on a diet of powdered drinks - and risking her marriage to save his life. Although this scenario seems unlikely, Shriver manages to pull this off through her detailed explanation of the precarious situation and the pressure it puts on her personal relationships. The weight loss is supposed to pale in comparison to the change in personality Edison undergoes, humbled by the experience of hitting rock bottom; there is a horrifying scene where Pandora literally has to scoop up Edison's runaway shit. That has to be rock bottom for anyone. However it falls flat because Edison is a rather 2D character full of grating catchphrases and we never really scratch the surface of the emotional impact of his life threatening size, we never feel truly sorry for him nor despise him.
Pandora, whilst much more developed, as a self-sacrificing reluctantly successful business woman with a desire to blend in and be normal in her anonymity, seems an exercise is self-flagellation after finding out Shriver's own story.

We Need To Talk About Kevin, Shriver's most well known novel, is so twisted and complex that I was approaching the end of the book which appeared to be wrapping up neatly, wondering if she'd lost her edge. I needn't have worried; I was quickly met with two gruesome twists, however they felt a little like after thoughts and were under developed if brilliant. Either one would have worked beautifully if just left to sit with the reader a little longer.

Shanika Says: While by no means perfect, Big Brother is an interesting examination of food, family and how the two are so often linked.


Flintstones top: night market in Thailand
Boots: Palladium Blanc Hi Lea c/o Fabric PR
Sunglasses: flea market, LA

A little bit of sun means a little bit of midriff and some messing about with lenses in the back garden.
I'm also having a curly hair moment...I've set myself a challenge of a whole curly month, no blowdryers, no GHD's nothing! Trying to repair some of the damage heat and dye have done recently with lots of Argan oil treatments, conditioner and love! What do you think?

Watch: Hopelessly Devoted @ The Tricycle

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Missing Orange is the New Black? Well Hopelessly Devoted, which opened at the Tricycle Theatre on Monday, might just fill the gap. Set in a women's prison, the play is a Paines Plough and Birmingham Repertory Theatre production written by the amazingly talented Kate Tempest who I recently discovered through her show Brand New Ancients. While Hopelessly Devoted doesn't meet the incredibly high standard Tempest set with Ancients (I seriously had goosebumps all the way through that show), it is an emotive and thoughtful piece about the realities of prison, it's effect on the wider family and institutionalisation.

The central character is Chess (Cat Simons) who begins to face the reality of saying goodbye to her partner Serena (Gbemisola Ikumelo) at the same time she begins a prisoners music programme with Silver (Michelle Gayle) a formerly successful music producer, who is using the scheme as a chance to rediscover a love of music that was compromised through addiction.

A starkly simple stage with just a table to one side and a large screen at the back of the stage filled with boxes that are occasionally back lit, represents the prison and cells and allows for the actors to really tell the story unaided. Tales of domestic violence and a fear of leaving prison for the outside world when faced with little prospects are all explored as well as both Chess and Serena's experience of missing their children and the complicated procedures to get them back.

The simplicity and mutual support of the new relationship Chess and Serena have found with each other is one of the strong points of the play; the realisation that neither had ever felt like this before and Chess's terror at what it means for them when Serena does get released. Together they dance in their cell as if moving on a chess board and it is devastating to watch Chess try to recreate this dance on her own after Serena leaves.

I was pleased to note that the word 'lesbian' was not uttered once. This wasn't a comment on sexuality merely the telling of a loving relationship in complicated circumstances; all too often LGBT characters are 'framed' by their sexuality unnecessarily and I was pleased to see Tempest felt that surplus to the story.

Music is obviously a huge part of the play, from the characters singing lines from songs to each other constantly which made for a nice musical nostalgia to the actual music Chess makes with Silver in their session. I feel it is here that Tempest really shines, the language when used in lyrical form is the strongest and most emotive in the whole piece. Kate Tempest began as a spoken word artist and in Hopelessly Devoted the raw, vibrant performance of Simmons really brings her lyrics alive.

Towards the conclusion of the play, there is much about social networking sites like Facebook and sharing sites such as YouTube which jar slightly with the piece, but it does involve some nice projection onto the screen and spawns the lines:
"What's social media?"
"Like social services"
which received a huge laugh.

Cat Simmons was consistently strong as the central character Chess but her cockney/ghetto accent was overdone and grated after 5 minutes. Michelle Gayle was suitably earnest and just the right balance of sanctimonious and genuine as Silver but Gbemisola Ikumelo stole the show as Serena, playing her with such naturalistic ease and delivering the most well rounded, conflicted and yet still likeable character. She is one to watch, as is Stef O'Driscoll who co-directed with James Grieve. I've followed Stef O'Driscoll's career since seeing her direct 'Yard Gal' at the Oval House theatre years ago and the energy she brings to a piece is palpable. I look forward to seeing what she does next.

Shanika Says: Hopelessly Devoted is showing at the Tricycle until the 19th April, well worth getting down there for some musical and theatrical entertainment. Tickets range between £10 and £28 or only £11 if you're under 26!

All photos taken from The Tricycle Theatre Facebook page, all rights reserved by Paines Plough, photo credit Richard Davenport.

Live: Banks @ KOKO

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spontaneous nights out are always the best although it may mean this post has crap pics. Let me tell you how this one came about. A friend of mine was texting me on Monday night on her way home from seeing Banks live at Koko and asked had I heard of her? Wait what? Of course I had and I love her and shit I'd missed her in concert again! I tweeted how upset I was and the very next morning one of my most supportive supporters tweeted me a link to where I could get some last minute tickets (thank you Danielle! And thank you Twitter)

A quick text to another friend to see if she was free and the tickets were purchased. 

The warm up act was Eclair Fifi who played a super alternative set and made my friend and I wish we could DJ. BeyoncĂ©, alternative R'n'B, ratchet trap and some trippy beats set the tone and then Banks appeared on stage. 

Dressed in a sleeveless black leather top, long black skirt and black boots to match her long dark hair she looked like a sexy Wednesday Addams all grown up and you can see how much she is into her music as she struts up and down the simply dressed stage, stomps to the music and flings her arms and legs. Far too many singers are so nonchalant on stage and her passion reminded me of Ella Eyre, although its a totally different performance style. 

Slinky sensual R'n'B vocals laced over big ominous beats as Banks ran through tracks from her London EP as well as a few of her popular underground hits like an acoustic version of Warm Water and new tracks Brain and Stick. She also performed her recent live lounge cover of Aaliyah 'Are You That Somebody?' and The Weeknd's 'What You Need'  (who she recently supported on tour) in her own inimitable style, lots of eerie adlib sounds which often make up the bridge or intro to her tunes. 

Banks clearly values her UK fanbase and has a deep affinity for London, where she recorded her EP, even naming it after our lovely city. She's very Californian in her rare chats directly to the audience ("I love you guys so much") and she still has a slight awkwardness to her movement on stage that is super adorable. The only thing I wasn't feeling were the crazy light shows going on behind her - almost every song had a different back light and they were often flashing so quick and so bright I couldn't always look directly at the stage. And I didn't see an epilepsy warning anywhere!

An amazing show by a relatively new artist. Sold out shows without a single mainstream song in sight. Real music lives!