An enticing lesson in a modern rock from newcomers Khartoum

Descending into the basement of Laylow, London’s new proclaimed hotspot, one could tell this was not your normal gig; the door people were too stylish, the stairway smell is too sweet and the bar specialised in cocktails. Furthermore, it was past 9.30pm and the first band had not yet graced the stage; this all filled me with trepidation and unhinged my doors of perception. I think, in hindsight, this is the MO of Khartoum, an up and coming band who skillfully moonlight as curators of high-quality music nights.

Luckily, we were not teased much past 9.30pm, instead, we were thoroughly seduced by Fluxxx, a marriage of two conceptual music artists, namely Evelyn Drach and Roman Knows. This is a successful marriage and we saw it get consummated on stage with meaningful vocals stretched over pulsating drumbeats and sexy guitar strums.

After a short interlude the next band crowded on to the stage, hailing from Paris and with a reputation for making music to make love to, the Oracle Sisters did not disappoint but showed more depth than this attribution. On numerous occasions their lullaby sound ascended into lofty 70’s style rock jam with a stage presences to match, indeed they played on the three by two-metre podium as if it was an arena stage. A poignant moment was when they invited a guest singer to come up to the stage, introduced as the muse of Paris, and by the end of the unreleased song, the crowd dutifully sang along as if they had been listening to it in their bedrooms all afternoon. This cemented their fate as a band to watch for me.

Finally, the curators and headline band took the stage and we were treated to the Khartoum Show. This band has made positive waves over the last year and rightfully so, with very few releases to date this buzz has been driven by their live performances. The first song, ‘Gameplan’, was a clever introduction to the change of pace we were about to experience. After this, the gloves were off and we experienced a fusion of sounds played out in the name of Rock music that saw the crowd unwittingly being taken on a journey of sound. Indeed, during the music set, I saw the same people skank, sway, twist, rock-out and mosh, in that order. Their skills as curators had clearly been extended to their own set, as the performance was constantly building up to something and I think we innately knew it. It started to come clearer during the last three tracks which saw frontman, Oscar Dun Bar, come into his own and on numerous occasions into the crowd, including the spectacle of him being lifted up to the ceiling and kicking it whilst the band played out their only released song to date, 'Save Me.' This is something afforded to him by the autonomy shown by the rest of the band who played out the track with precisions and passion. Every time one thought you had Khartoum pinned the undertone of the music would be switched up and you would have to re-think or just go with it and dance, different elements of the crowd did either or both. The last track, and their new single, 'Stuck in the Room’, served as the denouement we had all been waiting for with Oscar was raised up once again to a soundtrack that was definitely Rock but did not become a parody of the genre, which can often be the case with new (Rock) bands.

Indeed, there have been countless protestations over the years that Rock is dead, and with the revelation in 2017 that Hip-Hop has become the most consumed genre for the first time ever this seems to be supported by the facts. However, Khartoum and the bands they vouch for seem to fly in the face of this statement, and from what I saw the genre is not dead it was just evolving in the shadows through inflexion about the past and becoming more professional and considered, and perhaps bringing the music to the front instead of the lifestyle. Also, as the gender balance of the bands showed, with all three acts featuring females, rock as we know it is updating itself and like every great invention staying relevant, something Khartoum is playing more than its part in facilitating.

Photo credit: Ryan Henry