Review by Lydia Fitzer with Photography by Rob Hadley

If you’re reading this it’s safe to assume that you love music, and hopefully you hate racism. If that’s the case, check out Love Music, Hate Racism! They were founded in 2002 during a time of increasing prejudice (remember that time the BNP started to gain support? *Shudder*). They’ve been peacefully campaigning for equality across all ethnic groups ever since, using gigs that celebrate love and acceptance.

Kioko-13

First up was Lady Sanity, and I love her. LOVE her. You should love her too. She makes me proud to be from Birmingham. She’s only 24, only just starting out, and so talented it hurts. She (and the band she performs with) just got back from representing Birmingham at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. That’s how good she is, and she still has less than two thousand likes on Facebook. (Let’s all follow and support her career, ok? Ok, good.) The band was missing a guitarist for this gig, but you would never have known if they hadn’t mentioned it.

Lady Sanity-2

She raps about heavy issues, but always handles them with grace. Her voice has a velvety tone tempered with force. The instrumentals to her songs are well-constructed, and actually often more skilful because of their simplicity. They give a frame to her voice, causing you to focus on the poetry of the lyrics. I sometimes wish she had a little more confidence in her own lyrical ability. She has fresh ideas which she delivers in an original way, but she does sometimes fall back on familiar phrases. This isn’t uncommon and usually isn’t something I’d pick up on. I only mention it with Lady Sanity because she’s already SO GOOD. For that reason, plonkers like me will be fussy because it’s just the little things left to develop, and we want to see her art flourish to its fullest potential.

As she started her set, the crowd found themselves drawn from the bar towards the stage. She was an absolute pleasure to watch. She rapped with confidence, moving to the music, smooth and understated. She performed ‘Stuck’ from her 2017 record ‘For Figures’ early in the set, and during this track her passion became really apparent. Her eyebrows narrowed with focus as she commanded the attention of her audience. ‘Stuck’ is a gold-standard example of how to handle tough themes – it talks about unhealthy relationships and touches on gender issues with profoundness, individuality and strength.

Lady Sanity-6Lady Sanity-5

Lady Sanity was incredibly charming on stage. She spoke profoundly about her feelings on racism, on what she so often sees on the news, and about how unbelievable it is that entire groups of people can be discriminated against. She bust into ‘Future’, and her voice cracked like a whip. ‘Future’ talks about being judged on appearances, being “raised in a system that kills every day”, and the fact that in the media “the bombs that go on on the East were forgotten, deleting a piece of the problem”. Despite all of this, the song is crowned by a hopeful message: You can “break my past, but you can’t make my future”. It uses jazzy piano riffs and brass, giving a sense of history and heritage; these are current problems, but they have long been relevant. She didn’t place a syllable wrong. She took her fighting spirit and passed it to the crowd, and it was truly a gift.

Lady Sanity had all eyes fixed on her. George Foley, who’d been hammering the performance on bass, had noticed. He jokingly asked, “Is anyone actually taking pictures of me or is it all just her? […] Well fine, I’ll stand in the corner!” It’s ok George, we still think you’re great!

Lady Sanity-4

The final song was something rather special. As Lady Sanity said, she usually does “old-school hip-hop, neo-soul, a bit of jazz”. The last song for this gig, however, was Kioko-inspired and packed a reggae vibe. I say it was a song, but it was actually improv! It sounded polished to perfection. Foley gave a big sexy fingerpicked solo on bass, followed by a classic high pitched keyboard solo from Ashley Allen. Lady Sanity moved along the stage like a bouncy ball of sunshine. Before she stepped down, she said, “Love music, hate racism, yeah?” Hell yeah!

Once Lady Sanity had finished up, it was time for Daddy G’s excellent DJ set. Unfortunately there was no announcement when he started, meaning a few members of the crowd weren’t initially sure whether it was the DJ set or just filler music. Despite this, most/all of the crowd had realised that Daddy G was playing within the first few minutes. It was difficult not to notice the change in atmosphere. The room had gone from a gig to more of a nightclub feel almost instantly, with a definite reggae/dance tone. The mixing was seamless, and the sound was very carefully developed. We started out with a chilled set which crept into a throbbing, but not excessive, bass. This led into the big bounding crowdpleasers – ‘Monkey Man’ by Toots and the Maytals, anyone?

Lady Sanity-1

Daddy G is known not only for being a DJ, but also for his part in Massive Attack. Another act which has historical links to Massive Attack is Tricky, and I personally am a huge Tricky fan. I mention it because Daddy G has been known to favour using Tricky songs during his DJ sets. I was quite disappointed that he didn’t during this gig, as I would have liked to experience how he worked with the material. With that said, though, the set gave a bright and light feel leading into the sunshine of Kioko. I can see why he didn’t use anything by Tricky on this occasion. Tricky’s work is often somewhat darker, and could have sounded out of place. I just really wanted an excuse to write about Tricky, if I’m being honest.

As Daddy G’s set continued and Kioko began to set up, the room became saturated with fandom. You couldn’t take a step without being sucked into a conversation about how great Kioko are, how lovely they are as individuals, how entertaining they are on stage, so on and so forth. It was clear that they have an unbelievably loyal fan base.

Before Kioko took to the stage, Alan ‘Kurly’ McGeachie stood up on behalf of Love Music, Hate Racism and gave a short speech about their mission. He talked about reggae and punk encouraging unity within the community, campaigning through music, and the wrong people getting the blame for problems caused by austerity. Being a poet, of course he concluded with freestyle. He signed out with a cry – that we were gonna have “a really good show with the one and only KI-O-KO!” The lights dropped and the crowd roared. “Kioo-ko! Kioo-ko!”

Kioko-16

There were cheers as Kioko finally walked onto stage, and fans started filming before they’d even finished setting up. They opened their set with ‘Mercy’ and a brass burst of sound, like a next-level school band. I may never know how they comfortably fitted nine men plus kit on stage. Yep, nine men! They had their full band plus extra keyboard and percussion, as if they didn’t make enough noise as it was! Anyone for a game of human Tetris?

Honestly, after listening to music from all the acts ahead of time, Kioko was the set I was looking forward to the least. I can already hear their fans forming a rage mob in the distance. Before you throw down your gauntlet, though, allow me to say that I thought Kioko’s performance was absolutely incredible. In my defence, they have an energy and personality which is impossible to grasp until you watch them live. If you only ever listen to their CDs, you’ll only ever experience half of their appeal. Their CDs are relaxing, but their live performance is electrifying. It also helps that their shows give a much better sense of the depth and diversity of their sounds. Each member of Kioko is like a portable holiday. Experiencing their gig gave a feeling of freedom. I felt almost as if I was flying.

Kioko-2

Kioko-4

They’re a multicultural group with a light reggae sound. Lead vocalist (and rhythm guitarist) Matt Doyle has a mellow, Olly Murs-esque style which lends itself beautifully to the genre. Trumpeter and backing vocalist Ewan Whyte has a voice which complements Doyle’s perfectly. Whyte is also a hell of a hype man. He moved constantly, splashing charisma all over the place. He hopped like an animated frog, he jived, he paraded his trumpet like a peacock. It may sound too much, but it was just right. Whyte was a sight for sore eyes! The crowd was wild for it. By the time Kioko were halfway through ‘True What They Say’, every audience member was dancing uncontrollably. The whole band was hopping as though the stage was made of hot coals.

They performed one of their flirtier songs, ‘Kiss Away’, in a bit more of a suggestive manner. Whyte cast away his trumpet and came to the edge of the stage to make love to the crowd. I think some of the ladies at the front especially appreciated it – as I made notes I was inundated with tipsy fans wanting to make sure I was doing Kioko justice. Kioko are, as they said, “all about love, unity, and good times”. In the spirit of this, and because I’m a people-pleaser, here are all the things that Kioko’s extremely loving fans asked me to include:

“You better be saying great things!”

“I hope you’ve said… VERY GOOD.”

“They’re fantastic for all ages!”

“You need to mention the cider festival!” (They’re playing at Shirley Beer & Cider Festival on the 10th May 2018 in Birmingham. Be there or be square.)

“You have to put how much you like it seeing as you’re clapping.”

Kioko-7

Kioko-15

There were a couple more, but they run along the same lines. Kioko could easily fill a larger venue, but the bond they have with their fans makes the more intimate gigs very special. Kioko, if you’re reading this, I hope you feel the love! You have a fan base to be proud of. Also, I think some of your fans are actually prepared to marry you.

They covered Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’. Yes. Yes they did, and they darn well improved it! They drenched it with reggae and made it bubbly, imbibing it with all their adorableness. Soon after, they had all the girls grooving with ‘Queen of the Dance Floor’. The whole room shimmied to the ground as they sang “simmer down”, then exploded with fiery vigour. Whyte and Laurence Taylor (also on trumpet) sauntered into the crowd and strutted as they played. Back on stage, they got the crowd on the floor again, crouched and pulsing like a box of springs.

Kioko-18

Kioko-19

One of the final songs of their set was ‘Deadly Roots’, and it couldn’t have been a more fitting choice. Not only is it one of their most popular tracks, it is also the most politically and racially motivated. The message is simple and powerful: “I’ve got these deadly roots, you don’t know where I’m from.” It plainly points out the main causes of racism as being ignorance and irrational fear. The crowd jumped and bellowed all the way though. It was impossible to not be moved. The band kicked to the beat as Whyte yelled, “Stamp your f*cking feet!” The floor vibrated. The brass players launched into the crowd and gambolled around in glorious chaos.

The final song of the night was Kioko’s cover of ‘Monkey Man’ – we’d heard it earlier from Daddy G, but we were having so much fun that nobody cared! Kioko’s cover was top quality, top dancing, and top volume. The audience had gone loopy. Everyone crouched down then jetted into the air for the chorus – “AYE AYE AYE!” Kioko gave a colossal brass finish, and did the campaign proud. We staggered into the night with confetti in our hair and love in our hearts.

Kioko-26

Kioko-27

See the complete photoset from tonight’s gig here.

One Response to “Love Music, Hate Racism: Kioko + Daddy G + Lady Sanity at The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham, UK – 29th April 2018”

  1. Lozza Says:

    Brilliant review I could see u were enjoying it as much as we were! Kioko have an energy I’ve not seen before anyone that hasn’t seen them U MUST! Local lads with amazing talent I can’t wait for Shirley Cider festival x

Leave a Reply