Live Music Review: The Hempolics at Nottingham Contemporary

Words: Martin Gascoine
Tuesday 27 February 2018
reading time: min, words

London’s finest underground lo-fi reggae band paid a trip to Notts this month as part of Reggae Take Over at the Contemporary...


There is something rejuvenating about watching The Hempolics live. Perhaps it is the fact that the London band know that they are good, but rather than letting this seep over into arrogance or musical complacency, they just quietly concentrate on getting even better.

They don’t seem desperately anxious to win you over; just confident that if you ‘get it’ and decide to join in the infection of their powerful and professionally executed infusion of roots reggae, that you will be welcomed by a crew genuinely honoured to have you on board.

Judging by the full house down at the Contemporary on Friday, a lot of people ‘get it’. Kudos to Tom and the team from Reggae Take Over for promoting an excellent gig that ensured an affable, polite and enthused audience were treated with due respect on a cold February evening. Tom himself laid down the tunes before and after local band Ujahm resolutely pre-warmed the dancefloor; highlighted by their upcoming single Pressure.

The thing about Hempolics is just how industrious they are. A rock solid rhythm section beavered throughout; a tireless work ethic providing an abject platform for a talented guitar player, as sensitive vocals and intermittent melodica moved the music above and beyond simple reggae historicism.

Make no mistake; this is polished, thoughtful and respectful roots music, reflecting the very real issues of a 2018 dis-united Kingdom. It is also innovative and unafraid to broach boundaries. Part of that might be down to the regal and achingly beautiful Nubyia. Her vocal contributions defy any simple categorisation, vacillating between Amy Winehouse and the edgy, sensitive persona of Billy Holliday. It works splendidly.

She herself introduces the man on her left juggling keyboards and live mixing as ‘The Wizard.’ Grippa undoubtedly has a significant influence on the alchemy of the band as he orchestrates and encourages the cleverly choreographed ‘polics sonics. But the impression is of a distinctly democratic musical experience, reflecting Grippa’s sussed and extensive music industry pedigree and lineage. Nubyia’s paean to her mum is a set highlight. A resounding second encore, Samurai illustrates that they aren’t afraid of throwing rock vibes into the mix.

Bring ‘em back soon please Tom! They are going to be huge and a wider Notts congregation deserves to be blessed by their uniqueness. Preferably mid-summer, outdoors, under a sun streaked sky…

The Hempolics played at Nottingham Contemporary on Friday 23 February. Their debut album Kiss, Cuddle & Torture: Volume 1 is out now. 

The Hempolics website

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