Lady – Kadija Kamara, Kyra, Chess Galea and Buyinza – The Finsbury – September 24th

For the second night running, I head up to the Finsbury pub by Manor House station. There’s much to love about this space; always a friendly vibe and music that entices. 

Tonight though all of the stops are pulled out. Kadija Kamara has been running her monthly nights for three years now. Lady showcases female acts who are creating a buzz around town giving them a platform on which to perform. Everyone who takes to the stage is grateful to be playing; the night bleeds with warmth and generosity.

Buyinza, the nights opening act is a revelation. Fizzing with energy and a smiley, sunny presence that could melt the iciest of receptions, she romps through a sex-fuelled set of her own songs. “I write mostly about boys, my legion of lovers”, she tells us. She’s originally from Uganda, a fact celebrated in her opening tune; urban African beats with a backing tape. She captivates with her thrusting moves as she turns on an R’n’B tap letting us know that she wants to ‘get high in a different dimension’. Buyinza jumps into the crowd to dance before charming all with a tale of being stuck in Uxbridge tonight with no chance of making the gig. ‘Don’t give up’, she sings as the Metropolitan line comes back into action and saves the day. I’m glad it did. Buyinza is an imminent star. The fact that she stays until the end of the night, cheering, whooping and dancing wildly in support of the other acts on stage is a measure of this lady. Wonderful.

Once each act finishes their set, they are briefly interviewed by Kadija. It’s a top touch amplifying the supportive family feel that this night aspires towards. 

Chess Galea is up next. She’s accompanied by Dean on guitar. Chess acknowledges early on that she won’t be dancing quite like Buyinza did but we all probably need a bit of a breather in truth. A diehard romantic, Chess fantasises about being in love and nothing going wrong. She has songs about wrapping yourself in cellophane though I’m sure this is more metaphorical than literal. One would hope so anyway. At times, Chess’s vocal goes a tad too Mariah Carey for my liking; the over-elaborateness masking something that might sound better simple. All told though, there’s quite a pop-soul talent on display here. 

KYRA is third up, the headliner before Kadija plays a set. KYRA has Chris on keys and does a gentle yet elaborate jazz pop thing. Her vocal has a fine tone and you can see why record executives are buzzing around. Cause and cure, a recently released single sounds great though things really get going during Bandages, a track that KYRA wrote for a dying brother. She covers The Fugees before calling Buyinza back onto stage. It transpires that Buyinza, in rushing to the venue had nothing to wear and so creatively cut a jumper in half backstage and wore it as top and skirt.

Kadija is a great curator of talent yet it turns out she’s no musical slouch either. Fresh from a summer season at a few festivals, she’s not with a full band tonight but with a pretty talented guitarist. Together, they make a Motown soul sound frothing with a rockier Living Colour feel- the vocal is stylish and joyful. Kadija sings  ‘where did we go wrong?’ – and you want to tell her ‘nowhere tonight for you are the glue that has made all of this possible.’ A funked-up version of All Along The Watchtower sounds great. 

There is still time to dance the night away with Lady’s resident DJ, Handson Family. I stomp some steps amidst happy smiles. I learn of a Lady festival one-dayer that Kadja is putting on at Pop Brixton on October 27th and make a mental note to go along.

Reluctantly I leave the Finsbury. There is work tomorrow after all. Looking back over the makeshift dancefloor, take a guess who’s still throwing down some moves looking like the night is still young?

Lonnie Storey, Leyma, Jimmi Herbert and Harry Heart – The Finsbury – 19th March 2019

I’m making a conscious decision this week to check out gig venues in London that are new to me.  With some of the more obvious places now ticked off, I head north and to The Finsbury. There’s entertainment in this Manor House pub most nights but for some reason I’ve not considered trekking up here before.

And that’s my loss. This is a busy boozer with a back venue of not inconsiderable space. The stage is raised and the lights good. I can overlook the smoke machine overdosing just after acts take to the stage. For some, I’m sure the haze adds to the atmosphere though for this older man it simply brings on the wheeze.

Harry Heart is on first. It’s just him with an acoustic guitar. He does nothing wrong as such but also nothing to stand out. He’s got a pleasant manner between tunes and we glean that Harry is probably here from Australia. He plays a tune that he ‘normally plays with four other blokes’ and another that he ‘wrote the last time he was in England a few years back’. The voice is a strained Jeff Buckley but, on first listen at least, none of these tunes really stand out. Even when Harry changes his guitar tuning, the songs all pretty much mesh into one. He offers free CDs from a murky merch table, a nice touch from a nice chap.

 

Jimmi Herbert has bought a new band with him. In crueller moments, I wonder if he’s raided his college Dungeons and Dragons after school club to find them. It’s their first gig and they’ll no doubt get better as they perform more together. Jimi, half wearing a floral shirt and with frizzy long hair is every inch the slacker yet his voice and manner is distinctive enough to mark him out. A chilled and laidback jazzy hip-hop, I struggle a bit to get beyond the notion that future single, Purple Pills, sounds like Frank Spencer covering Easy Life. Oooh Betty.

 

Easy Life are a band of the moment and I suspect that Leyma (up next) have also been influenced by their rise. More jazzy-chilled stuff with splashes of hip-hop, there’s an effortless cool about them. Leyma has a deep voice that contrasts well with track-suited Siv on bass. They’ve got a raucous fan base who have come from the East of this city to support. And in tunes such as ‘Extra Extra’ and ‘Smile For A Second’, they’ve got the material to back up the buzz that’s forming around them. Older adults stride around giving direction – managers and advisers one suspects who have promised these young lads fame, glory and celebrity endorsement. An enthusiastic but official photographer takes photos everywhere even jumping on stage and taking pics of Leyma’s set list. Somebody needs to tell him to turn the flash on his camera off. It dazzles like you’ve just been blinded by the sun and ultimately spoils the enjoyment of the unconverted.

 

A track by Rilo Kiley plays in the interlude between Leyma and tonight’s headliner, Lonnie Storey. I recall how much I miss that band.

Lonnie Storey is a charmer. His thing is lo-fi bedroom pop and he does so with the manner of Mac De Marco and the voice of Edwyn Collins. His confidence is understated with more than one tune announced as “being about making a dick out of yourself”. He specialises in crisp, cheesy guitar riffs executed with fine technique as the programmed-synth bleeps and beats away in the background. He tells all that he’s not yet released much but that more will be coming. I like his music and resolve to check out more when it arrives. 

 

I’ve been to some cracking gigs in recent weeks. This one doesn’t perhaps hit the heights of some of those but I’m glad to tick another venue from my London list. I’m sure there’ll be a return in coming weeks