In a groovy pub in North London called The Dissenting Academy, I settle myself for an evening of poetry and song. In the welcoming surroundings, I am joined by many Shoreditch hipsters, middle-class couples, a kaftan wearer, and a dog called Bear.
The show starts with the compère reciting her love for the cruel mistress that is the city – not quite with its ripped backsides, but not far from it.
The next poet engages and entertains us with tales of being an American, black, bisexual, living in the metropolis. A cross between angry polemic and Bridget Jones’ Diary I didn’t quite see what my fellow audience members got from a trawl through dating in the 21st century.
And then the highlight of the evening…
Gemma Rogers arrives on the small stage - a pixie in a short denim skirt almost skipping from the back of the room, accompanied by Tom the guitarist.
Bringing the lightness and fun to what was turning into a very serious evening, Gemma sings with a combination of Beth Orton lilt, East London 'OI', and spiky post-riot grrrl joie de vivre.
The lyrics bring a heavy heart to the uplifting ska beat, with the opening song about, “a friend who went missing”.
Throughout the set Gemma was playful and fun, making digs at her guitarist, “he looks a bit like Shane MacGowan, don’t you think?”; talking with the dog in the audience who seemed to get scared with every applause (of which there were many); and providing her own commentary on the songs.
The set ran through acoustic versions of My Idea of Fun, Taking It Out on You, Shambles, Hurts Like Hell, and the stand-out songs – Education, and Hannah and Him.
While the crowd greeted them with appreciative applause, I do feel that in another venue there would be much dancing and spilling of drinks!
Gemma Rogers, brought a fantastic turn of phrase and a wonderful sense of mischief to what was becoming a very indulgent evening. I look forward to seeing her somewhere I can jump up and down and spill my drink....
Review by Roger Massey