Review by John Noblet
A woefully undocumented aspect of Birmingham’s music scene (but also one of the richest) is it’s Reggae, and all it’s glorious offshoots. And before you scream UB40…
July’s Simmer Down Festival attracted thousands of happy participants and a legendary Jamaican headliner, Half Pint, to Handsworth Park. However outside a few online listings and suburban websites you’ll find barely a mention.
Organisations including Jam Jar and Friendly Fire promote a constant schedule of Reggae artists and events without much mainstream support, whilst Steel Pulse remain unrecognised by the Birmingham Walk of Stars – all as Birmingham’s music press are busily rehashing the latest bloodless, NME sanctioned trend. Again.
1EYE are a part of Birmingham’s Reggae scene that deserve attention, primarily because they have great songs delivered with a cheeky, easy going charisma that you’d have to work hard to resist. And it’s all here tonight at the Hare and Hounds; even though, to start with, it seems as if circumstances are working against them.
The Hare & Hounds crowd feel a bit unresponsive at first, although this could be more to do with problems with the microphone – lead singer Dex delivers a full verse or so that’s completely inaudible. That sort of thing will confuse most audiences. But thankfully, the technical issues get sorted out fairly quickly, the band act like there’s nothing to worry about, and the crowd start to warm up.
1EYE’s influences are fairly obvious – the kind of seventies Reggae that’s now thought of as ‘classic’. And they’re so good at replicating this sort of sound that if John Holt were to come back from the dead, or Ken Boothe were in the UK on tour, 1EYE would make a comfortable backing band. As they did supporting Jimmy Cliff in 2012.
However, 1EYE are far from a bunch of faceless session musicians – the brass section are particularly watchable; all daft suits, silly dances and unbeatable solos. A good front man will make or break any a band and 1EYE have two.
Alek could be the kind of guy you bring “if you want to say something without talking”; such is the man’s size. But he’s the sweet voiced singer of the band, looking positively adorable is his pastel blue jacket and white vest combination. Whilst Dex is smaller, darker skinned, and the MC; his face twitching in time to the music whenever he’s not on the mic.
On top of all this you’ve got two female backing singers adding sweet harmonies, keyboards and the kind of tight rhythm section that these sorts of bands can’t function without. It’s such a full sound that adding another musician on stage could be overkill.
Of course, it’s all over too quickly – and the last song of the night is the closest 1EYE have had to a hit so far, ‘Mr Bailiff’. BBC 1 Xtra’s Reggae pundit, David Rodigan, has described ‘Mr Baliff’ as having “serious pop cross over potential”; or if played at a family wedding it could get everyone dancing and still retain credibility.
So yeah, 1EYE played a great set. My only criticism is that at fifty minutes, I could have easily taken another half an hour or so. However, if you have even a passing interest in Reggae or Two Tone you’re making your life more miserable than it needs to be by not checking them out.
And even if you don’t, even if you’ve never been to a Reggae gig before, 1EYE are a gloriously accessible place to start. I’ll see you down the front.
For more on 1EYE, visit http://www.1eyeuk.com/
For further gigs at the Hare & Hounds, visit http://hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk/event-listings/