Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographers Maddie Cottam-Allan & Emily Doyle
This Saturday just gone, Hare and Hounds hosted Birmingham Coop Promoters (BCOOPP) first event: The Fully Automated Luxury Space Communist Party. Full disclosure, this is Birmingham Review’s first sponsored event, so it’s close to all our hearts.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a complete set design for a gig. The promise of an intergalactic experience has definitely been fulfilled when it comes to the aesthetics, put together by Jess Whitty. There are silver streamer walls, and sparkly textured material from the stage to the dance floor, with two uncanny child mannequins dressed as space people inviting guests to take pictures lounging in a purple lobby chair decorated with titanium fruit.
Doors at 6pm is a particularly optimistic start-time for a promoter’s first event. So is a five band line-up and a DJ until 3am. However, I’m pleasantly surprised when PleasePrettylea kicks the night off at seven. The venue is not even half-full, yet there’s a welcoming energetic atmosphere bubbling amongst those already in attendance.
PleasePrettylea’s voice is dainty, melodic and she’s clearly comfortable on stage. Her accompaniment, DJ, strums his guitar harmonically alongside PleasePrettylea’s vocals as her ballad talks us through the well-known challenges of being under, rather than over, an ex.
PleasePrettylea’s previously soft vocals then rise and soar. Humbly, but with full emotive force, she displays an impressive range. DJ always keeps perfect pace, following the waves of feeling as they wash over the audience. PleasePrettylea’s runs are angelic but subtly devilish in their tone, and encouraging claps emanate from the crowd as she nails a crescendo.
PleasePrettylea commands the stage with ease for someone so inexperienced and I can already tell that she’s going to do well. After her final song, ‘Blacker than Blue’, which features heavier 808 beats, the audience demands an encore and she hastily plays ‘Shovelling Sh*t’, an alt-pop banger with a weird as anything music video.
After PleasePrettylea’s set, our host for the evening takes the stage. Dressed fully in red, fitting for the satirical communist theme, Tat Vision explains that he’ll be telling us a few jokes in between sets to keep us entertained. His clumsy mannerisms are amusing, but it’s clear he’s saving his better patter for a slightly bigger crowd.
Next up its Jackie F.C. and we are instantly transported to warmer climates. Jackie F.C brings Latin fusion vibes and samba rhythms; an Irish and Palestinian flag hang off an amp at the back of the stage. The anti-imperialism fits nicely with the night’s themes.
The band boasts two guitars (one electric, one acoustic) as well as a drum kit, bass, and mini congas. The cool combination of electric and acoustic instruments infuses their sound with a duality, it’s simultaneously loose and tight. Their breakdowns are expected and unexpected, well-timed and groovy. I feel like I’m floating on driftwood and dancing on a hot beach at the same time.
The crowd sways, stepping side-to-side and gently winding their hips meaning the bubbling atmosphere transforms into a contagious vibe. And it’s only 8pm.
The whole of Jackie F.C is lost in their music, as guitarist and vocalist Richie leads on a tune which he sings in his native Hungarian. Frontman Liam McKeown’s hands glide up and down his guitar (which he plays effectively upside down) moving around the main melody. His vocal tone is hard to pinpoint, it’s obviously infused with his Irish heritage, but it also feels like 13th Floor elevators, especially when he’s singing a cover of ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’.
“It’s nice to get paid, it’s nice to get fed, f*ck pay to play, f*ck ticket split,” Liam shouts as the band waves a farewell good-bye.
Tat jumps back up on stage and makes a shout out to Richie’s outfit. I must agree – why is it cool as f*ck to dress like a pack of Marlboro red?
I’ve seen Ruth and The Ark a fair few times, you might say I’m a bit of a fan, but this performance at The Fully Automated Luxury Space Communist Party truly took them to a new level.
Ruth saunters on stage, layered up with red heavy rim sunglasses – she’s like a cool, naughty grandma chuckling to herself: “It’s just like netball ladies, it’s just like netball.”
Ruth is an artist in every sense of the word, and as The Ark (consisting of Matt on drums, Rob on guitar, and Elliot on bass) comes in there’s a strong blues rhythm. Ruth growls into the microphone staring us out from the stage.
The sound and energy created is immense considering they’re only a three piece, with Ruth on vocals. Ruth is clearly captain of the ship. She struts the stage, shaking her little bum directly at the crowd.
“You don’t know what love is. You’re a snake in the grass,” she shouts between cascading vocals.
This one is personal.
It’s also the first time I’ve Ruth speak openly about her struggle with sickle cell and lupus in a gig environment. But it’s clear she doesn’t want sympathy; she’s just relaying how important the space is for her.
The Ark’s communication throughout their set is what impresses me most. The band has a blues focus, but it bleeds into funk, jazz, and psychedelic soul with a simple glance from any member. They’re listening to each other so well and it allows the sound to grow and transition seamlessly – obviously it helps that they’re all technically great musicians.
Ruth, who’s taken most of her layers off throughout the set, finishes by redressing, sunglasses and all, and saunters back into the ecstatic crowd, conducting her lads from the audience in the last song’s final moments – what a show.
Band number four is DOXA, and the low rumble of Stuart Collins on bass truly tests the speakers for the first time in the night. It’s nearing 10pm and the crowds almost doubled in size since the end of Jackie F.C.’s set. Reece Greenfield’s drum’s crash and rumble as we’re hit over and over again with powerful walls of chaotic, but fine-tuned sound.
The time signatures are too complex for me to keep rhythm and Conner (also from Bad Girlfriend) starts to head bang. Should we mosh?
It feels like post-punk, although there’s a small hint of prog drama and the sound could also be described as experimental rock. Reece catches his snare once, twice, three-times, Stuart’s bass grooves as he twangs the strings with pace and skill, jiving his feet.
Mark’s Medusa-esc hair waves madly as he leaps about the stage, spinning lyrics about alienation and oppression. Sometimes his voice is a cooing falsetto, sometimes it cries out with Mark’s slick and creative rhythmic guitar playing often at odds with the demands of his vocals. Reece also delivers vocals in ‘No Man’s Land’, which seems impossible given the complexity of the drums.
As DOXA’s energy peaks in their final song, Connor signals to Mark. Suddenly, Mark is on Connor’s shoulders furiously shredding his guitar with such intensity his fingers blur. The drums and bass are frenzied; Mark stumbles as he remounts the stage pulling out his aux but manages to smash a pedal to maintain the final drowny note. What a finish.
The final band of the night Sugarthief, who our gracious host introduces as the Sugarbabes, graces the stage on time at 10:45 pm – impressive.
The band has summer boyfriend vibes under the cool, watery blue light of the Hare, and they kick off with a heavy focus on the Roland Juno synth and Fender Rhodes electric keys. Jack, the bassist from Jackie F.C., also reappears as the guitarist for Sugarthief, nice.
The band feels cool as ice, without being pretentious or posey, welcoming us into their tropical indie sound. I don’t realise straight away, but they’ve slowed down The Talking Heads tune, ‘Once in a Lifetime’. “Sing along to this one,” calls out the lead singer Jordi James, and we all do.
The plethora of instruments in the five piece all blend and mesh together beautifully, like waves melting into the sea. As the pace rises, Sugarthief goes from summer boyfriend vibes to almost rockstars. They jam enthusiastically, crying out their lyrics and sending random spacy synth noises into the crowd, as Jordi goes into the classic ‘Easy’ by Lionel Richie.
The strength of his voice surprises me as does the personality coming off the other lads. The soft vibes have been totally eliminated.
Unexpectedly, the rest of Jackie F.C. joins Sugarthief and it’s definitely a family affair. ‘Chameleon’ by Herbie Hancock, what a way to end the night.
Liam takes his spot upfront; his eyes are closed as he improvises vocals over Hancock’s instrumental. Red maracas are shaking in his hand, the band’s grinning from ear to ear and we’re all moving and grooving. The newly formed superband receives rapturous applause.
I am blown away, not just by the musicianship, but by the sustained atmosphere in Hare and Hounds throughout the night. I’ve been to great gigs here, but this feels like something different, something more important than just a gig. It really feels like the beginning of a new community in Brum.
There’s a slight lull in the crowd’s energy as we disperse to smoke cigs and discuss the night’s talent. Then, Issy Holmes’ DJ set draws us back with her indie, electric disco mix. Issy moves effortlessly between different genres, and it goes from a dirty rave to a ‘Funk Soul Brother’ disco in a heartbeat. Rather than being jarring, this switch-up just works.
The set begins to come down and suddenly we’re all intergalactic as well, draped in silver foil and dancing away until 3am when the bouncers sweep us off the floor.
A 6pm till 3am line-up is brave, especially at £8 a ticket, and especially for a promoter that’s just starting out. Yet, given the likes of PleasePrettylea, Jackie F.C, Ruth and The Ark, DOXA and Sugarthief, as well as Issy Holmes, it’s not surprising that the risk paid off.
With its incredible music, incredible set, and incredibly good vibes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Fully Automated Luxury Space Communist Party sold out. Everyone I spoke to made it clear they’d be coming back.
For more on PleasePrettylea visit www.instagram.com/pleaseprettylea
For more on Jackie F.C. visit www.instagram.com/jackie.f.c
For more on Ruth and The Ark visit www.linktr.ee/ruthandtheark
For more on DOXA visit www.allmylinks.com/arewedoxa
For more on Tat Vision visit www.tatvision.com
For more on Sugarthief visit www.sugarthief.co.uk
For more from the Hare & Hounds, including full event listings, visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk