Thursday night at the Shacklewell Arms, Dalston; the place is packed, and shortly, Matthew Urango aka Cola Boyy will be playing his first London headline show.
“Excuse me, are you Cola Boyy?”, a young woman asks, “I was wondering if I could get a picture?” Politely, Cola Boyy consents. The quiet courtesy he displays as he strolls through the pub-come-venue could be down to nerves, but it’s hard to believe a man in that much velour could be unsure about anything.
The self-described ‘Disabled Disco Innovator’ who hails from Oxnard, California like other genre-innovators Madlib and Anderson .Paak is a self-taught musician and singer. His typical, natural, and comfortingly fitting voice is the consequence of a disability from birth; while this is referenced in music, most of his songs talk of happiness, community spirit, and love, peppered with hints to posi-activism, one of which is clearly displayed on his back-stage banner righteously proclaiming that ‘RENTISTOOHIGH’. In fact, this banner was somehow stolen by an audience member post-show, so for those who were in attendance, I’m sure Urango would welcome any potential leads.
The evening’s disco-infused vibes kicked-off with support band TUNGZ, whose charming sounds really got a surprising amount of hips shaking for a freezing Thursday night in February.
For what is ostensibly a back room in a pub, the sound at the Shacklewell is astonishingly good; often live disco can suffer from those essential groovy nuances being buried, but the Shacklewell manages to avoid this completely. Must be something to do with the venue’s small stage, meaning drummers get tucked away in their very own stage-cavity.
The setlist was spotted with new tracks, a moving-but-not-in-a-rubbish-way acoustic interlude, and a reassuring amount of guitar solos. Standouts songs included ‘All Power to the People’ with its communal call-and-response chorus, and the penultimate song ‘Penny Girl’ from 2018’s Black Boogie Neon. It’s certainly no surprise to see why Cola Boyy was picked up by French record label Record Makers, who count the likes of Sébastien Tellier and Kavinsky among their groove-laden ranks.
Disco has always been a victim of parody and is never really seen as the ‘facist-killing machine’ that other DIY genres are. That said, in our increasingly evolving social landscape, if it’s celebrating diversity in arts, communities, and politics then any form of activism would certainly benefit from a hefty dose of groove from Cola Boyy.