Friday, 14 January 2011

Cheese an' bread down The Old Queens Head

I was determined to kick off my blogging for 2011 with a cheery posting. So, I thought I’d wait for the right topic to tickle me. 
I waited eleven long days and nights. 
Then, on the twelfth night - kaboom!
    Rod, my old mate, (‘less of the ole, if yuh please’, me hear him say), called my superior Blackberry from his iPhone ('i' for 'inferior') at the last minute. He hollered, 'Get your lazy backside down to The Old Queens Head." 
     I nipped down to the pub, a big old barn of a boozer on north London's Essex Road. The valet parking wasn’t of the highest quality. There wasn't even a sniff of a cloakroom.  The downstairs bar looked soberly dull. 
     Then I heard music, lyrics, rhythms and bass tripping down a staircase from an upstairs room. I scampered up the apples to where I could now see the fun and action had already begun…without me! 
      Alright, I was bit late, but didn’t they know I was coming? Surely my name was on the guess list? Unimpressed the girl at the desk sighed, shook her head and tinned my crumpled fiver.
     I squeezed into the packed upstairs pub room and began to enjoy a new London experience. Close Up, a showcase of vibrant, thriving talent and humour, places a strong emphasis on musically-driven performance poetry and acoustic-styled vocals with electric guitar backing.
     Alim ‘Cheese an’ Bread’ Kamara hosted a procession of talented young singers and musicians. Wise heads on young shoulders too; that was my overall impression. Notables from this treasure trove included chanteuse Dionne Reid and Simply Andy with his jokey reggae ditty ‘My iPhone’. 
He really does love his iPhone. Too bad, ladies. 
     Close Up wasn't just 'cheese an' bread' down The Old Queens Head. Genuine generosity was displayed. A bucketful of cash was collected for the African Caribbean Leukemia Trust, a charity promoting bone marrow and blood donation.
     G.R.E.Ed.S,* a performance poet, rapper, spoken word artist, asked in a  thoughtful piece, 'What does being black mean to me?’
"Nobody’s perfect, I’m not perfect," he later chimed. "But there’s room for change." Amen to that. It’s also the YOTP, Year of the Poet. A good theme for 2011.
     But if my arm was twisted, real hard, to pick a favourite, in between my wimpy cries of pain, I’d have to yell The Stow. I think The Stow hail from the 'Stow'; Walthamstow, east London, that is. Loved Shi and her powerful vocals. ‘You Don’t Know Me’ took me right back to my 16-year-old days fuelled by Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selector and...I could go on down memory lane.
     Ok, let me confess, I didn’t always have a clue what was going on half the time at Close Up and I wasn't even drinking. But, even as a new ole' timer, I grasped enough to know Close Up confirmed several important truths.
     Firstly, not all people plug their souls into the X Factor agenda. 
    Plenty of more enlightened souls are out there in London. They can and will come together to deal with what's likely to be a tough year.
   And yes, last but not least, you can enjoy a good midweek night out in rainy, cold can shout yourself hoarse, providing you get up and go Close Up, o'course!

Click the links for the next Close Up night in February.
* G.R.E.Ed.S stands for Generating Rhymes to Engage the Enlightened Soul. Beat that for an acronym!

Paul Coleman, London, January 2011

No comments: