Sail Out LDN’s return to the stage brought unmatched electricity, celebrating rnb, soul, rap and alternative music with professional structure and a wildly talented roster.
Sail Out LDN’s first show as a renewed and expanded creative co-operative was a night of flowing electricity, a guided exploration of musical and performed beauty. In a small café the group populated the floor with instruments, tables, plant life, cameras, wires, and most importantly people; this was an inclusive event by design, with beings of all descriptions filling the room as a tight and diverse crowd. Just as varied was the band itself, a sizeable array of vocalists and players. Individuality and connection were championed in tandem, the band forming a soulful choir in a loose semicircle. Electricity was evidenced in the lighting, the sound, the faces, with the sun’s percussive heat inspiring yet more motion in the room. Our journey as a crowd, however, was modelled around a “boat trip”, oft mentioned and loosely visualised; to follow art is common, but this was an invitation to be part of it.
John Alone took centre stage first, as well as the most times overall. As a performer he’s a wonder, a charismatic lead vocalist with surprising range. Changes to vocal texture and subsequent changes in mood define his work; on stage these were heightened by posture that in interlaced moments looks to heaven and collapses to the ground. “Jane” and “sunday” were prefaced by stories that rope onlookers in, soft oscillations maintaining an air of care and intimacy even through some of John’s starkest lyrics. “sunday” was as much a showcase for Jedz, the drummer, who seemed to meet each note with tempered fury, collecting the energy for each crash, or snare, or kick from a place of unimaginable inner strength. His timing was also stunning – in a later solo Jedz used his powers as timekeeper to play emotional games; groupings of notes held then struck in waves, his sticks coming down like falling stalactites amidst the other sections’ harmonies.
The hardest artist to describe remains Ayeisha Raquel, whose soaring voice continues to escape labels. At one point her mic cut out entirely – she just kept going, as if she didn’t even need it in the first place. In terms of raw power and projection nobody else came close; Raquel’s volume and tone were huge but never harsh. The constraints of range were absent, if there was a note Raquel wanted then she would simply reach it. Smoky songs merged into each other in her presence, a presence which, whilst melodically imposing and utterly captivating, allowed ample room for the band to interrogate themselves and each other. Saxophonist Larissa Miller was an inspired addition to the lineup. Though too rarely the focal point her brass-edged tones were simply irreplaceable; her playing was blooming and essential, cutting through the mix in shallow lines, but cutting still. Henry Isbill, the enigmatic keys player, was by comparison quite often the most noticeable, consciously battling Jedz’ rhythms with his own. Lyrics from Raquel carved out space; “you’ll be safe in my embrace, we can make it I have faith”.
Similar to Ayeisha Raquel in some regards was Ckbreeze – both dedicated to testing the limits of their voices. Where Raquel would project outwards, Ck seemed to drag each gravelly note from deep within. Listening to him sing was meditative. His form was rigid, allowing clarity on bar-heavy songs like “Kyrie”. It would’ve been nice to hear more of him, he was the subtlest but most intriguing of the performers, with an addictive and curious style. A multitude of other moments come to mind – the aquatic flourish of “Come We GOT Diamonds” from Bukky, Son Silva’s too-intense yet gripping “Kisses II”, a range of skilful solos for backup vocalists during “On the Run”. Ryan and Tara on guitar and bass respectively showed consistency, venturing into intricacy in rare solos and combining explosively for “Sunny Skies”. Respect was a key part of the atmosphere, laid out in an original overture and reinforced by presenters Yesidé and Arenma. It’s crucial that as musicians gather the courage to return to live work nobody is taken for granted.
By the conclusion day had turned to night behind our backs. Josh Kye sang the show out soulfully. Band and crowd became one, with watchers diffusing to join and congratulate their friends on stage. The moment I left with, though, was from Bukky (who, of all the artists, seemed the most at home in front of an audience). Bukky’s trance-like performance of “Sweat” was a hallucinogenic privilege. She interwove with the crucial backup team – composed mainly of Tahn Solo, Jessica, and Andrew Nksansah, with frequent changes and substitutions – to form a polyphonic mesh of voices, full of subtle contrast and layered overtones. Each time the song’s refrain “sweat it out” led to laughs of “one more time” the sound became more legitimate, more tangible, more possessive. She seemed to stare into a kind of musical nirvana, each repeat slushier and slower than the rest, offering every note its rightful importance.
Each performance differed wildly from any studio version, and these minutes of unreleased music only exist on the stage. This was the culmination of Sail Out’s profound energy. They are returning the gift of live music to London’s rising music scene, making clear that some things can only be felt in person.
– Jamie (Staff @108MICS)
Some names have been partially or fully omitted – this is either by request or due to them not being public.
Disclosures: I was given access to the set list for this event afterwards. I also know a member of the band personally. This article was not sponsored in any way. Nobody from Sail Out LDN read, edited, or approved this article before publishing.