Friends-&-Family @ the-roadhouse 31.01.04

First month of the year is always quite quiet in clubland. Promoters are often very cautious in January. They know that their punters are all still recovering (financially) from the excesses of Christmas & New Year. Everyone holding out until their first wage clears in the bank & we can get back to the music & weekend nights-out we live for!

So it was this first weekend-with-money, 31 January 2004, I ventured out with my camera down the familiar Roadhouse stairs to Fat City flagship night Friends-&-Family, a regular port-of-call for all flavours of hip-hop & soul

Our special guest DJ tonight is Brighton's Will Quantic (Tru Thoughts) alongside resident MC & vibes merchant Kwasi Asante. Always plenty of other familiar faces down at Friends-&-Family, a regular extended family affair & a guaranteed party atmosphere in that dark Roadhouse basement, all fuelled with lashings of Jamaican Red Stripe!

So it was a particularly well-oiled photographer who decided halfway through the evening to switch venues & zigzag across the Northern Quarter to see Real Dolls (Live), a Sub-Tub promotion at Band On the Wall. Real Dolls was the brain child of Fingathing's Peter Parker & was a very strange occasion! Every group member had an alter-ego & a daft name to go with it. Their bewigged MC Rod Hotley (oh really? please...) delivered lyrics bookended by 2 'dancers' whose sole purpose was to strut across the stage throwing various hip-hop 'stances', freezing in tableaux a-la Security of the First World (Public Enemy on-stage 'soldiers'); Samples & beats came courtesy of Peter Parker

I knew Rod Hotley from previous Manchester hip-hop outfits the Idiots (with Chubby Grooves & Kool DJ Reko) & (whilst at college with his twin bro in '93) the Nanosphere Komplex. Both groups had also involved one-man hip-hop army Zed-9: local Manc character, prolific graffiti writer, train-yard wrecker, dexterous rapper & training shoe collector!

Didn't quite know what to make of Real Dolls! I think maybe that was partly their intention. Don't you have to be well-known already before you unleash your alter-egos / stage-personae / conceptual fannying around upon your unsuspecting audience? Isn't that why audiences usually put up with what are essentially vanity projects? Hmmmmmm. Everyone involved here enjoyed themselves, of course, but Real Dolls problem is being taken seriously musically whilst remaining entertaining visually & lyrically, a difficult formulae to get just right & maintain, one certainly lost on several members of the bewildered Sub-Tub audience