Review: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble @ The Button Factory

27 10 2009

From Connected

After months of watching insipid indie-kids standing around languidly as some hipster in hipsters played with synthesisers, it was great to see people dancing so much that their collective sweat dripped from the walls
The Saturday night before a bank holiday Sunday doesn’t usually bode too well for pub owners or party goers. Not to mention the fact that that bastard of an economy has knocked the bollocks out of our leather wallets and sequined purses, people tend to save themselves for Halloween night so that they can blow €70 on an inflatable whoopee cushion costume in the vain hope of winning a plastic trophy and a bottle of sparkling wine down the local hotspot.

Imagine my surprise, so, when I arrived at the Button Factory last Saturday to see Chicago’s most successful buskers, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and found the place packed tighter than John O’Donoghue’s expense account. The thing about the Button Factory is you have to get there early otherwise you’re screwed, thanks to the ‘school hall’ shape of the room. Thankfully, Connected risked life and limb manoeuvring our way through the slightly agro crowd as they tutted, sighed and spilled warm beer on our heads, before nestling ourselves into a comfy spot between the sound techies and the stage (all for the benefit of you, our beloved readers, of course).

Only once we were in situ did the real energy of the place come resonate with us; though we did feel a little sorry for the poor sods who’d forked out €22 to stand down the back without so much as a glimpse of the stage. After months of watching insipid indie-kids standing around languidly as some hipster in hipsters played with synthesisers, it was great to see people dancing so much that their collective sweat dripped from the walls; such was the effect of the nine hyperactive Hypnotic’s on stage; eight of whom are sons of Kelan Phil Cohran, trumpeter with the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra and founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

The assemblage of trumpets, trombones, baritones, drums and that mighty impressive sousaphone is a sight enough in itself but to play those instruments with the panache and professionalism of the HBE takes some doing. Not to mention the fact that they move like Chippendales in rhythmic unison to the jazz/hip-hop/funk/soul fusion that appears to come so easily to them. As children, the eight Cohran brothers had wind instruments thrust into their mouths in place of pacifiers and, though they have grown up in a hip-hop generation, their primary sound has its roots in 60’s Jazz and 70’s Soul.

Their instantly recognisable second single ‘War’, which they dedicated to all of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, could be described simultaneously as a battle cry, thanks to its segmented instrumentation and overlying trumpet solo, or a contemporary jazz opus. Either way, the crowd went mental for it, as they did with the rest of a raucous, sweaty set. In fact, the only time that HBE seem slightly under par is when they allow their hip-hop influences to surpass their phenomenally disciplined musicianship. Calls to the crowd to “let me hear you say” and an over-extended rendition of ‘ole, ole, ole’ came across as unnecessary and caused a bit of a lull in the night’s proceedings.

But now we’re really just nit-picking. Ideally, you want to be seeing these guys in their natural, organic environment: in front of a dressed shop window at Christmas, a sprawling urban park in Summertime or down a cobble-locked side street in the late evening sun. You can bet your bottom dollar that at least half of Saturday’s crowd turned up as a result of having seen this formidable band of brothers at Electric Picnic in September. For all their hip-hop stylings and “say yeeaah, say ho-ho” yammering, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are exceptional musicians and merit a distinctive setting for their music to be fully realised. Failing that, though, the Button Factory will do.

review: Sheena Madden


The Buzzcocks @ The Academy

23 10 2009

From Le Cool Dublin

Did you know that The Buzzcocks were responsible for bringing The Sex Pistols to The Lesser Free Trade Hall for that legendary gig? Yep, it’s true. Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto hopped on a bus to London to check out the Sex Pistols and were so impressed with what they saw that they hauled the band back to Manchester with them. In the end, The Buzzcocks didn’t play at the gig themselves due to some of the musicians dropping out, but they can still lay claim to organising the most important date in punk history. Proving that they are still undisputed lynchpins of punk, The Buzzcocks are touring once again, in anticipation of their support slot in December to fellow Mancunian band The Courteeners, and their catchy pop melodies merged with raw punk energy keep songs such as ‘Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone you Shouldn’t’ve)’ feeling as fresh and anarchic as ever.

Sheena Madden

Richard Hawley @ The Olympia

22 10 2009

From Le Cool Dublin

After serving time as a session musician before playing guitar alongside Jarvis Cocker (whilst on tour with thinking man’s Britpop outfit, Pulp), it wasn’t until the 2001 release of his eponymous debut album that Sheffield’s finest troubadour, Richard Hawley, really came into his own. Bittersweet, baritone songs set to lush, orchestral scores recalled the music of Scott Walker and made a million sickeningly-in-love couples weep. With songsabout love, heartbreak and the town he grew up in – “next to a butchers and the taxidermist and over the road from the cemetery” – Hawley’s lyrics are revered amongst adoring fans and industry heads alike. Whether you’re a self-confessed muso, one half of a sickeningly-in-love couple, or just someone who knows damn fine musicianship when you hear it, you’d be best advised to make your way to the Olympia.