This ‘Hot Vox’ article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor
The Camden Barfly: what is an unassuming bar on the street level, hiding a staircase up to a very well soundproofed room that is the perfect venue for bands. Hot Vox (the music management, promotion and production company) took over the space for a night of showcasing up-and-coming talent. It started out with some acoustic singer-songwriters, and ended with a build-up through hip hop and into soul-rock; it was a night filled with diversity.
Before climbing the stairs to get to the bands, everyone was required to pledge allegiance at the door – when they were asked which act they were here for: Saachi Sen, James Vickery, Winston Surfshirt or The Scientist. Those who drew the biggest crowd would be more likely to secure a follow up gig for themselves at the venue.
Opening the night was the young and talented Saachi Sen, who was rather chuffed to be playing on the iconic Barfly stage. Her music was in places naïve, with very literal lyrics, and she seemed essentially very youthful (and at 19 years old, that’s to be expected). But she has a sweet voice, and it was a good way to lead into the night.
There was a noticeable hype around James Vickery’s set leading up to his EP. While people may have recognised him from the popular TV shows The Voice and The X factor, he has shown that he can break out of this mould to do his own thing and in his own way. His voice is high pitched, but powerful, smooth and soulful, and his style is essentially acoustic, though it also features jazz undertones. From the start of this set, it was obvious the night was building into something memorable.
Winston Surfshirt is difficult to describe, mostly because it is hard to really capture what a wonderful experience his live shows are. He is an extremely talented musician and an expert entertainer, and he oozes natural charisma onstage without trying too hard to do so. Usually based in Sydney, he is currently spending some time making the most of the London music scene, and he seems to be accumulating band members as he goes; joined by his long-time friend on bass, a young London-based producer on the decks, and most recently he has added some brass with a trombone player included in the lineup. Winston himself can be seen singing, rapping, playing guitar, twiddling knobs to create various effects, or jumping down into the audience. His vibe is loose, unassuming and fun.
The room was definitely at its busiest during Winston Surfshirt’s set, and everybody in attendance joined in with the chilled/trip-hop/indie vibes that Winston is known for. His set featured a mix of Winston originals (which showcase strong song writing) and 90s hip-hop covers which beg for an audience sing-a-long. For Winston’s set, the sound was perfect; loud enough to fill the room completely but not so loud that anyone’s hearing was challenged, and the reverb made it all sound very atmospheric.
The Scientist has spent his music career writing songs for big names and touring as a guitarist for other acts. This was his first gig in his own right, potentially marking the start of a new direction. It was clear to see that he was the mastermind, stationed at the side of the stage and wearing a lab coat evocative of his stage name. The set had an odd thing going on with a revolving door of singers. First up was a reprise of James Vickery, then two very powerful female singers Rabia Nasim and Yinka Williams took it in turn to sing the songs, with the other remaining at the side of the stage while waiting for her turn. While the music sounded very professional, with talented playing and singing, it lacked continuity. It would have been nice to see the performance more as a cohesive unit, with harmonies and back-up vocals. James Vickery bookended the set by also singing the final song to finish up the night, a powerful ending that left the audience singing the line ‘still think they’re waiting for you’ over and over as they filed out of the room.
With the final act finishing by 10:30 there was still enough time to mingle, drink and discuss the evening activities with performers and fans alike.