Words & Pics by Cesilia Trecaquista
On an unusually hot and pleasant bank holiday Sunday evening, I set out to Hawker Yard with my partner from a far off land – determined to demonstrate that Birmingham, with its rich musical and cultural history, could rival anything that the capital could offer.
Hawker Yard is a relatively new venue, or at least new for me; ingeniously crafted using a mixture of scaffolding and shipping containers (who knows how they got that concept past the health and safety regulators), the inventive lighting arrangements made it an inviting yet unpretentious atmosphere.
As the night continues, I watch breakdancers perform to the funk and soul provided by DJ Silence (I always did wonder where one could go to do a bit of breakdancing after the beloved Yardbird closed its doors in 2014) but I’m struck by how few people there are in attendance. Could the low turnout be down the fact that many Brummies had escaped to the beach to take advantage of the sunny weather, or more likely to Shambala Festival? I choose to believe either of these options over the alternative; that a group of internationally renowned musicians from Chicago had come to play and tickets costing just £10.50 hadn’t been taken advantage of.
It’s nearing 10.30pm now and still no sign of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – the nine piece brass collective consisting of the sons of the Jazz trumpeter, Phil Cohran. The small, but happy and chilled out, audience’s anticipation becomes more and more eager, as I try to ignore the nice man beside me who is informing me that Hypnotic Brass Ensemble wanted tonight’s show after being tired from their Shambala performance the previous night.
Then, as if by magic, a plethora of musicians, dancers and a sound engineer cram themselves onto the stage in front of me – easing us into the show with a smooth number, before directing us all to make peace signs and introducing an explosive version of the track ‘War’, arguably Hypnotic Brass Ensemble‘s most recognisable composition (‘War’ was featured on the movie soundtrack of The Hunger Games).
The intimate party at Hawker Yard is in full swing by the time the appropriately named ‘Party Started’ was underway. Gabriel Hubert (A.K.A Huddah) invites us to partake in what turned out to be some amusingly out of tune sing-alongs, whilst breakdancers once again take to the floor and complement the unique artistry taking place on stage.
At times, watching 10 men crammed into a makeshift shipping container stage seems surreal. But the lack of performance space does nothing to stifle the infectious energy that radiates from an impeccably coordinated and rehearsed group of musicians, who, when in full flow and seemingly without breaking a sweat, provide an instrumental hotpot of jazz, swing and hip-hop.
And as the evening comes to a close, I leave Hawker Yard feeling satisfied that my partner and I had been in a great place for Birmingham entertainment this Bank Holiday Sunday night.
For more on Hypnotic Brass Enselble, visit www.hypnoticbrassensemble.com
For more from Hawker Yard, visit www.hawkeryardbirmingham.co.uk