By Sean Lawrenson, First Year English
Ezra Collective’s rise through the Bristol music scene has culminated in a fantastic 90-minute set at the O2 Academy. Talking about his love for the city, Femi Koleoso spoke about how ten years ago they had played in the Bristol Canteen, then Thekla and Trinity respectively.
The band seems to have been inadvertently intertwined into the city’s roaring jazz scene, signified by them kicking off their This Is Where I’m Meant To Be tour in the city.
Family seemed to be the guiding theme of the set, with Femi telling us that he wanted us to become "one big Ezra Collective family." The house lights were briefly turned on, and, like children on the first day of school, we were told to introduce ourselves to complete strangers. Awkward at first, once the initial cringing wore off, it made the rest of the set that extra bit enjoyable, feeling, like I imagine Femi had hoped, a bit of a collective.
The staging was simple, but effective, with the drum and keys on platforms towards the back of the stage, opening up the floor for bassist TJ Koleoso, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi and tenor saxophonist James Mollison to explore the floor, at one point quite literally joining us in the audience.
Perhaps the greatest credit to the band would be their seamless transitions between their songs, with Femi and keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones locked in some kind of whiplash style music off, much to the joy, another key theme of the evening, of the audience. At times it felt as though the balcony section would collapse from underneath me, such was the incessant nature of the stomping feet around.
By far one of the highlights of the evening was their rendition of Sun-Ra’s 'Space is the Place', with lights being turned all the way down, nothing but a sea of luminescent phones to light up the stage, Mollison brought us and them into the song with a minute and a half solo on his sax. It felt a far cry from scenes that followed, but it seems important to note the more emotional moments in the evening, such as Femi’s impassioned speech about supporting independent venues and artists as, in his own words "the middle tier of music is under threat."
The night came to a close with two of their most well-known songs, 'Sao Paulo' and 'Juan Pablo'. Just before they broke into the former, Femi reminded us of what we had been asked to do at the start, and then proceeded to inform us that he wanted us to salsa with this same random stranger.
So there I was, dancing with a person I hadn’t met up until an hour ago, to a song that just screams sunburnt at a festival in June, and it couldn’t have been any more entertaining. It is safe to assume that based on the set they delivered, the Ezra Collective family grew that little bit bigger on a cold Saturday night in Bristol.
Featured Image: Sean Lawrenson
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