Words by Ed King – follow him @EdKing2210 / Pics provided by Project SoundLounge
Project SoundLounge kicks off its three day festival tonight (Fri 8th – Sun 10thAug), promoting free concerts on a series of stages in & around the Birmingham Town Hall.
The Forgotten Fairgound will also perform their twelve artist collaboration (nine musicians, three dancers) which explores ‘the theme of childhood imagination’. All gigs are free, with the Town Hall doors opening at 7pm.
But what is the Project SoundLounge Festival? The website tells us it ‘is an innovative and ambitious project model that places young people at the centre of the organisation’ – working with THSH to give them ‘the skills to shape and brand the youth programme (at THSH) whilst developing their skills as cultural leaders.’
So that’s a lot of boxes ticked.
The reality, the part of this that will give these ‘young people’ any real ‘skills as cultural leaders’ in the commercial world of music, the one that stands on its own two feet, is the line up – and that’s what attracted Birmingham Review’s attention in the first place. A bill so solid, in fact, that the free element initially passed us by. Project SoundLounge Festival 2014 just merited attention.
“The aim of the festival is to showcase Birmingham’s freshest emerging music talent of all genres,” explains the Project SoundLounge Festival team, “whilst giving young creatives the opportunity to programme, produce and promote a real music festival.” Plus they get to toy around with the Town Hall, not a bad stage to cut your promotional teeth on. But who’s the audience?
“We want to give the young people of Birmingham a chance to get involved with our city’s music scene and discover bands they might not have otherwise heard, which is why we were keen to make it a free event, so that everyone can just come along and listen to the amazing talent Birmingham has to offer.”
If someone mentions age again I might just give up; it’s a good line up, one that arguably justifies the event hyperbole or even a door charge. But with a team of nine (or seven, depending on which part of the website you read) all pitching in, and more than a few musicians knocking around this fair city, was it difficult to tie down the programme?
“Programming for the festival began with all team members proposing 10-15 local artists of different genres each, who they would like to see perform. We ended up with a database of much more than 15 artists each, so the three members heading up programming then took responsibility to whittle it down, find out artist availability, and shape a suitable and varied programme for the festival.” Ah democracy… Were there genre squabbles, a touch of plutonic nepotism? Was this lesson one?
“As a team, we are all interested in different genres of music, and were keen that the festival should reflect this diversity.” ARRGGHHH, NOT THE ‘D’ WORD… “We decided each day should therefore have a particular genre in mind; we planned for Friday to be jazz and soul, Saturday to be an eclectic carnival theme, and Sunday to be jazz and folk.”
And, to us at least, it’s a respectable representation; were the festival team happy with the end programme? “On the whole, we’ve managed to deliver a programme relatively true to this initial idea – of course, the programming team did experience some difficulties here with artist availability, but it was all part of the learning experience for us.” The joys of diary juggling; there’s lesson one.
But the Project SoundLounge Festival has something to tempt the acts they approach – namely the Town Hall stage, or the very visible city centre locations they are hosting the Saturday shows in; exposure, and how to pitch it. So there’s lesson two.
Performing at the Town Hall tonight are Antelope – an eight piece ensemble playing across genres from D’n’B to Jazz, with a touch of ‘Midland’s Soul’; music to “get people up and moving” explains singer, Taan Parisse.
“We were approached by two of the Project SoundLounge team asking us take part and we were all over it,” continues Parisse. “We have a few pals who were involved in the festival last year that had a blast so being asked to headline this Friday is great. We haven’t played in Birmingham for a while; (tonight) we’ll be playing some tracks off both our 1st and 2nd EP’s as well as some tracks we haven’t showcased in Brum yet.”
Also on tonight’s Town Hall bill is Lumi HD, a Birmingham based Soul singer who “played at Sound Lounge Festival last year at the Symphony Hall Foyer, loved it and fortunately was invited back this year.” Any changes in approach, now that you’re performing in the Town Hall? “I’ll be playing with the full(ish) band – which I love to do – a mix of tunes from my current EP, covers and fresh unheard songs of mine. It’s all quite ambient, at times moody, but should hopefully be a solid set.”
So far so good, with a respectable array of acts to cover the remaining weekend. Performing in the REP Theatre mezzanine, on Saturday afternoon – from 4pm onwards, is Hansu-Tori; a five piece Jazz ensemble with ‘a sound cleverly composed and layered with keys, trumpet, electronics, alto sax, bass and drums.’
Headed by pianist David Grey, a man who’s earned his musical stripes, Hansu-Tori “think the festival will showcase the high calibre music that’s coming out of the city. I hope it will encourage people to seek out vibrant new artists and support the live music that’s happening around them.”
And what can we expect from the quintet on Saturday? “We’ll be performing material from out new album ‘An Improvised Escape’ due for release in September.” Plugged like a professional; to get familiar with some more from David Grey, click on the links for a Birmingham Review of The Dark Red Room album and gig supporting Shabaha Hutchings & the Son of Kemet.
But to close the three day festival, Sunday reclaims the Town Hall stage with another four act line up; not a bad Sunday night gig for any local artist. “I’m pretty sure that we applied to play last year’s festival,” explains Rosie from The Mourning Suns – who make up ¼ of the final show, “and have been asked back for 2014.”
“We will be performing a set of our own songs,” continues Rosie, “mostly songs that will be featured on our album – to hopefully come out in October, but we might throw in a new one or two.
A few of us, including me, haven’t played at Birmingham Town Hall yet, and we are just thrilled to be doing so. Also, this show happens to be the last of our Summer tour shows, so I think our performance will have a nice vibe about it.”
And as for the Project SoundLounge Festival, which is now in its second year? “I hope it grows and grows, it’s a great thing for musicians in Birmingham.”
Project SoundLounge Festival ’14 starts at the Town Hall tonight, continuing across various venues throughout the weekend (Fri 8th – Sun 10th August). All gigs are free – for further information, visit http://www.thsh.co.uk/event/project-soundlounge/
For more on Project SoundLounge, visit http://projectsoundlounge.co.uk/
For more from the Tonw & Symphony Halls, visit http://www.thsh.co.uk/
Project SoundLounge Festival ’14 / Full line up – with links (where possible)