Monday, 18 May 2009

Oxjam Spring Fever 2009

Here is my article for Oxjam Spring Fever 2009.

The reason it's late is I thought when Oxjam asked me to do an article, that they actually wanted it, but I was mistaken.

Still, it wasn't a complete waste of my time, money and energy because I get to post it on here! Also, I helped to raise money for charity and was fortunate enough to speak to very talented people. Here goes:

First Acoustic Night was a Great Experience

Gig: Oxjam Spring Fever
Venue: The Hillgrove, Bristol
Organiser: Julia Pflaum
Date and time: 02/04/09 8PM ‘til late

I have been helping Oxjam for the past few months; mainly putting up posters and contacting musicians. I heard from the regional manager of Oxjam South West – Melanie Skinner, about a gig happening not too far away from me. An acoustic night. Quite a lot of these happen in Bristol but I’ve never been to one before. This was the perfect opportunity to see what sort of event it was.

I arrived at the Hillgrove on Dove street in Kingsdown at 7PM. I spoke to the organiser, Julia Pflaum and we chatted about our shared love of poetry.
I introduced myself and the photographer, Michael Moustafi , to the first act to arrive, Karl Alesbury – “like the place but without the Y”, as he cheerfully told me while introducing himself.

He was a solo performer with an acoustic guitar. He remarked on the intimacy of the venue. I had to agree there. It was smaller than your average pub.
Karl kicked off proceedings with a cover of The Beatles “In My Life”. I felt his soft voice captured the emotion of the song well.

He then performed a song called “Glistening Lights” which was good, a brilliant cover of “Life on Mars” by David Bowie, a Foo Fighters cover, a song called “Toothpaste Kisses” and “Playing by Numbers”. His guitar playing was excellent.
Next up was Katey Brooks, another solo singer with an acoustic guitar, who described her sound as “Acoustic soul folk”. I asked her if she was likened to anyone and she replied “Tracey Chapman”. Coming from anyone except her, a young, slim, blonde lady, I would have believed her!

She started with “True Speaker”, which I loved the lyrics of. Then she played “No-one but my best”. I thought that on this song she sounded like a cross between Alanis Morisette and The Cranberries, and as I was listening, I was thinking ‘this is why we shouldn’t watch The X Factor and should start listening to real music’. It was during this song that people began to take notice of the performer and stop whatever they were doing. The pub chef came over and whispered to me:

“She’s pretty good isn’t she? When she came in she looked really nervous but I could hear her playing from the kitchen and she sounded really good.”

Her third song was “This old skin” and as I listened the first thought that popped into my head was ‘wow, this sounds like Tracey Chapman’.

By the time she was playing her last song “Lines”, there was a huge crowd around her and one could hardly move.

The next act was Bashema with a keyboard to accompany her.

Her first song was an instrumental called “Different”, and it was totally different! It wasn’t anything like the previous acts. It was a type of contemporary jazz. The second song was “More this”. I absolutely loved it. Her third song was “Phenomenal” I really identified with the lyrics of the song on a personal level. I also loved her fourth song “Writer’s block” and her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. She definitely made it her own.

Next up was a poet called Malusi. As a poet myself, I predicted a loss of audience but boy, was I wrong. More people actually crowded round to hear him. He was just reeling off word after word in very quick succession, from memory. The best way I could describe him is Saul Williams crossed with the lead singer of Faithless. He blew me away with his words about war. I heard a girl in the audience say to her friend

“How does he remember it all?”

While watching him I thought “this is real poetry" and that if only he was more famous, more people would appreciate the art form.

I managed to grab him for a chat after his performance. I asked him what others had been wondering, which was how he managed to remember what he was saying, and he replied:

“When I’m writing it, I just write and recite, write and recite and it just sticks.”

After him there was a singer called Tammy Payne, from the band Jukes. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the names of her songs because she came on so quietly! However my ears were able to inform me that she sounded very folky, with a hint of jazz.

Last up was Ross, another poet. He did an excellent poem which was one against the anti-smoking brigade; about how smokers should have the right to smoke without being lectured. He was another true performer.

At the end, there was a raffle, and a lady called Janine from Oxfam came up to say a few words:

“Oxfam works on developments to help people out of poverty. It also works in emergency situations. It works to find solutions...I believe that in a wealthy world, poverty is unjustifiable.”

That was the real reason we were all there. I heard some excellent music and contributed to proceeds of over £100 for charity. Not a bad night at all!
You can listen to some of the artists featured in this article at their websites:

Karl Alesbury -

Bashema -

Katey Brooks -

Tammy Payne (member of Jukes) -

Malusi - - also has an interesting video on YouTube

Photography by Michael Moustafi


  1. great review, very professionnal

  2. Thank you very much for saying so LazyKing! Glad someone appreciates it :D

  3. i just stumbled on your post/blog while doing some research for a quick post on Malusi... i've linked your blog to this post.hope you're well.x