Steez @ The Bussey Building

Be at ease.

Be at ease.

The Bussey Building is an infamous building. Directly outside Peckham Rye station, it seems to hold a place on people’s lips as well as in their hearts. It has, to me, become something of an institution. To see Steez grow into the space is a marvel, to see a crowd rapt in silence sitting on the floor, a solid circle of intense and intimately known faces listening, just listening to each other, is a wonder.

To bring poetic and musical talent together in order to curate the best and the beautiful, whilst creating an environment for all who will listen is hard work. Yet to bring it all together and pull it off consecutively, year after year, is a success. Steez has always done wonderful things, mainly because that’s their intention; it’s in the very bones of the movement. A café to sit and sip and sink into the brightly wrought thoughts of others, I felt surrounded by friends I did not know.

Chairs were cold and people still placing themselves around the room as Tom Sanders set the stage, and with his words set the bar so very high for the acts to come. Tom spoke twice, once at the beginning, once at the end, such is his way with words. He can tell a story quite like no one else I’ve ever heard, with a tripping, hesitant quality that almost makes you aware of the fact you’re listening; then switching, and the listener plunges into a chalky pool bar with Tom and his old friend, the one he speaks so much about. He could sell us France, and we’d buy it. He finished twice and each time no one was quite sure when to clap, ashen faced and unsure whether to show appreciation or what. Then courtesy kicks in, cheering and whooping.

Hannah Rodgers performed with a calm and beautifully hypnotic, dancing voice to the sound of her band. With eyes that looked past the crowd and into the afternoon, unfaltering she did not show off; but seemed to engage each individual with an underdeveloped attitude. Rodgers has left herself room to grow, room to move within her own music, and kept control the whole time. With a backing vocalist that stood static and drew up a magnificent contrast to Rodgers herself in both sound and style. Emotionally intelligent lyrics were delivered with an honesty and integrity that left no doubt about this band’s potential.
The Barbican Young Poets are undoubtedly talented as individuals in their own right, but as a group fell into the typical poetic trap of providing overwhelmingly melancholy verbs. Raw emotion can be wrought like a snowplough tooling a bracelet; the delicacy of passion, the insight of an artist utterly marred by a lack of censorship regarding light and heavy emotion. “Home is something that happened/ Not somewhere to go” these lines are touching, yet disparate with the Steez ethos, and the stunned crowd seemed unable to react appropriately, one girls mother at the bar laughs unfeelingly, loud and raucous. Props to Amaal Said, Shoshana Anderson, Rena Minegishi, Omar Bynon and Sunayana Bhargava.

The two man band, Jacob Allen have “still waters running deep” within them as they crash their way though the indie alt rock barrier erected by society. From humming to literally screaming, with the astoundingly versatile voce that Allen has, it’s a surprise that he doesn’t have his own sound yet. It seems that despite great musical talent and no little skill as a wordsmith, he bends over backwards to accommodate himself within the stylistic niche left by Thom Yorke and the like. It wasn’t quite Radiohead, and they went trying to be, really, but that was the predominant feeling left each time Allen’s voice fluctuated and pitched in that familiar (and enviable) way.

Jazz exploded in the form of Exodous, whose interpretive solos from the clarinet to the bass to the sax left the room thirsty for more. Never faltering, moving fluidly from number to number with an energy that masked the power of their music. The positivity they exuded was matched only by the next act in, Haraket. These lead singer of these cats sculpted sounds and syllables with her hands, leading and tripping her way though verse after verse, deliberately placing lyrics in obscure and unobtainably beautiful places. Guided as if by an uneducated explorer Haraket took their place a the head of a journey to explore the peaks and troughs of a musical experience that was laid out in advance, then unfurled like a lily in spring. The audience connected with these last two acts intimately, suddenly there was no seating, and we danced into the night.

It is almost ironic that Neon Soul faired worse off than Steez, for despite being younger in both mind and matter, the mood seemed to be just right for the environment. But perhaps the future comes faster than we see it, rushing past and before you can draw your breath, things have changed. Perhaps it’s just me growing up, growing old(er). It may well be that Bussey has become too much of an institution; one that in its rigidity is unable to accommodate a newborn, or maybe it was just a night fated for awesome Steez. Big up Boo, big up The Barb’s Poets, Neon Soul and of course; big up STEEZ. I was at ease.

Make sure to catch Steez for Freedom III this Saturday 26th at the Amersham Arms

Words by Jon Ferguson