Looking for your hit of London’s next big underground music scene? Garden Of Rhythm is the city’s up-and-coming event, here with a bang and a host of young artists already causing a stir. They are London’s new underground music scene takes post-lockdown city by storm.
Walking into the venue, Spitalfield’s The Breakfast Club, is like walking into another world. As I step inside, past the strings of fairy lights and retro polaroids on the walls, a waitress directs me into… a fridge. No, that’s not a joke.
I’ve never felt so impressive than when I disappeared inside a 1950s fridge and reappeared in an underground speakeasy. Hello, Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, one of London’s hidden cocktail bars.
The atmosphere is so different from London’s streets that I nearly get whiplash. In here, it’s cosy and toasty. I watch singers, artists, producers, tech, and bar staff greet each other like family and immediately know this is the sort of venue that becomes a ‘local’ pretty quickly.
There is a stag’s head mounted on the wall, complete with government-mandated face mask, and backdropped by a thousand paper cranes bouncing on wires. In the stage and seating area are walls full of vinyl records, beer mats, and enough antique ceramic cats that I could believe this bar grew out of a bric-a-brac. (And who could forget the literal marionette dangling from the ceiling because I sure didn’t).
At about 7pm, the gig launches with Big Scoop, a spoken word artist who speaks poetry about “things that just make sense”. His poem about growing up in the hood, around drugs and violence, moves the crowd to silence, murmurs of agreement occasionally swiping through, especially at, “You can’t even fold. Gotta play with the hand you were dealt”.
As the club owner and host for the evening put it, he’s got “bars for days”.
The wild reaction from his friends in the crowd drowns out the mic for half a minute before they calm down and he starts with a cover before going into his debut.
“Come Over”, he told me, is a song about toxic lovers, about finally putting an end to a series of encounters that have been going on too long and nearly doing too much damage. The final song in the segment is the as-of-yet unreleased single, “Golden Hour”, which proves to be such a bop that the audience are carrying half the volume.
I catch Leo as he comes off stage (and after watching him beeline for the bar and do an instant shot) to ask him about the show and his upcoming release.
“Oh my God, oh my God, that was my first official gig. I was so nervous. I had a full-on panic before I went on stage. Could you tell? I could tell. But I am so glad it went well! I could not have done that without the incredible support of L4ENT. I was only expecting four of my friends to turn up as well, and yet a whole bunch of them showed out to support me – two all the way from Bristol.
This experience was just the encouragement I needed for my upcoming release, ‘Golden Hour’. Hopefully, I’ll be looking to direct this music video like I did the one for ‘come over’, which came out last month. This next one will be mostly outside and around autumn’s ‘golden hour’ so… watch this space!”
After Leo is Alessia And The Psychopaths on stage. Alessia has been the resident pianist for the night and I expect she won’t have much chance to sit down tonight between acts but, rocking on to stage, you’d never know.
She drops her coat and she’s wearing a silver leotard under a sheer dress, the epitome of glam rock as she opens with “I Call This Love”. Her first song is ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” with a femme punk makeover, officially released the day after the event.
Alessia And The Psychopath’s next two songs are marked by a kick-ass guitar and a drum solo from the band, both making the audience roar so loud half of London might hear us. I catch up with her as she comes off stage.
“I have always composed on the piano. When I was much younger and still living in Switzerland, my teacher encouraged me to write my own music. I wrote my first song at 10, after my first English lesson, because I fell in love with it as a language. I don’t write much in German anymore because English feels more natural.
I love to collab on projects and I’ve written for almost every genre although my favourite is absolutely disco pop. At the moment, I have a few songs coming up but I’m focusing on being able to perform live and organising more collabs”, she offers.
It’s at this moment that Alessia spies the resident guitarist for the night and begins the somewhat informal challenge of signing him up for her band.
The next act on is Kaey, the upcoming soulful voice of R&B, whose debut EP Lights Out was awarded ‘Best New EP’ in 2019 by UK Unsigned Hype.
Her closing song, “dRunk”, might become my new favourite thing and follows on the tail of “VK Blue” with its relatable lyrics and pounding bass, melodising the horror of texting an ex “u up?” (which, let’s face it, is a mood).
“I’m sorry, I’m so drunk, right now”, is what she tells me first as we sit on some sticky stairs in a corner and I admire the six-inch platform boots she’s wearing.
“Tonight has been my first proper performance at an organised gig and I’m still reeling. All these songs came from a place that really means something to me – I really struggled for a while when it just felt like nothing was okay – so, to sing this in front of all these people is incredible.
My mum jokes that I came out singing, that she used to turn around and find me singing to the dog! It’s that kind of passion that makes a young artist succeed in this industry, I think. It’s not easy, at all. Sometimes I wake up and I just don’t want to do this anymore. Music is such an emotional rollercoaster but, if you love what you do, that makes all the difference”.
The final act of the evening is Scarlett Andrews, an alternative R&B singer from humble beginnings, who grew organically from Soundcloud streams.
Her first song, the unreleased “Loyal”, is an absolutely stunning clash of Lana Del Ray and Bishop Briggs vocals that is made all the more impressive when Scarlett uncorks a bottle of white wine and pours herself a glass right on stage.
Her other track “Hell” was voted ‘Track of the Week’ by her hometown radio station BBC Leicester a few weeks ago, and she’s looking to release “Loyal” and “Dangerous” as singles soon.
“When I started working with L4ENT to release my music, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into but it has proved to be an amazing decision now that I’m actually getting professionally produced music out there“, she tells me.
“Always always write and sing the music you love. I don’t think I could have got here with the same passion if I just played the same mainstream music everyone else does.
Don’t sing to impress. If you believe in your music then others will, too. After I move to London, I’ll be writing and recording and gigging more music to really carve out my career as a musician – it’s all I want to do. Plus, it’s either this or go back to admin. So…”
With the gig winding down, our host for the evening appears on stage to thank all the artists and bar staff here tonight but especially a huge thank you to that group of people in the front of the audience who screamed and cheered louder than anyone has ever heard.
While speaking to one of the audience, I learn just how quickly London’s music scene is changing.
“We’ve been watching them (London venues) close one by one for the last few years. The club I met my partner in actually closed not that long ago. There’s not many you can call a local anymore, one that you can keep going back to and know that it’ll always be a good night”, she tells me.
Perhaps this is where BowlBay Records, partner of L4ENT and owner of Garden of Rhythm, comes in.
Garden Of Rhythm has certainly carved itself out a slice of London’s underground that doesn’t care about the mainstream and only wants to showcase the amazing voices coming into the scene. L4ENT, on its tail, is mentoring a host of gifted young artists into the industry who are here to slay.
It’s safe to say, they are ones to watch.
Words by Elizabeth Train-Brown // Photo Credit: Ogaga Blessing