Friday, 26 December 2008

Spoken Word: Pip Vs PIP The Greatest Spoken Word night of the modern day

How do you explain to someone a magic moment.
Well you can't, you just tell them they missed out. The second best I can do for you is recreate it in writing.

I had been putting on Lazy Gramophone Present shows for the last year. The night consisted of music, spoken word, performance with art displays in a second room. The performance poets were exceptional at what they were doing on the LG nights, and no one (many still don't) knew about them enough.
After speaking to Joshua Idehen during a show, we discussed putting on a one off night called Pip Vs PIP. From that point I set into motion the greatest poetry gig of the modern day. Firstly I had to find the poets. This wasn't at all hard. They consisted of Scroobius Pip who formed a band called Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip (and had a classic hit 'Thou Shalt Always Kill'). Anyway Scroobius had saved money and given up his day job in 2006 and was now driving around doing poetry gigs...

...poetry gigs...OK when I say the word poetry or reading poetry, what do you think? Maybe a person reading from a collection of poems they have dustily written, and are reciting them to a room of about 9 people, half of which are yawning. You might not be wrong. But this is not the case at the moment. Somehow out of this has come a force of spoken word artists who perform their poetry in lively and uplifting ways. Capturing the imagination of those in a room...

...Scroobius Pip was one of those poets. He has classics like 'Angles', 'Letter from God to Man' and 'Thou Shalt Always Kill'. These pieces not only drew you in but made you feel at one with the poem, as if you had a part in helping the way it was written and an uncanny familiarity to the actual story. This is the same with pieces such as Polar Bear's 'Jessica', Musa Okwonga's 'Cooper Chimbonda', Ventriloquist's 'James Brown', Excentral Tempest's 'Balance', Joshua Idehen's 'Stop Me', Inua Ellam's 'Candy Coated Unicorns and Converse All Stars', Mat Lloyd's 'Two Inches to the Left', Gypsy Girl's 'Stage Fright' and so on.
Scroobius Pip was now having immense success with his band, putting his poetry over electronic music and I was fortunate enough to book him before it all kicked off for him later that year. If you hadn't guessed he was the 'Pip' in the title. Next we had Poem Inbetween People an accumulation of Musa Okwonga, Joshua Idehen, Inua Ellams, Poeticat and Shabaka on Sax. They were the 'PIP' in the other half of the title. Josh and Musa were later to move on and form Benin City out of this group, a superb live music act.
I then went about booking Polar Bear who later couldn't make the night and was replaced by AF Harold. As well we had Gypsy Girl, Mat Lloyd, Ventriloquist, Excentral Tempest, performance group NeveroddoreveN (later to form into SKIPtheatre) and display artists Matt Black, Tom Harris (Tom The Pen) and Andrew Walter. We also decided to give all the money from the night to charity in aid of Cancer Research UK.

So the date was set for Lazy Gramophone Presents Pip Vs PIP on Saturday September 22nd 2007 for a whole night of spoken word at The Macbeth, Hoxton, London. To have a night like this on a Saturday in a pub was unheard of and could have been a complete failure.
Anyway people started filtering into the venue at 8pm and before we knew it there were over 200 people in the room.

I started off by warming up the audience, this didn't by any means need me to gyrate my hips or even spinning around in the light with my glitter ball head piece. But to ask them 'can you feel it?', to which they replied 'yes we can!'. After doing this a few times 'Can You Feel It' came on by The Jacksons. Next we had NeveroddoreveN kick off with a colourful set with umbrellas and audience interaction. From that each poet leading up to Pip Vs PIP had a 10 minute set.

This started with Poeticat, A F Harold and Mat Lloyd speaking on the bar.

Try to imagine this though, 200 people in a pub not saying a single word but watching, listening and telling people to be quiet when a poet was performing. On top of this each time a poem was performed the crowd went wild, and I ain't talking about no out in the bush wild with zebras and lions, but screaming, hollering and whooping wild! This shouldn't have even been possible with the nights I had been watching on the scene, but everyone was a part of the experience and gelled together.

We had a break after this and next came on Gypsy Girl and Ventriloquist with his classic 'James Brown'. By this point the atmosphere was becoming electric. I had been getting a little tetchy cause Excentral Tempest hadn't turn up yet, but to aplomb she turned up on cue and went on stage.

The crowd went mental, reacting to every syllable she spoke. It was truly awe inspiring and I think that was felt by her as well. From that point the bar was set.
I started getting the crowd to shout 'Pippy' in the way the audience from the Rocky film chant.
As they were chanting this name (which obviously referred to both acts) the theme tune 'Gonna Fly Now' from Rocky came in with me introducing ' my right corner, weighing 170 pounds with black beard and cap, we have Scrooooooooobius Pip...' and ' my left corner having an accumulative weight of 650 pounds and being bad ass we have A Poem Inbetweeeeeeeeeeeen People'. Both came on stage, white towels over necks squaring up to each other.

The crowd went wild, how could they not?!
So the way the night was set out was an accapella piece by both people, then a piece to live music, and finally two pieces over electronic music.

First came Inua Ellams followed by Scroobius. The crowd went crazy on both, hanging to every word.

Next came Joshua with Shabaka on Sax with 'Stop Me', one of the best performances on the night, followed by Scroobius with his 6"2" Piano player.

We then went into the electronic realm with Musa and Scroobius each performing. By this point in the battle neither act could be separated on who was the better.

So we came to the finale, neither act willing to acknowledge defeat.
PIP did their all time classic 'This Is London' the crowd couldn't contain themselves, it was electric. Scroobius then came up and performed 'Thou Shalt Always Kill'. On his final line everyone seemed to join in from the whole room '....and thou shalt always, and thou shalt always...Kill!'.

It was immense the roof was shaking and some say even smouldering. We who were poets, artists and organisers stood in disbelief to the crowd reaction. I came on stage and asked everyone to hush. From that I asked firstly who thinks Scroobius Pip should win, the crowd went insane, the place did truly shake. Next I asked who thinks PIP should win, again a sound that if had come from the lord of thunder himself would have truly been proud of. We just could not believe what we had all done, it was a draw but that didn't matter in the end.

A scene to this day still slowly making waves showed in one night what it can really do and was a bench mark for many of them, most now moving into music.

We made £1045 for charity and left on the biggest high imaginable.

The Greatest Spoken Word night of the modern day...

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