Words by Cariss Auburn & Ed King / Pics by Callum Lees
On Saturday 18th August, Project Soundlounge returned to Birmingham’s Town Hall for its 6th annual event. With entry free all night, a line up including Jerry Williams, Lady Sanity, Population:7, Riscas, FABRIK, and Cariss Auburn took to the Town Hall stage from 5pm.
Showcasing some of The Midlands’ brightest bands and musical stars in the making, Project Soundlounge is a one day festival organised by a collective of 16 to 25 year olds – giving young people a chance to promote a live music event in one of the most prestigious venues in the city. Seriously, this is quite an incredible opportunity for our region’s fledgling creatives. When I started out I had Slipmatt in The Dance Factory…
Although, giving young promoters such a large venue to play with – albeit a beautiful cavern – may not be the most confidence inspiring first foray into the world of selling tickets. Even if they’re for free.Promoting live music is hard, promoting it in Birmingham is even harder, and getting over 1,000 people to give up their Saturday is no mean feat. Ask Live Nation. Or whoever promoted the last Ani DiFranco gig within these walls.
But Project Soundlounge presents a good local line up. Not box ticking-public funding good either, but actually good. As in, I’d-pay-money-to-see-that kind of good. As in, i’d give up my Saturady. So here, with the programme, Project Soundlounge is not a hollow gesture – or even worse, a patronising pat on the back for people who need something to stick on a CV. It’s a confident first step – one that would have a decent crack at a lower end three digit capacity. And whilst other initiatives are out there purporting the same ‘opportunity for young people’, I’ve seldom see any that come this close to such a firm foot forward for both the people playing on stage and those that put them there.
But, as I can hear tired yawns from too much sycophantic copy floating in (a noise I’d probably be making if I wasn’t the one writing it) who better to tell you what’s what than someone at the centre of it all.
Carris Auburn is a Wolverhampton based ‘singer-songwriter and self-taught producer’, whose debut Unphased EP is worth some serious attention – gathering accolades from Glastonbury’s emerging talent hawks to longstanding soul legend Alexander O’Neal.
Auburn has also been compiling a series of cover songs in and around Wolverhampton, with the last one filmed Wightwick Manor to celebrate the ‘100 years after the first set of women gained the right to vote in the UK’ – a project that fell a little outside of our editorial postcode, but check out what the Express & Star had to say about it by clicking here.
Closer to (our) home, Carris Auburn recently played a headline set at The Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath – a gig we sadly missed due to too much diary juggling, but one we kicked ourselves repeatedly for not making. So to throw some well deserved column inches her way, and save us some thinly spread Saturday, we asked her to write a ‘diary entry about her experience playing’ at Project Soundlounge, giving us ‘an honest account of the night, on stage and off’.
And to her credit, she agreed:
08:59 / It’s the day of Project Soundlounge! A festival held at Birmingham’s Town Hall organised entirely by 16-25 year olds. This year it’s all in aid of national charity Crisis and their campaign to end homelessness and I’m starting the day in panic mode because I’ve woken up an hour late.
11:00 / We’re somehow arriving at the Town Hall way before our load in time of 11:40am and it’s a good thing because I’ve managed to drive straight past the entrance.
11:15 / Take two and we’re in, being greeted by Lydia, our go to person for the day.
12:00 / Soundcheck – the venue looks as impressive as ever with screens reminding everyone to donate. It’s a bit slow getting everything set up but we manage to get a song in. I tell the band about the cover of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ I decided to learn last night as a tribute to Aretha Franklin. They agree to join in like the masters of improv they are.
12:25 / I spot Lady Sanity in the kitchenette area backstage waiting to soundcheck. There’s only time for a quick hello before I head back to Wolves for a couple hours.
17:15 / I’m back at the Town Hall and the comedy of errors continues as we realise the track for my final song ‘Oil on Water’ is missing. Someone pops up asking me for a bio but I never see her again. The debate of what to do continues down to the wire but a shift around in the order of the set solves the issue.
17:45 / Showtime! We’re up on stage to kick off the night after being introduced by a slightly nervous announcer. It’s not the easiest at first with a small audience in a vast hall but everyone warms up and and has fun on the stage, the performance whizzing by. The Aretha Franklin tribute goes smoothly and I don’t even notice the lack of backing for ‘Oil on Water.’
18:40 / By the time everyone is packed up and we’ve thanked Lydia, I’ve missed most of Population:7’s performance. I catch the end after chatting to a couple members of the audience. The seven piece are a mix of rappers and singers with an incredible drummer, soulful harmonies and masses of charisma.
19:00 / Next up are synth grunge outfit FABRIK who the announcer hilariously introduces as Population:7 by accident. Such a powerful vocal from the lead singer. One avid fan is dancing alone and the resident videographer is straight in with the 360º shots.
20:40 – After a fun set of covers from Crisis worker Jeremiah it’s four piece indie band Riscas. Frontman, George Maycock, comments on the surreal nature of playing the Town Hall – relatable. They’re instantaneously sweating and it’s an energetic performance of catchy songs that wouldn’t be out of place at Glastonbury.
21:30 / The penultimate act is Birmingham rapper Lady Sanity and she comes out swinging, the relentless delivery of her lyrics a stark contrast to the chilled old school hip hop beat as she raps about striving for better days. Dubbed “energy crew,” a small group of people at the front of the hall shout her lyrics back at her.
22:15 / Jerry Williams and her band are on and not to be dramatic but she is wearing the greatest trousers I have ever seen. The high octane set is a journey of beachy rock songs and post-punk. We’re given some beautiful stripped back pieces – one solo song is an ode to an alcoholic’s promise to go sober if she wrote a song about him. A slick cover of Jamie T’s ‘If You Got the Money’ has a lot more people up on their feet and it’s a great end to the night.
22:35 / At this point the audience is largely made up of the organisers. I had thought it was a shame to see the event so sparsely attended and I encourage people that may read this now to donate what they can to Crisis. However, sat watching on my own, I felt the emptiness of the surrounding grandeur create this defiant pocket of live music energy and it was something I was truly proud to be a part of.
23:05 / I grab my things and walk out to my car, being reminded that it’s Saturday night by a passing hen do. I hope Project Soundlounge goes from strength to strength over the coming years, for the charities it helps and the young people it motivates.
Jerry Williams – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.17 / Callum Lees
For more on Jerry Williams, visit www.facebook.com/Jerrywilliamsmusic
Lady Sanity – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.17 / Callum Lees
For more on Lady Sanity, visit www.ladysanity.com
Riscas – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.17 / Callum Lees
For more on Riscas, visit www.riscasofficial.com
Jeremiah (from Crisis) – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.17 / Callum Lees
For more on Crisis, visit www.riscasofficial.com
FABRIK – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.17 / Callum Lees
For more on FABRIK, visit www.fabriktheband.co.uk
Population:7 – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.18 / Callum Lees
For more on Population:7, visit www.population7.com
Carris Auburn – Project Soundlounge @ Town Hall 18.08.17 / Callum Lees
For more on Carris Auburn, visit www.carissauburnmusic.com
To know more about Crisis, with links for online donations to the charity, visit www.crisis.org.uk
For more on Project Soundlounge, visit www.facebook.com/ProjectSoundLounge
For more on the Town Hall and Symphony Hall, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.thsh.co.uk
NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.
To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.