One of the venues for Friday night’s action was Yamamori Tengu a Japanese restaurant located on Strand Street. While it may not seem like the ideal location for such an event, it does generate an intimate atmosphere all of its own especially upstairs. With two gigs on simultaneously, we turned our attention to upstairs where WordUp Collective were showcasing some of the best talent under the WordUp umbrella and in truth it was the place to be on Friday night.
When Tebi Rex made their way onto the stage the venue wasn’t even half full. It’s never an easy job playing to a small crowd, but the duo certainly made the most of their time and showcased their eclectic mix of hip-hop inspired pop songs. They don’t lack any energy on stage and they also don’t take themselves too seriously either. Singer Matt O’ Baoill making light of his red hair and how he’s often compared to Ed Sheeran in one of the songs.
They saved their best till last however with Black Enough, a song that perfectly showcases what they’re all about. Rapper Max Zanga talks about being original with the line “I don’t give a fuck about a mother fucking flow” while O’Baoill adds the vocal hook during the chorus. They certainly know how to raise the roof when they want to and judging by this performance they will get more opportunities to do so in the future.
It was surprising to see Soulé so early on in the night and she began with a bold a move by kicking things off with her biggest song Love No More. Even bolder still she stripped it back completely with only a guitar accompanying her. It was a risky move, but it served its purpose as we got to see another side of Soulé. She was backed by Diffusion Lab on the night whose production added a real polish to her performance. A new song Orbit really showcased this as the production laid the groundwork for Soulé to truly shine.
She may be a diminutive figure on stage, but you couldn’t tell it from her voice. One moment she is pouring her soul out and the next she is tearing it up. She may have had the shortest amount of time on stage, but she certainly made the biggest impact. One thing is for sure, she already looks and sounds like a star in the making.
Making a connection with the crowd is a skill you either have or you don’t. From the moment he stepped on stage it was clear that AikJ made that connection with the audience. Overall, it was a great change of pace with AikJ offering up a more soulful approach to proceedings. Heights certainly set the tone for the set as we were introduced to a performer in the true sense of the word. It wasn’t all about the man onstage however, as there were plenty of times where he got the crowd involved. Suite Life was the perfect opportunity to do so as we got to see a different side of AikJ. You can see from his performance that there are a number of strings to his bow. He already seems to have established quite a following so it might not be long before AikJ becomes a household name.
What’s in a name? Super Silly may not be the most apt description for this group of serious musicians. They were already sweating after the second song such was the intensity of their performance. That could have also been down the venue being like a boiler room with vents blowing out hot air instead of cold air. Either way besides some technical problems that were beyond their control, they made their presence felt on the night. No Pressure perfectly encapsulated their unique brand of r&b. In terms of the instrumentation the band really locked in together, with the keys laying the groundwork for the rest of the group. It’s still early days for Super Silly but they have already carved out a niche for themselves and that’s half the battle in today’s homogenous music industry.
The main event for the evening was Dublin rapper Damola who strode onto the stage with a spring in his step. He’s certainly not low on confidence and he let his band start off proceedings before he jumped on stage. The first thing you notice about Damola is that he is the ultimate showman and is really at home when he’s on the stage. Some of those in attendance such as Jafaris and Rusangano Family played Hard Working Class Heroes the previous night and it felt like there was a real support network between the acts. One of the tracks which really showcased Damola’s abilities was Workflow which saw him spit words like bullets, but it’s not just for show as he knows how to get his message across.
The highlight however was a song that he specifically told the crowd to find online. Snoozing was certainly worth the plug as it’s reminiscent of Rejjie Snow’s r&b infused sound. Overall, it was a big change from the more traditional hip-hop production in his other songs and he got the crowd involved with a call and response chorus “Can a brother get love, can a brother get some, as I stay snoozing.” Damola certainly has his message all he needs now is some followers to spread it.