Everyone needs somewhere to start. Somewhere to begin. Somewhere to try something new or just re-confirm they are walking the right path. Not everything needs to be judged, rated or unwillingly thrown in to competition. Sometimes things just need to be enjoyed and moments learned from. This seems like the sentiment on which Pop Revue was built. Giving musicians an opportunity to perform in a friendly atmosphere, free from judgement and glaringly critical eyes.
I first went to Pop Revue back in 2009 and hardly anything has changed since then. Same venue. Same organisers. Same community feel among the artists milling around before and after their three song sets.
I often wonder if the people casually sipping cocktails upstairs in Freedom Bar each first Monday of the month have a clue what is going on downstairs. Pop Revue is a night of musical diversity; on Monday evening alone there was playful folk music from Chris Smee, Alaskan Americana courtesy Kelly Moneymaker and, some extremely sassy pop from Red Prism. The R&B spectrum was covered with Elizabeth Ajao delivering some fierce numbers while Dez Mensah decided to soothingly croon people’s hearts away before hosting a mini party on stage!
The variety of musical styles were all met with encouraging support from friends and birthday celebrators, parents and well-wishers. It has an atmosphere of nurturing. Musicians surrounded by entourages of friends; full of loud nervous laughter or filling the front row to provide a line of friendly faces. Others sitting solemnly in the corner spending a few stolen moments whispering lyrics to themselves.
I remember years ago seeing a young (FKA) Twigs perform and evoke memories of Kate Bush. More recently, seeing the wonderful Nefera on two separate occasions; first time acoustic, the second with her band. Once again using the opportunity to figure things out and refine her sound for future music to come. Then there was the shy Ella Rothwell, someone quickly becoming a darling of the local London folk scene, playing one of her first London gigs on the Pop Revue stage.
Then again, Pop Revue isn’t about uncovering the proverbial “next big thing” to run home and tell your friends about. It is more important than that. It is about giving musicians, at an early stage in their career, the opportunity to learn how to become the next big thing in an atmosphere of encouragement. And for that we should all be grateful.
With empty cocktail glasses being collected, and the last tube inching closer we made an exit in to the Soho night. Pop Revue isn’t a evening of hype, however it is one London should be very proud of.