By Eden Szymura
Fairy lights, craft beer and a whole mix of ages and backgrounds welcome you as you walk into the Rookery’s Jazz Showcase at the Cluny 2. Located in Ouseburn, the side of Newcastle that Durham students rarely venture, I’m happy to get away from the signet rings and into a new crowd. The venue is perfect for the lone explorer, offering welcome staggered seating as well as plenty of space to dance in front of the intimate stage.
Gutted that my late train caused me to miss one of the North East’s up and coming funk-pop bands, Picnic, within 10 minutes of arriving I’m cheered up by Ponyland’s infectiously aggressive punk jazz. Harking from Newcastle, these animal-mask-clad musicians mix afro vibes with a guitar and drum beat so good it’s almost dirty. I’m drawn into their electricity and next thing I know I’m dancing the conga and watching a mosh pit unfold. Ponyland boast two drummers, ensuring extra headbanging from the most energetic members of the crowd. Under all that rocky heaviness I struggle at times to hear the balance of the saxophone but the band still manages to win me over.
Ponyland’s infectiously aggressive punk jazz
As their performance goes on, I realise I have never seen a band as involved with the audience as Ponyland. I fall in love with the group just that little bit more when they tie their single on materialistic excess, ‘Moss will Cover Everything’, to the environment. Living up to their rebellious spirit, Ponlyland encourage us to sign a petition on the merch stand calling for Newcastle City Council to declare a climate emergency. Invigorated from their unapologetic punk sound, I am more than happy to oblige. As the performance comes to an end and the animal hats come off, I am left with the assurance that no matter the audience, Ponyland will make them feel truly alive.
I realise I have never seen a band as involved with the audience as Ponyland.
During the gig, I notice that the Rookery has managed to cement a real sense of community centred on homegrown North-Eastern talent. As important as that is, I’m grateful they broke that geographic rule to showcase Manchester-based Agbeko. As the set starts I’m in disbelief that the group, whose name derives from a Ewe warrior dance meaning ‘Great Oath’, manage to fit all eleven members on stage. There are saxophones, trumpets and flutes amongst the many feet that face us. From the first note, a smooth blend of afro and jazz influences immediately fill the room and, boy, does it seem effortless.
Throughout the set Agbeko successfully make the most out of every instrument, showing off the versatility of both their sound and style. Such musicianship means you can’t help but dance, be that to the upbeat anthem of ’Innocent (La la Lie)’ or to the more sultry ‘The Remedy’.
their thought-provoking words and fresh sound represent a generation disenchanted with politics
Like Ponyland, Agbeko load their performance with political activism and I am left dwelling on the pertinent lyrics of ‘Leaders of the Free World’ and ‘Unite’ long after the show finishes. For me, their thought-provoking words and fresh sound represent a generation disenchanted with politics. However, rather than hate for the situation they find themselves in, Agbeko’s performance was full of sheer love for what they do, making their music ooze a sexiness that you can’t escape.
This was one of the best gigs I have been to in a long time. The warm setting, energetic performers and open-minded audience made an event that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I would highly recommend you make your way over to Newcastle and get a slice of the action yourself.