The Mouse Outfit
- Mr Thing
It’s that time of year again. It’s a balmy summer’s eve and the Baltic Garden Party is in full beast mode in the small outdoor area at the back of 24 Kitchen Street. Hip hop archivist MR THING is in deep, fuelling the dancing footsteps of a horde of avid beatsters with some classic beats and rhymes. Spirits are, simply, high. It’s a lush scene in the haze of the summer warmth, the sun burning low in the sky, the musical mix absolutely on point, and, before Sunday turns to Monday and we have to shrink back into normality, we have a night of live music to spur us on.
Before long people start to venture indoors. It’s about time for the band to start. Up comes HARLEIGHBLU and her band. As they dive into their set it seems, at first, as if they’re battling with the DJ outside. Once the news starts to spread that the party’s moved indoors, however, it’s a full room in no time.
Harleighblu herself is a fierce frontwoman. She has enough range and power to turn anybody’s head and she does so almost instantly. Musically, there’s a grey area here that seems to bridge a gap between neo-soul and blues rock. It’s partly Erykah Badu, partly The Internet and partly, somehow, Funkadelic. The players are adept and precise, dynamically attuned to Harleighblu’s vocal delivery to such a degree that they underpin her charisma perfectly. It’s a strong set that gets a deservingly warm response from the small but enthused crowd.
The grand finale of the Baltic Garden Party comes in the form of headliners THE MOUSE OUTFIT, who unfortunately have to battle with the noise of Mr Thing’s DJ set outdoors for the first few minutes. Soon enough, though, the throng swarm indoors and gravitate towards the front of the stage where rappers Dr Syntax and Sparkz hit their stride with their rhymes. The set is unbelievable from the get-go. The music could be a perfect homage to the great J Dilla and, as the musicians on stage play more tightly together than any band I’ve ever seen, Sparkz and Dr Syntax dance over the beats with decorative vocabulary. They run through a set brimming with their best material, from Shak Out and Who Gwan Test to Power and It’s Gonna Be On.
The technical proficiency and musicianship from the band is astounding, but even more impressive is the subtlety displayed here. This is a band that understands that hip hop’s greatness lies in its simplicity.