Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Connor Pope
Lysergic Lounge must be one of the most dynamic music events happening in Digbeth at the moment. Nortons, the new-ish, ‘not like another Irish bar’, is not an easy space to fill. It’s surrounded by road works on all sides and far enough away from Trinity Street that no one’s going to stroll by accidentally, so I’m surprised to arrive at a gently buzzing venue mid-week.
I won’t throw shade at their drinks prices because I know they pay their staff a living-wage, but I might also start taking a hip flask with me to work.
Whilst the line-up looks great, in earnest I’m here to see Brum’s rising jazz talent Tom Ford. Ford’s Latest 2022 album The Tennis Champions is a melodic, atmospheric dream featuring his impressive guitar skills and vocals from the likes of Poppy Ajudha, Jay Prince, and Simon Jnr. Fingers crossed Ford brings along some of his session musicians to spice up the set, although seeing him for free might be outrageous enough in itself.
The first support band is three-piece Oh Dear and I’m pleasantly surprised when they get started. At weekday gigs the first band can often feel like a placeholder, or some kind of background noise to warm up a distracted audience.
This was not the case for Oh Dear, who brought along their own small enthusiastic fandom. Their disco indie-pop because the synth and keys bring the groove but their frontwomen also captures that indie-soft-girl vibe as her voice soars and falls in a way that reminds me distinctly of Florence + The Machine.
At the end of their set, Oh Dear declares a dance competition the prize of which is a t-shirt. The only disappointing part of their set is Oh Dear decides ‘Zoe’ is their winner. Suspicious, how did Oh Dear know Zoe was called Zoe?
Next up it’s Big Troppy and their big personalities become apparent immediately as they shred their guitars, whip their hair, and squat staring at the audience. The frontman, proudly donning a spiderman snapback, really speaks to my soul. He’s living for himself and frequently gases over the mic explaining this is the bit he’s left to catch his breath between songs.
The four piece rock band has exceptionally pacey garage drums, rough vocals and enough riffs to fill me up. My favourite track is ‘Consider Me Dead’ which is about being “really, really, really, really… hungover”. It begins soft like that moment before you realise you’re actually hungover: “Consider me dead as I lie here in my bed.” Then, the bass and drums come in heavy both, guitars are rinsed, and the sound becomes almost deafening, like when you realise you’re hungover.
The crashing symbols and ironically depressing lyrics are nostalgic, I can’t help but have a little head bang over Big Troppy’s infectious rhythm.
Next up should be Fitzroy Holt, but there’s been timing issues and due to some of Ford’s band needing to return to London that night, Tom Ford is up next supported by Simon Jnr on vocals, Parthenope on Sax, Hugo Piper on bass, and Nathan Shingler on drums.
Ford begins playing his beautiful guitar slowly and emotively whilst also pulling off a mullet. Simon Jnr’s soft falsetto is added, harmonising alongside Ford’s melody, and Shingler’s drums are spontaneous and tight. Piper’s bass twangs, and Parthenope’s sax enters like a welcome breeze on a summer’s night. The artist’s collective sound is impeccable, flowing between different standards with ease.
Ford takes a moment to say “Please vote anything but Tory in the next election” which is well received by the creative crowd.
As the drums peel back and the rest of the musicians on stage minimise their sound, Tom Ford is given a chance to display his extensive blowing talent. His fingers are perpetually blurred as he cascades them up and down the length of his personalised guitar. Despite his tempo, each note is clear and crisp, promoting gasps and rounds of applause from the audience at the end of his solos.
When the full body of the sound returns, carried by the Parthenope immaculate sax, I get stuck looking at the drums for a second, then I’m drawn to Simon Jnr’s sultry vocal and tight rap flow. Ford is working the guitar with even greater determination and a rainforest appears in my mind’s eye.
It feels like Tom Ford’s musical collective is an ecosystem of sound, perfectly in sync, fuelling one another.
It’s a tough act to follow, and whilst matching the technical ability of a Ford’s jazz ensemble is understandably out of reach, Fitzroy Holt’s impassioned alternative rock energy does not disappoint. His powerful emotive vocals cry out into the audience accompanied by complex and creative guitar riffs.
The floor stays full even though the headliners have been and gone and Fitzroy Holt treats us to his latest release ‘Medicine’ which he consistently delivers with precise drama, easing up and then letting us have it at just the right moment. I’m losing my energy to dance and spend the remainder of the set sipping my pint, bobbing my head, and taking in the great sound at the back of the room.
Gosh it must cost so much to heat this place.
For more from the artists please see the links below:
Oh Dear: www.instagram.com/ohdearisaband
Big Troppy: www.Linktr.ee/bigtroppy
Fitzroy Holt: www.linktr.ee/FitzroyHolt
Tom Ford: www.linktr.ee/tommford
For more gigs and events from Lysergic Lounge visit: www.facebook.com/lysergicloungelizards
For more from Nortons, please go to their website: www.nortons.bar