Words by Ed King / Pics by Aatish Ramchurn
Monday nights. As our focal point would later surmise, “…the worst of all nights”.
But I’ve had some happy Mondays in my time: bank holidays before self employment, teacher’s strikes at primary school, waking up to another week with Lucy. They all involve extra time in bed but they are there to be had. And tonight is another notch on the post, so to speak, as Kyla La Grange and a colleague’s ninja illness have brought me unexpectedly out to play.
A relatively healthy crowd seems to be embracing this school night optimism too; Mama Roux’s is comfortably full. As the three metre gap between us and the support band, an indie pop dance hybrid called FOURS, gets gradually swallowed up there’s just enough room to wind your way to the bar. In Birmingham, fifteen minutes outside of the city centre, two weeks after payday, this is a solid result.
FOURS should receive a special commendation, not only for the lead singer’s vocals – restrained, powerful, all that you’d want and want to be jealous of – but for being amongst the most engaged of Kyla La Grange’s audience during her headline set. Albeit dressed like a child sacrifice at the Summer Solstice, FOURS were full force support both on stage and off; noted, revered, reported.
Kyla La Grange sneaks on stage with ‘Hummingbird’ – one of the anthemic pop tinged singles she has released recently instead of album #3. Ah… album #3. The opening/title track to La Grange’s superb sophomore, Cut Your Teeth, rolls out like heavy skies, before the brooding accusations of ‘Justify’ round off tonight’s speak for itself introduction. A gut punch of a song, again from her bevy of stand alone singles.
Kicking off a six date stint across Albion with tonight’s gig at Mama Roux’s (kudos Birmingham Promoters) any rehearsal room cobwebs are deftly, quickly swept away. From the embroidery to the side profile, there’s thought on stage tonight – an arena presentation in a Monday night music venue. And despite Kyla La Grange’s last LP coming out in 2014 (a fact that must have challenged the Sony A&R involved) there’s enough of an addictive undercurrent to her two albums, along with a suitably track marked crowd, that won’t let her go unnoticed. Even in Birmingham on a Monday.
Two more of the ‘higher octane’ album tracks from Cut Your Teeth, alongside an ethereal dig at detachment from her debut, introduce La Grange’s 2015 single, ‘So Sweet’. An unashamed (who was even accusing) pop predator, I shouldn’t like this song; everything the hatchling arrogance, peer pressure and recreational drug use of my teens pushed me to declare… but God help me I do. And performed live on stage it’s even better.
But it is this guilty pleasure/dichotomy that sums up fevered little ego when it comes to Kyla La Grange. Sugar, spice, are all things nice? There’s an Indie rawness to Ashes, which evolves into the darker electro edged pop of Cut Your Teeth – tie that in with some pretty stunning photo shoots and masquerade make up, and you’ve got an artist who can command some attention. Plus I’m a sucker for putting out 14 tracks through a major label; I can almost hear the phone conversation, the dialing tone and silent annunciation of combative swearwords.
So where do you go when the Katy Perry through a Ketamine haze doesn’t shift enough units, how do you silence the paymasters that put your there? And this is Sony remember. As more and more calypso samples shake themselves free my cynical crystal ball starts to mutter and curse.
(Ed’s Note… Kyla La Grange gave us a quick rib dig once we’d published this BREVIEW – she’s no longer on Sony, all the recent singles have been independent releases. Which kind of throws more spotlight culpability at this concern, as well at my lack of research. After much deliberation… watch out for our follow up review of Kyla La Grange’s next single. Conversation TBC)
Then ‘Cannibals’ comes to march us to the end of the set; possibly my favourite track off Cut Your Teeth, delivered so absurdly perfect I have to watch the veins on La Grange’s neck to be sure. My friend and I nod, smile and mouth ‘…she good’ in over accentuated head movements. The rest of the crowd are clearly already there, and would possibly hang me up by my unbranded belt if they felt I wasn’t behind them. Never poke a hipster.
And perhaps I shouldn’t worry about the rest of world either; perhaps I should trust that a redbrick philosophy graduate who can cohesively argue the case for Miley Cyrus being ‘self possessed and fiercely confident’ has a strategy at play. Or perhaps we’ll lose something special to a sink hole of adulation, quarterlies and online trend predictions. All I know is my framing technique now requires a joke about Mondays, so here’s a link to some Garfield cartoons.
Go and see Kyla La Grange; this gig was awesome. And buy both of her albums, they’re awesome too. What happens tomorrow…
For more on Kyla La Grange, visit www.kylalagrange.com
For more on FOURS, visit www.soundcloud.com/itsfours
For more from Mama Roux’s, including full event listing and online ticket sales, visit www.therainbowvenues.co.uk/venues/mama-rouxs
For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com