Last Monday, compere Joseph J Clark presented a selection of music and spoken word at a sociable evening at Latest Music Bar. Four solo musicians took to the stage, each introduced by the amiable Clark, who interspersed the music with recitations of his poetry.
The evening was in many ways a vehicle for Clark’s poetry. SOURCE featured his book ‘Drunk with a Pen’ a few months back, and we were interested to see how his work would translate to a live setting. ‘Eulogy of Empty Words’, a poem about Clark’s father, was the pick of the bunch, perhaps because it felt like the one that really succeeded in getting past the generalities of boozing and into the truly personal heartfelt details, so often the marrow of good poetry. It was a shame his new poems didn’t move beyond the exclusively drink related subject matter of that first book – despite the fact the show was billed as ‘Drunk With’, we really would have liked to see him tackle new territory, and perhaps push the personal subject matter further, as we don’t find the subject of drinking, in and of itself, quite as universally engaging as Clark does.
The evening’s musical acts offered a broad spectrum of styles. Michael Bowerman got things started with a short selection of self-penned songs accompanied by ukulele, before Robin Coward aka yourgardenday stepped up to deliver a great set. Smiling through occasional baffling technical glitches, Coward surprised us all with his florid keyboard skills (think Tori Amos circa 1994) and an impressive vocal range.
Next up was Chuck S J Hay, whose focused stomping punky delivery sat at odds with a rather sleepy stagecraft. Regular awkward pauses to tinker with equipment and even, at one point, to tie a shoelace started off sweetly endearing but did start to grate. Hay has been writing a song a day for a year and, rather than planning a setlist, brought a ring-binder on stage and asked the audience to shout out a number – all part of the same laid back stage vibe. It’s impressive to think of songwriters out there with such relentless passion and drive to create on a daily basis though. Oh, and Hay plays a mean guitar.
Headlining the evening was Hollie Rogers, whose passionate performance was heartfelt and unshowy, with a great smoky voice that effortlessly evoked classic folk vocalists like June Tabor. Her confessional lyrics took us on a dark journey, across several songs, through the trajectory of a painful breakup. At times it felt like we were eavesdropping on intensely personal moments. Rogers, whose website contains an impressive endorsement from Suzanne Vega (“a magnificent and powerful voice”) looks like she’d be an even more interesting proposition with a full band.
It remains to be seen whether ‘Drunk with my Friends’ was a one off occasion, or the first of a regular music and poetry night – but on the strength of this event, we hope there’s more to come.
Drunk With My Friends. Latest Music Bar, Monday 10th July 2017
Photos by Peter Williams