Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Ella Carman
It’s a sunny, relatively windy Sunday on York Road in Kings Heath as I rock up to my first ever album launch. The event is set to celebrate Metz Jnr’s debut performance of The Sun Album which features his staple sound, a spicy mix of funkified reggae, soul, and jazz.
I pop downstairs for a pint of Attic Brew which I recently discovered is brewed in Stirchley and infinitely cheaper if you go directly to the source. Then, I make my way upstairs to the Hare and Hounds’ main venue to see if Metz’s album is as sunny as the day. I’m surprised to be welcomed by a pretty packed room. Maybe I was soaking up rays for longer than I thought?
Everyone seems to know each other, chatting away, it feels like Metz has got quite the little community supporting him. A merch table with T’s and Tote’s alongside CD’s (but unfortunately no vinyl) is off to the left and to the right in front of the stage there are tots running in circles, refusing to put on noise cancelling headphones. There’s actually babies everywhere and it’s nice to see a child friendly event, a point of inclusion which is regularly overlooked in the music scene.
The blue, yellow, pink, and purple hues add to the rooms almost carnival like atmosphere and I spy Metz and his daughter pottering about around the stage. Finding myself a spot in the corner, I whip out my pen and wait for the music to start. Metz quickly disappears, replaced by his band and the music starts. It’s the percussion that catches my eye first.
The bongos create a soft bedding for the sound which is layered with drums, bass, and guitar, there’s keys as well but I can’t spy the saxophone yet. The atmospheric vibration is uplifted by cascading symbols, and it feels like the beginning of a tropical rainstorm. Metz walks towards the stage, wafting sage around him donning a cloak and mask.
The theatrics clash a bit with the subtly evolving sound, but I really appreciate Metz’s attention to setting and I love the use of sage to cleanse the space.
Metz’s vocals ring out confidently and clearly as he sings over the ever-growing soundscape behind him. He immediately flows into the rhythm, shuffling and swaying around the stage. The next track is more upbeat, and Metz has got a little growl at the back of his throat as he projects his voice to the back of the room. The guitar licks are slick, and the bass is heavier.
The audience sways, joining Metz as his dances. I can really feel the reggae influence in this one as Metz sings about judgement day and I dip my hips in time with the beat. Then, he takes a back seat and allows the instrumental elements to take centre stage, the keys are jazzy, and he laughs over the mic joyfully. “Welcome to the launch of The Sun Album, take two steps forward,” cries Metz over the music.
I don’t want to bump into one of the little ones, but they seem more than happy to get closer to the action, so I take two steps forward.
In ‘Where Did The Sunshine Go’ the keys player switches it up in favour of a saxophone (yes) and plays a delightful melody over the band’s textured groove. Metz grabs a shaker and slaps a tambourine across his knee with the other hand. The guitar’s heavier and the bass twangs through the speaker regularly stealing the spotlight, which is something given how enjoyable the saxophone is.
“I’m grateful for my mistake,” sings Metz. His lyrics are full of self-reflection and thoughtful instances of gratitude. Metz smiles from ear to ear as the saxophonist’s solo excites the audience, revving up the energy on stage until it’s almost as hot as the room.
As the track finishes, Metz focuses our attention announcing that this song gets a special introduction. He tells the audience that he once lost a friend with the implication that it was to suicide: “Life is short and very valuable. Ask your friend not once, not twice, but three times if they’re all good.”
Metz closes his eyes as he begins ‘Tell Me Why?’. It’s moving and he sings powerfully about the ever-changing nature of mental health and emotional well-being, his confusion in regard to his grief, and about the importance of checking in with people when they’re struggling.
At the end of the song Metz announces that the band will be back in a minute, and I dip out to catch the last of the sun. He starts the second set off the stage as well, but the sound has not lost any of its oomph over the break. Each breakdown whirls before offering up a creative sonic snack and Metz treats us to a track that’s not on the album.
I’m really hearing the bongos and cowbell again which is great, because they’d got a bit lost in the heavier tracks earlier on. The rest of the instruments fade out and we’re left with light waves of percussion painting rays of colourful sunshine across the audience. The variety in the sound sets off the hairs on the back of my neck, and the sax lets out an exhilarating wail.
The lights go all red and the bass comes back in. The slightly sexy switch-up is definitely age appropriate. Metz has put sunglasses on even though we’re in doors, though his final song is a bit of a riot which means he’s just about forgiven. I look up from my notebook to find a saxophone in my face and I’ve got nothing else written down because from that point on I was too busy dancing.
For more from Metz Jnr including how to access hi latest release The Sun Album go to his website: www.metzjnr.com
You can also find out what’s on at the Hare and Hounds here: www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk