The Sons of Kemet
Saturday 26th February
Friends, meal, ‘the tube,’ sardine packed, swaying, chattering, seething, masses. Families homeward bound, shoppers, cards flexed out. Voices drowned, subsumed in a screeching, squealing, machine clattering, iron hammering, doors hiss, clunking, bumping, “The next station is ....”, “change here for…” Dark tunnel wait, a shudder, a jerk, night to light, “This station is Chalk Farm.” Chalk stumble, Chalk file, Chalk queue, Chalk lift, Chalk Farm night.
Ian Hunter’s words,
“Sixty nine was Cheapo wine,
What’s your sign,
Float up to the Roundhouse,
on Sunday afternoon”
Saturday Gigs, AND tonight was just that. “Chalk Farm Roundhouse”- once a great steam train palace, abandoned, squatted and reinvented, Pink Floyd, The Who, Bowie and The Stones the iconic, ironic, rock happening’s hallowed venue, for us baby boomers.
Those baby boomer trippy, hippy, happy, hopeful days, hit a reality. A pre-gig ritual, “How much for a pint?” The refrain from us poor Northerners when in the South. Exclaimed, muttered, silently whispered.
Steps, doors, pocket, ticket, laser check, blue lights, red lights, bar, wall left, stage centre. DJ’d, Dry Iced’. Sound prepped, soaring roofed, hoi-polloi upstairs, me down stairs, pillared and poled, restricted views, great resting place for tired aged bones.
Support act on and off. Roadies on, lights up, hands up, yells out, MC pumped, primed, crunched up, drink upped, front - pitted in, moshed up, waiting to be mashed up because…
“We are the Sons of Kemet.”
A Stretford End primal roar, two drums perfectly syncopated and smashed, clear a headlight, the Tuba deep and primitive, and sax, angry and steak knife sharp. These men make a sound you cannot believe. Kemet, what’s in a name? Lots, turns out it was a name for the ‘black lands’ of ancient Egypt, and there’s religious movement too.
Are the ‘Sons’ part of the religion? Was there a message in the music? Yeah, and it was “get up offa that thing, you know you’re gonna feel better…” Yeah it was the healing power of funk, groove and soul. This is, more than throwing shapes, more than a treat for your feet, more than dance, dance, dance. It was power funk driven like a Hurricane, it was nuclear souped-up white hot, proto-proton powered non stop, relentless maximum effort, hard, hard, demanding dance music. This is not for the timid or dance step dandys.
There’s real power, real, and I mean REAL work to provide the best of all good nights, two drummers, smashing the walls, beating the skins,
“So this is what sheet metal workers do in their spare time,” I yelled.
A goggle eyed mate with me, a nod, and
“Yeah, and how can anyone dance like that with a Tuba?”
“But mate, THAT’S the easy bit, it’s dancing AND playing that’s the killer…”
Literally, one of the great mysteries of our time. That, and along with “How can a Tuba be blown so hard, with such power, for so long?” All of this misses the real question, how can an instrument, so long sidelined as a joke, be the heart of a great slab of a funking, punked up, jazzed out, dance band? Amazed to see that man move, swagging swaggering, head back, tuba bell to the sky, sounds roaring, a bass rumble, trouser shaking. There are Reggae Sound systems that’d pay for that trouser flapping, chest slapping, rumbling growl of sound. A sea, arms waving in the light, swaying in the groove, punching, all “Slaves to the Rhythm”, all in step, hearts and heads ‘lost in music’, ‘the greatest dancer’, here in Camden, nothing Chic here, just ‘dance, dance, DANCE.’
‘One nation under a Groove’ sang the Parliament Funkadelic’s master of the power funk '...So wide you can’t get around it, So low you can’t get under it, So high you can’t get over it', Yeah that was the ‘Sons’, laying it down on a cold Chalk Farm Night, Saturday night. Looking at Mosh Pitters, “one nation under a groove, getting down, just for the funk of it” Yeah George Clinton knew a thing or two, or three, or more but possibly not as much as these four guys. They blew the house……..DOWN! That’s for sure. The whole band shared the groove, sucking the audience into their vision of dancing, romancing, moving and grooving, one mass, one people, sold on soul.
This is music for the stomach as well as the feet, coz that’s where it hits, like George Foreman’s never ending tirade of blows, rumbling in the jungle, this hits hard, mean, and relentless. And watching the band, that’s what they must feel. How can one man, play a Tuba, so hard, for so long, so well, so loud, so, so, so. Who’s his personal trainer? There’s professional athletes that need His workout programme. But then the groove cools, a rest for all but one, Theon Cross, Tuba man, spot lit, centre stage, just him, his tuba, ideas, lungs, lips, dexterous skills, and a tune floats, gentle as a lover’s touch. If I thought blasting that 15 foot tube was hard, I was blown away by the delicacy of the solo, if the band were Joe Frazier punching for 50 mins, this was Ali’s float like a butterfly moment, a calm, a rest, before the storming, battering sax and trump blows deliver the knockouts, leaving you floored, and assured you’ve seen, one hell of beating from the band, you pant, bay for more, applaud, stamp, yell, voices swell, more, more, encore , you’re floored, finale, stage high waves, yells and roars, turn, shuffle, babble, gabble, exit doors.
Tube sitting, Ian Hunter’s words bouncing in my ears, “See you next time, so long for now", sadly looking at the tour, their UK live gigs are as rare as a BoJo genuine apology, but it was a great night. I may not remember all my Saturday gigs, but as Ian Hunter sang, “thanks for a great trip.”