Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Maddie Cottom-Allan
The food at Hockley Social club is pretty excellent at the moment. Maddie and I eagerly tuck into creamy vegan Thai curry and spicy cauliflower poutine with masala fries and mozzarella, waiting for Amplify Sounds’ Friday night takeover of The Unique Experience.
The place is buzzing, but I’m interested to see how the current family friendly, dinner time vibes will evolve to match the jumped up grime beats I know we can expect from headliner Louis D. Prince later on.
AC The Duchess steps up to the decks and the volume picks up, which I hope means the gig’s about to get going. Her first track’s a classic, District 78’s ‘Ready or Not Here I Come’ remix.
Unique, our radiant hostess, takes to the stage at around 9pm proving yet again that having a host really does make all the difference when it comes to creating an atmosphere in event spaces. She welcomes us with a soulful, charismatic melody. Then, a growling rendition of ‘Baby I Got Your Money’ – Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
“We want to make sure you feel good at The Unique Experience.”
There are a few familiar faces in the house band, including DJ who’s having a little boogie behind the drums, and first up making their Hockley Social Club debut is S-I from Coventry.
They’re a producer, singer-songwriter and their first song ‘Clouds’ is giving me mellow RnB energy. I can see green, flowing landscapes with giant fluffy blue skies, and smell soft, dewy meadows.
S-I bops about the stage singing Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’, confidently smiling and gesturing into the audience. KYRA joins them for the last song set. With both artists hitting notes way up in the rafters, it’s a promising start to Amplify Sounds’ lineup.
KYRA is from West Brom and just 19. Her voice is immediately strong, even though its full force clearly isn’t on display yet. This one’s a hybrid of house and garage, and KYRA’s head voice is practically angelic.
There’s movement on the dance floor for the first time in the evening.
Next, KYRA performs her latest single ‘YDOTR’ (Young Dumb and On The Run) and the tracks got a bit of groove and a splash of sass. She finishes back on stage with S-I singing an almost pitch perfect cover of Dora Cat’s ‘Kiss Me More’, which is no easy task.
Although KYRA stays centre stage for the duration of her set, it’s blatant she’s got enough talent and personality to fill it. And I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store for Brum.
Unique takes some time out to appreciate AC and the platforms she’s created for local musicians across the West Midlands, then AC goes back to DJing with some rap, pop, and old school RnB vibes to fill the break.
Tana Chantal gets the award for most striking outfit straight off the bat. Her voice pierces the crowd as she starts her set with an original. It’s got good rhythm, and the audience is bobbing their heads in time.
Afterwards, it’s a cover of one of my (and everyone else’s?) favourite garage tracks, ‘Flowers’. Tana demands that we serve as her backing vocalists because she’s a few short. It’s a tall order but everyone gives it their best shot, including me.
The effort Tana puts into engaging with the crowd is rewarded with a few more bodies on the dance floor. Her original ‘Girl Like Me’ is emotive and showcases her dynamic vocals. In her final track, ‘Tears I Cry’, Tana’s complex feelings bleed into every note, sailing her up to some impressive heights.
There’s one more break and then it’s Louis D. Prince.
“It’s about to get a little bit more lit,” he says when he takes the stage.
Prince is part of the >THEM collective, a Brum based alternative grime group who rap about Brum cultures and politics. Prince’s sound is massive, it’s heavy even though he’s alongside a live band rather than pure bass over speakers.
Bringing in other members of >THEM, the group dive headfirst into ‘Pull-Up’ a loaded gun of a song ready to go off the minute it’s brought into play. The tempo races and the band struggle to keep up, but it doesn’t dappen the energy of the musicians on stage.
The keys are sharp adding to the drama of the song. Prince is down to a vest top; it’s getting hot in here.
“I don’t usually do covers,” he says before launching his chest into Kendrick’s ‘i’.
Prince’s tone’s got depth and edge. He pulls us in releasing at just the moment to maximise the impact of his powerful voice. His flow is quick, it’s tight, and although he’s clearly putting his all into each track, he’s got an effortless, easy stage presence.
“I’m a better rapper than I was a student, I promise you that.”
Lord Andrew produced the next track, and he jumps up to take the lead. The beat drags, a choir of deep, booming voices made up of Prince, Lord Andrew, and Yonko Leck, creates a temporarily sinister atmosphere. Again, the keys know exactly what they need to do to hold the tension.
With just one track left, I’m disappointed Prince’s set is about to be over, but a cover of Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Big Papa’ is exactly the vibe to send us off with.
I was thinking about leaving the jam out of my review because it isn’t technically part of Amplify Sounds’ lineup, but the artistry on display won’t allow me to do it with a clean conscience.
With Unique at the helm directing the band, a tidal wave of musical talent flows from the stage, rappers, singers, hip-hop, RnB, soul and a touch of jazz all get a turn.
Louis D. Prince is back, so is S-I, as well as others I’ll be looking up after the show. What a great start to the weekend I think, buzzing, finishing off my Appletiser and heading home to edit my notes.
Amplify Sounds At Hockley Social Club 02/09/22 – Maddie Cottom-Allan
For more from S-I go to go to @shaphansmith on instagram
For more from KYRA go to: www.m.soundcloud.com/user-741645725
For more from Tana Chantal go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Louis D. Prince go to: www.open.spotify.com/artist
For more from Call Me Unique go to: www.callmeunique.com/
To keep up with AC The Duchess go to @ACTheDuchess on Instagram and Twitter
For more from Hockley Social Club go to: www.hockleysocialclub.com
For more from Amplify Sounds go to: www.amplifysounds.co.uk