Government and culture are two diametrically opposed forces – the one blinds and oppresses, the other uplifts and unites – Chuck D

La Violette Società at the Shipping Forecast, Liverpool – 27th July 2016

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Still in a state of euphoria following the magnificence that was the It’s Liverpool stage on Sunday afternoon – Dave McCabe, Johnny Echols and Love, and Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band all in one gorgeously gratis bundle – I felt that I owed Liverpool something. As a result I found myself back in the city, adrift outside the Shipping Forecast on a barmy/balmy and magnificent (Matt) summers evening. I was here for La Violette Società, one of the city’s regular ‘socials’ aimed at exposing up and coming talent, with a splash of the established act slipped in as a bonus. Or as they put it;

“a small and regular event where invited acts are equally billed, play for the same amount of time and receive an equal share of the proceeds. The event is promoted by our record label and the acts themselves via their social media networks. The audience at the shows will experience the act they know and like and came to see and are hopefully turned on to something new and different as well”.

Socialism and music coming together…who woulda thunk it (McCarthy and Billy ‘big house’ Bragg aside)? Sounds like my kind of thing. La Violette Società isn’t just a Liverpool phenomenon either ,but a touring entity and having already set up a scene in Glasgow, they are all set for Manchester and Paris events in the near future.

But tonight was Liverpool and first up was a fella called Roy. You heard right, just ‘Roy‘. Roy, like Brian Wilson, just wasn’t made for these times, in fact it would appear he wasn’t made for social interaction of any sort. His first entertaining monologue is simply about getting a hair cut. Having not been for years he was unsure what etiquette was involved and, having been placed in front of a mirror for more than five minutes, we hear Roy contemplating his own physiognomy and not being particularly impressed. The stories are told in a classic Scouse soup of a vocal, along with the consequent wordplay that entails. I once read a review of a well known Violette recording artist in NME (when it was good) that began by drawing comparisons between Liverpool and Jamaica. Both are ‘couldn’t give a fuck’ places, that come up with some terrific words themselves. Where would we be today without ‘beaut’, ‘boss’ ‘blert’, ‘skin teet’, ‘siddung’, and ‘stoosh’? There are dark sides too, but Roy gives a further example of the fun links with his clever verbiage tonight. Seen? His second story about the two lads moseying around; interacting with the local shopkeeper, and off their faces, is hilarious. It reminds me a little of Kevin Sampson‘s writing, only funnier and with more poetic rhythm. Roy‘s sketches of local characters, including himself, lend themselves well to the performance as they would a book and/or film. Irvine Welsh. Watch out.

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Oh and he mentioned Bill Hicks so Roy has taste too.

JB Barrington was next up. The Salford poet is well known in Manchester, and thanks to a support slot with Sleaford Mods, across the country. His poems are a no holds barred assaults on the world we have to live in and the language used is x-rated. Topics range from the sort of people who wear sunglasses indoors to the minutiae of living in a strong, working class environment. Barrington‘s delivery can be thoughtful and savage, not unlike his fellow Salfordian wit John Cooper Clarke and an entertaining thirty minutes or so is spent in his company. Seems that JB Barrington‘s star is high at the moment from comments in the press etc and so to get the chance to see him here was a real bonus.

We had been promised the mystery of some Psychological Subterfuge, and it came in the shape of the mundanely named David Smith, but his act was anything but. Taking a cue from the Dynamo/David Blaine school of magic, Smith had his audience gathered around him,  proceeding to blow their mind with some superb card tricks, not the cheesy kind, but the ‘how on earth did he do that’ variety. Audience participation was constant and with us so close you wondered just how the hell he was doing it. Everything was done at a shuddering pace and he ended his set by making a ring disappear and then reappear with fire. And then he disappeared. Not as part of the act…he just seemed to get off. He was brilliant.

Music was proffered to bring the night to a close. Horsebeach are from Manchester and their influences are pretty clear. A Smiths jangle here, a New Order riff there, although the guitarist (from Southampton) was dressed like Geno era Dexys. From my point of view, I thought they were O.K., but I seemed to be in the minority as all around me seem to really enjoy them. Other than my own, I didn’t hear a bad word said about them, so they must have something that I didn’t quite get onto. Sometimes you just have to be in the right mood I guess. Maybe I was beginning to feel the effects of the dodgy burger I bought on Slater St.

Being a pretty heavy smoker, between acts I was going outside for a ciggie and pretty soon I began to wonder if I’d been spiked and was witnessing some sort of pop art instillation attached to La Violette Società (I wasn’t right anyway. On the way down I had witnessed a perfectly square patch of rainbow emerging from a cloud. Nothing else, just a square of perfect rainbow). At one point a fella came over to ask if he could borrow my lighter. He seemed a bit on the weird side, like how I would imagine Syd Barrett to be in his later years, all belly, confused, and in a different place entirely to the one he was stood in. (I have a great Syd story by the way). Grunts exchanged, we went back to smoking in silence when a man on the other side of the road started taking pictures of the venue and maybe the Jacaranda next door. Syd shouted “Hey lad. Stop taking my fucking picture”.

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On another break, A conversation broke out between a local and some American sounding tourists. One of the tourists took umbrage at being accused of being a national of possibly the most hated country on earth, and was yelling “I’m Dutch! I’m Dutch”.

“Well you want to work on your accent a bit then lad” came the legendary reply.

Back inside then for the final act of the night, unless there were any other surprises lined up. The JJohns had brought a fair sized following with them, and given they are from County Road I was never going to write a bad review. They might introduce me to their friend, Stanley.

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Fresh faced and very young I didn’t quite know what to expect from them. Three of the group are brothers so the inevitable break up over one of them hooking up with a Japanese artist; one being strung out on heroin, and the other doing voice-overs for train based children’s television programmes should be pretty explosive. Actually, the JJohns are very good and I am not just saying that because they have the moral fortitude to be Blues. They write feel good, catchy pop tunes with Liverpool musical influences all over the shop allied with lyrics that also reflect the City, which makes what I am going to say next a little incongruous because they remind me of two Manchester bands. At present JJohns have a Northern Uproar vibe, in the sense that they have that youthful vigour and cockiness allied with the thrill of discovering music that comes with young bands. However, with a little more time and musical maturity I can see them becoming something like Liverpool’s answer to The Courteeners. Musically and lyrically I could hear similarities in their sound. They have the potential to gain a following too, and I reckon ‘ver kids’ of Liverpool could go for them in a big way. So keep an eye out for the JJohns ladies and gents.

Monologues, poems, magicians and music. Not bad for a Wednesday Night in L1. La Violette Società are trying to do something a little different in Liverpool and beyond. You only have to see the artwork to know that. As with all they do on the record label, ‘good taste’ is key.

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The idea that this is a vehicle for local talents in various cities should be applauded. Admission was £10 each or 2 for £15 and so, if like me you are not taken by all the acts on show (although I could yet be swayed on Horsebeach, I am listening as I write) you still get a vibeful night with good people. The equal slot time, equal financial remuneration, and equal acclaim (hopefully) means that this an adventure that deserves support from both artists, and the paying public (if they know what’s good for them) wherever they pop up.

Coming to a city near you soon*

 

 

*But if it’s at the Shipping Forecast again I’d swerve the burger shop opposite.

 

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