‘It felt sad to be one after the other instead of all together… So I asked my agent to try and make it happen.’
The crowd is seated and it suddenly becomes dark. A punchy kick drum, programmed to a heartbeat, slices through strobe-lit air. The stage is barren. Slowly, a moody, bass driven cover of 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’ creeps into the hall, as Lafawndah and co., clad in futuristic frills, descend to the stage.
This is where The Honey Colony live starts. ‘Equal parts celebration and provocation, THE HONEY COLONY is a decentralised concert experience that aims to upend the staid relationships between performers, producers and audience members.’ Focused on the Egyptian-Iranian reimaginings released on her second volume of the Honey Colony series, the show was a ‘super-group moment’ for her and others, including Kelsey Lu, Elheist and Bonnie Bananae, to present the mixtape as something more than just the physical release. Without the shackles of a typical gig structure, off-stage backing vocals, unexpected duets, and a seemingly random artist order, the programme really did blend into a visual representation of what a mixtape can aspire to – something both spontaneous and entertaining.
Throughout the 90 minutes, we hop from the avant-pop of Kelsey Lu and Lafawndah, to Elheist’s bass heavy, off-beat rhythms, songs from Tirzah’s Devotion, to Nidia Minaj’s intense Kuduro rhythm. This musical disorientation was matched physically too, as the stage was often vacated in favour of the stalls; I’m pretty sure they were doing stall laps at one point. But in the flurry of it all, there were moments of collaborative splendour. From Tirzah’s humbling performance of Devotion, with Mica Levi and Coby Sey, Kelsey Lu’s performance of reimagined but equally racing Due West, and Elheist’s and Lafawndah’s Bye Bye, there was a real sense that the group were bound to each other. That their songs had been written for one another, unknowingly yet consciously.
With the Colony either all on stage, sitting by it, or in the crowd, we see everything too. Every group dance is on stage. Throw away gags are made across microphones admiring gazes given from the foot of the stage. Everything happened in the clearing and nothing was hidden from plain view. Making the end result feel all the more honest.
Sure it was a bit unpolished, and a few punters couldn’t hack it and left halfway. But everyone that stayed seated witnessed a group of musicians that were stubbornly proud on three fronts. Proud of their work. Proud of each other. And proud to perform side by side, loving it all the while. Yes, there is a place for live shows that play the album on a record. For sullen faced bands to come on, play what’s wanted, and leave, looking only at their loop pedals for the duration. But there is also a place for The Honey Colony. For unsettling dust. For looking at new ways to present performance art, theatre and music as one. And out on the frontier, the Honey Colony did just that.
Words: Nick Moore