Gung Ho Down: Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee, Subajah, Monkfish and Kat Vipers

Hootannany 29/05/10

The Gung Ho Down looked like a really good choice as it had a whole bunch of acts and you didn’t have to pay a penny!

Kat Vipers was the first to play and although normally with the rest of her band, tonight it was just her and her keyboard. Her style of music is pretty bizarre and hard to categorise, which in many ways is a really good thing.  If I had to I would describe it as sort of spiky show tunes and throughout, her style reminded me of Regina Spektor, Kate Bush and Nellie McKay all intertwined. Most of the time she half sings/half talks her music and then at other times it wavers and hints to a big range.

Kat Vipers is quite a character and she’d say things like ‘Can I just throw some balloons out there and you can throw them back?’ So, not a crowd to not do as they were told, a few people kicked the balloons about, looking a bit bewildered but eventually getting more into the spirit of things. The way she sings is so intense, and she almost acts out every word through her facial expressions and the big range of tones and stresses. She was also quite intense inbetween the songs and kept asking the audience if they were having a good time as apparently we didn’t seem like we were. She asked so many times that it made you question whether you were or not (like when someone keeps on asking if you’re ok!) Overall it was an interesting and energetic set, perhaps not the sound track to relax to but maybe more like the sound track to a hectic day.

Subajah was up next and he was joined by a drummer, bongo player and a bass guitar. Dressed in white he moved around the stage with energy and above all, a great voice. Running through his music is a clearly a huge amount of optimism and positivity that really does feel genuine and for that reason, it was really infectious. He’s clearly close to his roots and on of his songs was about his home village in Martinique and was sung in Creole. Another song was all about people from the Caribbean and their connection with Africa, how important it is to keep that link alive. As well as his historical roots, it soon became clear that his family roots were just as important as he introduced the percussionist as his brother and they sang a couple of songs together. They both jumped around rapping and singing together, like fireworks on the stage. After an encore they left the stage with a bunch of energised positive people; job done.

Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee was the next to play and from what I had read about this bloke, we were in for a treat…we were not disappointed. A humble looking guy came on to the stage with his flute in hand. He started playing a nice tune, Indian sounding, then just as you start to get lost in it, he cuts the tone and starts to beatbox whilst playing the flute at the same time! I thought the didgeridoo was a tricky instrument to master but how he sorts his breathing is a total mystery! He then introduced a drummer playing the Indian drums who played brilliantly, switching between thudding deep sounds and lighter beats. Then the flute, beatboxing and drumming all came together and it was really atmospheric. Next MC Maestro joined him and he finished his set off with a dubstep beat. All in all it was a total treat for the ears.

The I Hearts were meant to play too but didn’t make it so the last band on were Monkfish. This lot consisted of: A vocalist, a guitarist, 2 bass guitarist, a drummer (a legendary-looking guy called Vernon), and a flute/sax player. Their music got people moving and dancing just like Subajah and the band worked so well together. Their style was described by the people at Gung Ho Down as ‘African and Caribbean pop music…with an urban south London twist’. To be honest the urban south London twist bit passed me by, as the music sounded so lush and tropical I felt miles away (no it wasn’t the cider I promise!) With a strong carnival sound and big percussion underlying each tune, Monkfish’s music would cheer anyone up. They did an encore by popular demand and then left the night in the more-than-capable hands of the DJ.

The Gung Ho Down was great and the fact you could see all these acts for free, was a enormous bonus. I hope the night comes to Brixton again.