Event review: Soda Beat returns to Matthews Yard, Friday 21st December 2015

By - Friday 29th January, 2016

It’s not just disability music. It’s a great night out, says Catherine Payne

Photo by Soda Beat, used with permission.

On Monday 21st December music-laden vibrations were sent spilling out onto Surrey Street in central Croydon. The source? Club Soda’s Soda Beat event at Matthews Yard.

Club Soda is a Croydon-based organisation whose purpose is to provide opportunities for personal and artistic development for people with learning disabilities. This is achieved through regular workshops in a wide array of activities, including disability music but also DJ-ing, art and film-making. It also aims to support local artists, from across the spectrum, with learning disabilities. Currently there are approximately forty artists whose creative expressions are sponsored.

Club Soda also provides opportunities for members to showcase their talents, this latest being a live music event at Matthews Yard in the week of Christmas. These events also support the Stay Up Late campaign: a cause dedicated to ensuring people with learning disabilities are able to lead full and active social lives.

My first impressions of Matthews Yard were of an endearing mix of urban shabby chic and homeliness: a fitting backdrop for the Club Soda community. Organisers conducted the event with a welcoming blend of relaxed friendliness. The entertainment space was decked with seasonal decorations; the fairy lights adding a festive overlay to the regular disco lights. Guests were also clad with Christmas cheer.

She crouched before a synthesiser, rocking and swaying on the balls of her feet

The night featured performances from three acts, two being regular performers and club members. ‘Say Dance’ (aka Franziska Lantz and Global Warming) opened the gig: a Swiss artist dressed in an anonymous white hoodie and jeans. As she performed, wisps of her hair escaped from the shroud of her hood as the audience caught tantalising glimpses of her deliciously disturbing ethnic face paint.

Her music was atmospheric to say the least. She crouched before a synthesiser, rocking and swaying on the balls of her feet as she tended to her decks.The sound was textured with several overlapping beats and stripped down rhythms, punctuated by the odd ethereal moan into the microphone. Say Dance’s originality certainly made for an intriguing experience; appealing to the imagination as well as the senses.

Guitar riffs and head-banging a-plenty

Second in the line-up was We Rise From The Fallen, Club Soda’s resident rock/alternative band. Formed in 2014, its members meet weekly to perfect their unique interpretation of classic rock and punk. In fact, their Facebook page quotes the like of ‘90s rock legends Green Day and Nirvana as their influences. Suitably attired in logo tees and skinny jeans; they donned their guitars like the ultimate accessories and, performing their own original music, engulfed the room with electrified sound. There were guitar riffs and head banging aplenty. The lead singer exhibited a an intensity which has already proved a hit with the crowds at several Soda Beat events and an exclusive performance at the Croydon Ambition Festival 2015. We Rise From The Fallen is currently working on new material for a debut EP, available soon.

The third and final act was also a Club Soda member, The Carbonators. Initially formed in 2011 to play alongside the renowned Damo Suzuki, the band has since become an influential institution on the UK’s learning disability music scene. It performed a number of pop/blues songs with a feel-good factor reminiscent of the sing-along rock of the ‘60s. Many of the audience – people with learning disabilities, support workers, friends and family alike – boogied to their tunes, a microcosm of a diverse and equal society. The night ended as the band obligingly performed an encore, distributing floral tokens to members of the dancing audience.

Catherine Payne

Catherine Payne

Catherine was born in Croydon. She's a keen writer and humanities student with a particular interest in history and religious studies. She enjoys her role as a local volunteer.

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