A folk gig in Bristol usually follows a basic structure: the back room of an oak bar, off a graffitied side street, filled with dungaree clad whiskey youth nursing pints and swaying, occasionally dragging nonchalantly on a cigarette or leaning through the music to whisper enigmatically into studded ears. Jordan Mackampa’s mid-evening set at The Crofters Rights is no different, accompanied by swaying teens and a yellow spectacle.
Following two applauded EP’s that combine a unique blend of jazz, folk and gospel music, Jordan Mackampa steps onto the blue hue stage in Bristol after a year, to an audience four times the size. As he opens with ‘Magic,’ a folk strewn number characterised by that soulful voice, a man in yellow dungarees, a yellow polar neck top, and yellow raincoat, leaves the room to purchase another pint. In his absence, Jordan moves into ‘Saint,’ easily one of his best songs. Plucky guitar strings seem to have the exact cadence as Jordan’s vocals, which are as devastating as they are lovely, filled with a raw emotion that gives the artist a vulnerable edge.
In contrast, song number three, ‘One in The Same,’ released earlier this year, is instrumentally driven. With an almost Vance Joy feel, it’s upbeat and full of character. As Jordan moves into three new songs, the vibrantly dressed Man In Yellow slips back in clutching two foaming pints which slop onto his dungarees and speckle his raincoat. A couple holding hands in the shadows frown at his sunshine attitude, which seems to starkly contrast the hard-hitting tunes playing out onstage, addressing long distance love and identity dilemmas.
The band leaves the stage for ‘Foreigner’ and suddenly the sheer musical prowess and evocative power of our headliner is apparent. Alone on stage, with only a six-string wooden instrument, a microphone and emotion on his lips for company, Jordan tells the tale of growing up in the Congo and feeling alien in a place where he should have belonged. This is where he is strongest: singing deeply personal, emotionally analytic songs that are both topical and relatable. The Man In Yellow finishes off his pint without removing his eyes from the craftsperson on stage, bathed in Congolese colours.
When the band steps back on, they feel almost detrimental, distracting from the thematic strength of Jordan’s music. Although, the audience responds to the added rhythmic factor, with a twitch of the hips. ‘Under’ boasts a pounding rhythm, whilst ‘Warning Sign’ opens with a jazz beat and strings. As the melodies weave through the room, The Man In Yellow sheds a shade, and hiccups himself in circles, with surprising elegance, along to the blistering singles.
Much like the vibrantly dressed Yellow Man who trips out the room singing ‘Dominoes’ as the gig closes, Jordan Mackampa is at his finest when left to his own devices. His strength lies in the lyrics and in the dynamic material that is instrumentally simple but topically diverse and deep. Best enjoyed with a drunk yellow view.
October Tour Dates
22nd Berlin, Badehaus
23 Hamburg, Haekken
25th Zurich, Papiersaal