The queue spills outside Redroaster Café and onto St. James Street for an evening hosted by Floetics and promising ‘poetry, open mic, facepainting and colouring in’. Tonight’s compére introduces Floetics as a collective which ‘supports new performers and provides a platform for them to share their precious lyrics’.

Poetry night pulls in the puntersSpoken word, music and facepainting all in one night? In a coffee shop? Rob Parker investigates…

Floetics, Redroaster Cafe 14/01/2009

‘Judging by the large audience, Floetics has cultivated a word-of-mouth following of performers and fans alike’

Floetics is an established event in Brighton, celebrating its 2nd birthday at the same venue next month and judging from the large audience, it has cultivated a word-of-mouth following of performers and fans alike.

The Redroaster is the perfect venue for such an event, with expressive modern art hung on the walls and a perimeter reaching far enough to house tonight’s audience, which is in excess of seventy.

Audience participation is a large part of tonight’s creative ethic, and alongside providing posters for the audience to colour-in and decorate as they wish, recording artist Michael McCain asks audience members to visit his recording equipment on stage during the interval and record a personal message, which he will remix into an original track for the inclusion on a CD celebrating the 2nd anniversary of Floetics.

The best performances of the first half of tonight’s act are provided by three members of the Brighton based spoken-word collective Juke Box Poets. First to perform is female member Fleassy Malay, who delivers a Tolkien-inspired mythical re-imagining of a visit to the job centre, which she describes as ‘a labyrinth of friends and foes’ where ‘unearthed mysteries’ must be solved to ‘reach the golden treasure – Job Seeker’s Allowance’.

The poem that was received most resoundingly by tonight’s audience is Fleassy’s piece about her efforts to leave Brighton. This spoken-word piece begins listing reasons why she must flee the city immediately, painting landmarks as decaying creatures; ‘the west pier reaches longingly to the sky, the structure of her arthritic bones aching’. However, the piece becomes more of a love letter addressed to the city, with Fleassy concluding on her departure that she was ‘glad [she] spent more money for a return ticket’.

‘The female vocalist muses somewhat obscurely on the progression of music: ‘music revolutions will change, sometimes it may sound strange, because it is an ill format’

Fleassy is joined onstage by fellow Juke Box Poet Ashley French, and the pair deliver a spoken-word dialogue entitled ‘Flatland’. Full of wordplay and dense rhymes the piece concerns the writing of poetry and the procrastination that invariably accompanies it – a topic which the predominantly student audience can relate to. In the second half of the act a third Juke Box Poet, Daniel Rovira, takes to the stage, delivering an improvised piece inspired by the objects, names and opening line suggested by audience members.

The opening musical act arrives in the form of The Blind Jerries’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s beloved hit ‘Nine to Five’, providing the audience their first sing along opportunity. With the combination of guitar, banjo, melodica and harp, the band produce an eclectic sound, upon which the female vocalist delivers hip-hop inspired rhymes, musing somewhat obscurely on the progression of music: ‘music revolutions will change, sometimes it may sound strange – because it is an ill format’.

Next to perform is singer-songwriter Steph Brown. Despite claiming to be tired from dragging her keyboard all the way from Cambridge, she delivers acrobatic, soulful vocals and adept keyboard playing providing odd melodies that are an instant hit with the audience. Reminiscent of the likes of Regina Spektor and Joanna Newsom, Brown’s lyrics often border on the surreal: ‘In my clown shoes I dance around you, mocking the fact you are more delicate than I’.

Going by my experience of Floetics from tonight, it seems to me an event which embraces creativity in an array of forms. Performers of music and spoken-word poetry, and fans of both, should be sure to get themselves to Floetics’ 2nd birthday party at the Redroaster on Wednesday 18th of February.

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