ORGAN THING: What went down at Robyn’s Rocket at Cafe OTO with Charles Hayward, some trumpet, some performance art and a whole lot more last night?

Robyn’s Rocket at Cafe OTO, Morth London with Charles Hayward, Jemma Freeman and The Sonic Something and… 6th Jan 2022 – Now what was actually happening here? An on-line broadcast from Robyn’s Rocket at London’s always interesting Cafe OTO – we did preview it a couple of days ago, Charles Hayward, he of This Heat and many other rewarding musical things was our attraction, we admit to knowing very little about Robyn or her rocket. Covid and the current situation in London had (sensibly) taken the event on-line only, still live from the Dalston venue on the border where East London meets North though, you could still go via the magic of the internet. It all kicked off on-line at 8pm last night Robyn’s Rocket, in her own words is “a series of gigs at cafe OTO in East London that aims to make audience members and performers feel comfortable and welcome regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race, language spoken or disability offering audiences improvised music and art projected on walls and celling, experimental music”

– we tuned in a fashionable twenty minutes late (okay we forgot what time it was, I hate being late for gigs and missing whoever may be opening events), it all looks rather colourful, as visual as things can be in the darkness of OTO. Someone called Tilley is on by the time we arrive. Actually if you missed it live you can go back and watch the almost three hours again whenever you want, hopefully they don’t take it down, it was still there this morning, the music kicks in 35 minutes into the event with a five piece ensemble fronted by performance artist Tilley Milburn, I don’t honestly know if they have a name of if the five of them have just come together for this event, they weren’t billed on the OTO site – actually we had a bit of a pop at OTO and their unfriendly prices in our preview, Robyn does have a donation option, a suggested three quid and a bit more if you can afford it seems far more in line with real world pockets, like I said already, I’d make the short walk to OTO far more often if it didn’t always cost an arm and leg to get in (and yes we know about the cost of putting gigs and such on, we’ve probably put on more gigs than most people), those entry prices are restrictive.

Tilley and her band

Tilley and her band then, an actual band or a group of people? Are they a band, I did try to write it down as it happened last night, things might be fractured   First on, Tilley and her band, a kind of semi-soundart spoken word performance music thing that took in some wallowing in ice cream and candy floss clouds, took in a Sandy Denny song, a touch of improv dub, lots of colour and Tilley sitting at the front, singing, talking, texting on her phone as she sang/talked/looked in her sketch book (or was it a note book?) and well who knows what? There’s a bit of a Gong gone performance art feel about it, she does have a way of making you smile, or is that her flying pig of happiness making us smile? What is happening? This band are good, they hum, they throb, they build it, they touch on Krautness, they flow rather well, long passages of mellow kraut flavoured space dub, just right for a rocketship flight. She is rather compelling, apparently her folks don’t get what she does, a performance artist? What is that? Oh hang on, they came up with the band tonight, Taylor-Milburn? Did we get that right? Is that what she said? We like Tilley and her band, this is a fine start…  


And in between the live performances, there’s films of past events and such, Is this The Hairdressers now? Someone drawing, is that Robyn herself? Someone playing a cello, rather like that the person drawing is leading and the cello player is quickly reacting – or at least that is how it appears. This is a video of a previous OTO/Rocketship performance being shown in the interval, footage of the duo playing a cello, a trumpet and lots of effects peddles now, a trumpet, it appears, is rather good as a drawing implement. This is all rather good actually, dare we say a bit of a Club Dog at the Robey vibe for those who were around back there? Turns out trumpets and delay peddles are pretty good together, well when Robyn is playing the trumpet anyway, her enthusiasm is infectious, both as a player and an event curator. We’re rather enjoying this. 

Jemma Freeman and The Sonic Something

And here comes Jemma Freeman and The Sonic Something with a sometimes very raw sometimes very delicate take on things, definitely a rock thing, a conventional alternative rock band, fitting nicely in the space rocket feel though – it might be a little tougher for a conventional band to play in an empty room with very little crowd response or the warmth of bodies soaking up the music, very difficult to really pull it off, The Sonic Something nearly do, impressive work, must go see them and their chopping off heads and rolling out of bed when we final do get to whatever the the new normal will be.

And now more film and more trumpets and trombones and effects peddles and crashing in of home-made adverts and lo-fi chaos and that reminds me, I’ve got a trombone here in the Organ studio. Who are Deptford’s Heart and Soul? A choir? do your own thing? So yes, found a trombone in a skip, couldn’t leave it there to go get crushed or to go into landfill so its been sitting in the corner here in the studio, does anyone need a trombone before it ends up in a sculpture or as part of an installation? Just come and get it, make a donation to Roby and her events.  Back to the film, we seem to be celebrating someone called Lizzie Emeh now, a rather beautiful singer, (RIP Lizzie, it looks like you were a fine person to know, there’s a lot of warmth coming from the audience reacting via YouTube) and now we seem to have a very DIY Heart and Soul art exhibition going by via a video, something to do with the Beautiful Octopus Club, something to do with just joining in with the creativity

Okay, we’re off, I guess we call it the main event? Charles Hayward behind his drum kit, Robyn sitting on the floor with her trumpet and (many) peddles and where are we gonna go now? The evening has been good so far. Charles Hayward is one of those drummers who’s just so good to watch, the two of them are almost instantly flowing well together, a chemistry, busy drums when they need to be, less is more when they don’t (never ever show-off drums, Mr Hayward is not one of those drummers who needs to show us how good he is, he’s way too good for all that nonsense). Like the musical colours here, the palette, the shape of the tempo, that trumpet is almost soothing, mellow, space trumpet?  I’m listening to this, half watching while putting the Deflect show together – the two musicians are understanding each other’s space rather well, this, from our end is looking and feeling rather good, describing this is dancing around architecture again of course and the best thing is to just go watch it yourselves (which you can, via the magic of YouTube), describing in mere words an improv set from two fine fine musicians who are working so well together while watching it via an internet feed from a cold cold Hackney studio isn’t that easy – they are feeding off each other impressively well, damn fine earfood being served up here. I guess we should talk of free jazz but who really needs to put a name on it? That’s a very Charles Haywardy bit going past… Oh that’s a good bit, oh just go watch and listen, the Charles Hayward and Robyn set kicks in for a very impressive half hour after two hours and thirty minutes of the broadcast if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, do rather recommend the whole thing (and there is no donation link on the YouTube page but you can head to www’ko-fi.com/robynsrocket).

It might have only happened on line and on line is never really a serious alternative to being there in the room soaking it up and being a part of it all, being part of the crowd, interacting, talking, drinking, drinking it all in, this was good, do watch out for Robyn and her rocketship and her space trumpet… a fine fine event. (sw)  

A slide show of events as it happened, do click on an image to enlarge it or to run the salide show

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