After trudging through the sweatbox of the London underground following the hustle and bustle of long day, being greeted by the sweet aroma rising from the Vapiano’s kitchen made for a welcomed change.
This was a heatwave I could definitely get used to.
Amid the flurry of young performers rounding off their sound checks as a few of the attendees placed their orders, the rest of us gathered on the upper deck in anticipation of what we expected to be a great show.
With a lineup of fresh faces and new artists to discover, I took my seat remaining open minded and ready to be dazzled; despite the late start.
Act 1, Kandi, kicked off the evening with a SZA cover. While her bright orange ensemble was certainly a show stopper, it was her riffs and ability to power through quite obvious technical difficulties that captured the audiences attention.
Even with these technical issues continuing throughout the night, there were various other noteworthy performances from the likes of Shay La Rose, Kiera Lorelle, Jayo & J Lucia.
Shay La Rose surprised the audience with an acoustic rendition of the rap verse from her song ‘Mission‘, while Kiera Lorelle fed our souls with her rich Erykah Badu inspired tones on ‘Running‘. The spoken word performance by J Lucia was a real crowd pleaser. He is undeniably an artist with an infectious stage presence and managed to have everyone singing along to his song ‘Ribena‘. The remainder of his set saw him pay homage to the sunny island of St Lucia.
Jayo blew everyone away with sheer musicality of his set list which included vocals from singer-songwriter Jade Leanne and the smooth jazz infused sounds of the accompanying saxophone. The true nature of the saxophonist’s skill was masked by the quality of the room’s acoustics and the fact the levels of the music needed to be adjusted to avoid the beautiful instrument being drowned out by the surrounding elements of the set. However it was clear that music flowed very well together and there was a enchanting synergy between the performers on stage.
It was an event that perhaps oversold and under delivered (quite literally) with many of the acts bells and whistles being lost on a noticeably younger demographic, who lacked the range to appreciate a lot of the talent on stage.
The tracks played by the DJ during the intermission, which featured a wide range of 90s throwbacks, were another indication of mismatch between the intended audience and the seemingly teenage attendees in the room.
Then there was the layout.
While the audience were indeed closely knit, due to the number of tickets sold and the amount of individuals left without seating, it missed the marked in achieving that sense of intimacy, resulting in atmosphere that was more school canteen than exclusive dining.
Several guests resorted to eating standing up which you can appreciate wasn’t the easiest of tasks, nor entirely practical.
Simply put there were far too many bodies in the room. So much so that you would be lucky to get a view of any of the acts that lasted longer than a glimpse. Being seated in position where I could have actually seen the stage would likely have helped, but a more thorough look at the arrangement of the room is probably a more effective long term solution.
The purpose of smaller events like these is usually to be inclusive and connect people through their shared love of an art form, but here an element of that was missing.
The expectation of this event was for it to be a smooth running showcase of emerging talent combined with a quirky dining experience, but what I was met with was an echo of broken promises. And no that was not just the excessive amount of reverb on the microphone. It was more this overall lack of conviction or convincing belief in what was being offered from those responsible for its delivery.
Equally a greater sense of organisation was needed to ensure that everything kept to time. The hosts really did try their bests but the flow of the evening lacked structure, direction and sense that anyone actually knew what was going on. That in its self was a real shame as there were acts that nobody even paid any attention to as it was unclear to the majority of the audience that they were even on stage, which you can imagine to be very discouraging for an upcoming artist who perhaps isn’t quite seasoned in dealing with unresponsive crowds. This in combination with the detectably adhoc cutting of a numerous sets, in an effort to keep to time, showed a clear indifference to some of the emerging talent.
The event may have benefitted from shorter break periods and limiting the number of acts performing on the night, in light of the lengths of their sets.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the sound quality. It was subpar at best. I cannot be certain whether the equipment overheated due to high temperatures caused by the heatwave, but regardless at an acoustic showcase the sound has to be the priority. Here it felt like an afterthought. The artists, bless them, powered through it like professionals for the most part, but this isn’t something they should have had to deal with in the first place. Hearing vocals appear and disappear mirrored the image of a camera whizzing in and out of focus, which at several points in the evening made for a difficult listening experience.
With that being said, where the evening fell short in execution the artists certainly made up for in enthusiasm. The acoustic session provided a unique opportunity for upcoming acts to showcase their talents and hone in on performance skills, remaining a venture that has the potential to grow into something great, despite not quite living up to expectations this time around.