Amelia’s Magazine | We Choose To Jamboree!

Having been sent out to document the subterranean goings on of a typical East London night out; pop up speakeasies, medications purchase hypertrendy bars that inexplicably merit write ups in the New York Times, order warehouses and disused car parks that receive a midnight makeover to become party locations for the coolest of the cool, it’s natural to be a bit… over it sometimes. When every venue starts competing to out-hype the next one, and the prospect of turning up at a bar where you don’t feel obliged to state your credentials and connections to be allowed entry seems like it’s too much to ask, the urge to just call it a night and go home often seems overwhelming. Until I discovered You Choose Jamboree, that is.

Refreshingly, You Choose Jamboree would fit into none of the categories above. Instead, it’s more like an organic, self-sustaining music and social enterprise that often feels as if it’s powered by good will and community spirit. Essentially, the premise is simple and back to basics. A secret, not revealed until the night venue plays host to musicians who have been previously voted for on the events website; if you want to come to the night, you get to choose the music. The genres of musicians who perform are diverse and eclectic; West African string, cello, experimental folk, acapella choir and jazz fusion are all styles that have already taken to the stage. For an event that is still in its infancy, it has already introduced Londoners to a range of artists and bands that were crying out for exposure. When I pitched up at You Choose Jamborees November outing, I (along with 300 others) was serenaded with the gentle acapella harmonies of Stac and her all-female choir, treated to a typically gorgeous and lush set from Laura J Martin (which had the crowd so hushed and mesmerised that you could hear a pin drop) and finished the night with a rousing performance from Nick Mulvey, normally part of the Mercury Award shortlisted Portico Quartet, but for this occasion he only needed his guitar to create chords that blended Malian blues and Flamenco and had everyone cheering for more.

There is something else that sets You Choose Jamboree apart from the rest London’s frenetic nights out; it’s unbelievably friendly and completely free of pretension and attitude. It’s apparent the moment you step into the door – to actually be cheerfully welcomed into a venue – what’s that all about? There is a reason for this, and it lies in the roots of You Chooses genesis. The night began as a house party in the wilds of Muswell Hill; home to the three Jamboree creators, Chris, Phil and Barney. The trio run firmly under the radar, and normally shy away from drawing attention to themselves, preferring to let the night speak for themselves. However, being incredibly inquisitive sort of girl, I wanted details!

“We used to put on house parties in our flat, and we had musician friends who were of an incredibly high calibre like Portico Quartet play in our lounge ” Chris explained, adding that there is only so long that a (loud) party like that will go unnoticed by the council. By the time said authorities had put a stop to the merriment, the guys had accumulated a motley crew of friends, fans, and musicians who had no intention of breaking up the fun; so when a perfect setting was literally stumbled upon one boozy night in Dalston, You Choose Jamboree got its break into the big wide world. The venue might have expanded, but the ethos remained the same; ” It’s an extension of our lounge” Chris adds;  “our house has always had an open door policy.” Staying true to this theme, the guys pitch up at the beginning of a You Choose Jamboree night with the contents of their lounge and decorate the space with lamps, plants,fairy lights and rugs. While it remains a word of mouth enterprise, and technically a secret one of that, the night is resolutely inclusive and welcome to all. Although they are loathe to over-brand this home brewed venture, they are happy to introduce it to new pastures. This summer, they will be involved with Hackney Council who are running a ‘Parks For Life’ programme to get local residents back into local parks. In typical Jamboree fashion, they are charmingly old-school with their ideas. “We want to reuse bandstands and just rock up with a PA system and a generator and put musicians on” Phil tells me, and outlines plans for various dates in Stoke Newingtons’ Springfield Park, London Fields and Shoreditch Park. (More details will be revealed when we get them).

In the meantime they are happy to let the Jamboree naturally evolve into new directions. “We are learning as we go along” Phil happily admits. “The main aim is to make sure that everyone is enjoying themselves, but also to be really respectful towards the audience and the musicians.”  “Until I think we have done a perfect gig, where everything falls into place we will keep persevering.” adds Chris.  “It’s a magic equation that we are always trying to look for.” You Choose are all for encouraging more audience involvement; they have a page on their website called “The Hat”, where anyone can contribute ideas. One particular concept that they are keen to run with is where the audience, i.e us, curate the night. So if anyone wants to have a event with say, all Malian music, or even a barn dance, the guys will gladly put it together.  This Saturday sees the next installment of the Jamboree; having won the votes this round are  Moulettes, who describe themselves as a ‘folk-stomping, barn-storming swingin’ quartet, featuring an orchestra of cellos, bassoons, guitars, kazoos and five-part harmonies’. Also headlining are the Amber States, who are slightly more sedate in the musical style, but no less delightful. Made up of Southern style harmonising vocals, as well as guitars and cellos (it must be a cello night!), The Amber States are definitely my band to watch in the upcoming months. If you haven’t managed to get your name on the guest-list, check out their Facebook page on ways that you might be able to squeeze your way in (they really are ever so thoughtful). If not, then just keep an eye on their website for all the upcoming dates. It’s a big shame if you have missed out on You Choose Jamboree so far, but at least you know now.

Categories ,dalston, ,folk, ,friends, ,fun, ,live, ,london, ,portico quartet, ,shoreditch, ,you choose jamboree

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