Event review: Hoodoo’s music venue celebrates its first birthday, Saturday 27th August

By - Wednesday 21st September, 2016

Katie Rose looks back at a year of creative contribution

Photo by Fluid4sight, used with permission.

A hoodoo (also known as a fairy chimney or earth pyramid) is a totem-shaped pillar of rock that forms in desert basins as a result of weather and rock erosion.Famous examples are found in Bryce Canyon in the US and Cappadocia, Turkey. Human imitations, known as cairns, are piles of rocks used over the centuries to mark important locations and routes. A hoodoo is also a West African roots doctor. So now we have our very own Hoodoo’s in Croydon – a place where musical magic can happen and community grassroots events can find their way. I went to its first birthday bash to celebrate a year of happenings at Hoodoo’s.

I arrive on a sultry August night to find Exchange Square full of revellers – including folks in the flats surrounding Matthews Yard partying on their balconies. Everyone is giving it large and above the hum of conversation, the bass lines can be heard pumping out from Hoodoo’s expertly equipped music venue. As I enter the packed party cave, I am hit by the unmistakeable scent of human party action – it’s definitely hot and it’s definitely happening.

Gary Black is hollering “We’re in the groove now! Let’s get drunker!” and inciting more wild dancing, jumping and heckling from the crowd. His band Junk Time Party is a wild combo of hair, tattoos and blues-rock numbers peppered with colourful lyrics. When we chat later amidst the hustle and bustle, Gary’s encouragement to a would-be singer is “forget about training, just be yourself and sing in tune”, and he recommends trying out new ideas in the supportive atmosphere of Hoodoo’s Open Mic Night.

This is a tight-knit yet welcoming community of musicians

All the artists playing at the birthday bash are regular performers at Hoodoo’s Open Mic Night, which has been described as “a cut above the rest” and listed as fourth best open mic in the UK by Richard Gregory, attracting interest from X Factor scouts. The evening features thirteen pre-booked and four walk-in slots and has built a loyal following over its first year. Hoodoo’s co-founder Peter Hamilton is delighted that local musicians have formed a “tight knit yet welcoming” community who perform in each others’ bands and attend other open mic nights at venues including The Brook. “All we did was provide the room and the equipment, but we’ve done it from a musician’s rather than a promoter’s point of view”.

Photo by Fluid4sight, used with permission.

Taken from this seedbed of local talent, tonight’s event opens with solo spots from Wallington-based Chloe Ray, Cloe Corpse, Croydon based Anne Sumner and Paul Watson. There’s plenty of genre mixing and matching: Nine Lives fuses crunchy chords with ambient flute, Surrey-based indie band Rear View Mirror sings songs about dentistry and ’60s throwback sequins, feathers and rainbow-clad Everon Goen creates a trippy atmosphere with deep ‘n’ meaningful lyrics and bubbles. Rock ‘n’ rollers include Drowned Out and Hoodoo’s homeboys Peter Hamilton and John Lovell who blast us with a hair-raising headbanger of a set. Headliners blues rock band Coffee Pot Drive, whose first single made #1 in the iTunes blues chart UK 2015, adds the final flavours to this rich cauldron of South London creativity – they all grew up in Brixton, Croydon and Lewisham and wrote their song ‘Warning Sign‘ in response to the Croydon riots.

This is just a taster of the artists who have played at Hoodoo’s Open Mic and gig nights over the year – from emerging local singer/songwriters such as Dan Lukes and indie bands The Frisbys, to established musicians such as slide blues legend Tony Patience and jazz diva Gill Manly who launched South London Jazz & Blues Club from Hoodoo’s earlier this year. “We just love music: Croydon twenty years ago had an excellent music scene and now we are trying to revive it little bit by little bit”, says co-founder Josie Hamilton, who explains that they don’t charge bands to host their events, just taking what they make on the bar and putting it back into the business.

Cocktails at Hoodoo’s.
Photo by Fluid4sight, used with permission.

Contribution is where it’s at for this Coulsdon-based family team – Josie and Richard Hamilton run Hoodoo’s with their son Peter Hamilton and musician-chef John Lovell. “As long as we make a difference, I’m happy”, says Josie. Their community spirit combines with a passion for music: “We always loved music, we brought the children up with music all the time and the boys knew how to put a vinyl in a deck when they were two and three years old”. As both sons emerged as talented musicians, supportive parents Josie and Richard began managing not just Peter’s but other bands alongside running a successful cleaning company.

In addition to music, comedy and film nights, Hoodoo’s has hosted charity events including Julia Woollam’s Black and White Stripes Day, Stand Up For Kids FoundationSing for Water Croydon and run a May Day Bank Holiday Fundraiser for The Breck Foundation. It has given a home to community projects including Peace Education Programme, Project Dare promoting positive body image, Club Soda nights for people with learning disabilities and The Everyday Church Sunday services.

Happy first birthday and here’s to many more adventures

To accompany the smorgasbord of creativity on offer, John Lovell has been cooking up a medley of treats at Hoodoo’s Café – his imaginative menu includes items such as rosemary Belgian waffle with Hoodoo’s very own southern fried chicken and pineapple and chilli salsa and Matcha green tea, jasmine and raspberry cake. An enticing array of cocktails, wines and craft beers (featured in local beer festivals) are also in full flow at the birthday bash.

“When we came here Matthew’s Yard was a very different place than it is today and we like to think we contribute, which is a great thing. Everybody can benefit from it, so that’s what we are happy about: the more the merrier”, says Josie. Founder of Matthews Yard, Saif Bonar’s birthday message confirms this: “you put everything you have into making the space succeed and it’s already doing better than we ever imagined. In only a year you have not only found the time to look after your own concession, but you have provided extra help and support, without question or compensation, to help Matthews Yard through what have been challenging times. It’s very much appreciated”.

“We didn’t know what we were doing when we set out and it’s starting to work – it’s a nice adventure”, Peter says. Happy first birthday Hoodoo’s – here’s to many more adventures.

Katie Rose

Katie Rose

Katie Rose - Singer, Composer, Conductor, Writer - Katie loves singing and helping people sing. Described by the Guardian as a 'fine singer' and by fRoots magazine as an 'eye (and ear) opener,' she has released three albums. Committed to creating uplifting, inclusive experiences of singing, Katie has led singing sessions in hospitals, hospices, festivals and community choirs across London. Convinced of the power of music to make waves in the world she has conducted mass choral events for Sing for Water and is directing Croydon's first Festival of Peace 2018. For more information visit www.therosewindow.org

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