Maria Hanlon took a trip to Rough Trade East on the 30th May to watch a live in-store performance from Murkage Dave after the release of his highly-anticipated sophomore album ‘The City Needs A Hero’…
Murkage Dave has been on my radar for a while. I first met him a couple of years ago in a lift at Red Bull Music when I was Artist Liaison for a project he was involved in called ‘Swift 16’. I remember him being really talented and super nice, so I was excited to see him perform for a second time.
The event was taking place at Rough Trade East, an independent record shop in Brick Lane. I get there early to get a good spot, but it’s already filling up fast. The DJ (who Murkage Dave later tells us has been involved in the new album) is blending together some of my favourite R&B tracks beautifully. It’s damp and dull outside, but warm and lively inside as people begin browsing records and buying their first can of beer.
An hour later at around 9pm, the venue is completely full and it’s time for Murkage Dave. The DJ smiles and signals to Murkage Dave and he walks on stage greeted with a room full of fans and a loud cheer. Straight away he shows us his down to earth personality, “I’ve actually been quite stressed” he tells us, which is often something artists don’t share. Murkage Dave is an independent artist, he does everything himself “no management, no label, just us”. However, you can see the stress melt away as he grins from cheek to cheek seeing how many people are here to support him and the new album.
He performs a few tracks from his 2018 cult classic debut album, ‘Murkage Dave Saved My Life’, and the popular ‘See Man Smile’. This album earned widespread support from the likes of Pharrell, Younger Fathers, Romesh Ranganathan, Iggy Pop & Beastie Boy member Mike D which is no surprise as it’s an incredible body of work. Since the release of his first album, Murkage Dave has certainly carved out a lane of his own, fusing together different genres to create his stand out sound (although if I had to compare his sound, I can hear a likeness to Chance The Rapper’s reflective songwriting style in ‘Coloring Book’).
Dave’s sensitive songwriting resonates with the room as the audience sing the lyrics back to him. I can’t help but notice there’s a real range of ages in the crowd. In fact, he once said in an interview with brand, Patta, “That’s my thing you know, bringing the worlds together.” Murkage Dave (who got his name from an event he ran in Manchester) not only brings people together, but he transcends genres including Alt Pop and R&B whilst still being influenced by Garage and Hip-Hop as well as The Smiths and Joy Division. Perhaps that’s why he has the ability to unite a city full of different music lovers?
Now it’s time for us to hear the new album, ‘The City Needs A Hero’, which came out on the 27th May, a snapshot of what it’s like living in London today through Dave’s own lens. Spanning over 14 tracks, ‘The City Needs A Hero’ explores socio-political, romantic and introspective themes all whilst maintaining Dave’s own unique satirical tone and defiantly British sound. Having already worked with the likes of Mike Skinner (The Streets), Jaykae, Tricky, Evidence & Skepta, on this album he works with American singer/songwriter Caroline Polachek and Mysterious Beanie.
Dave performs ‘Awful Things’, a song about pulling each other back from the brink, ‘Us Lot’, which is a love song for every misunderstood friend and ‘I Had A Nice Time But I Won’t Be Back’, a nostalgic track about a one night stand along with a few tracks from the new album. The energy in the room is electric as he performs, bringing everyone together on this rainy Monday night.
Murkage Dave has a very special relationship with his fans, which is evident from being in the room. He recently took fans out for dinner at Patty&Bun and also spent a day meeting up with different fans across London, having pints with them and playing them some of his unreleased music. It’s gestures like this that make him stand apart from other artists, rightfully earning himself the title of ‘The People’s Champ’ along the way.
After about 40 minutes, Dave tells us he has to stop soon to leave enough time to sign the records and chat to everyone. He explains whilst grinning that he “likes to chat” and he’ll get in trouble if he runs out of time. The crowd chants “one more song” and of course, he delivers. As soon as his set ends, the audience rush to queue up for the record signing.
As I leave, I walk past a snake-like shape of people with their records at the ready. You can tell that Dave can’t wait to meet everyone, and that he’s got mad love for his fans. On the cover, the record in everyone’s hands, Murkage Dave is wearing a dressing gown at home, not the typical deception of a hero perhaps. Yet, through his unique sound, relationship with his fans and ability to make music “for people’s real lives”, he has redefined what it means to be both an artist and a hero today.
Words & live photos: Maria Hanlon