Raw like sushi

Ben Urdang writes: It’s amazing what you can stumble across in the back streets of London. With pop up bars and restaurants appearing and then disappearing with frenzied frequency it might now be the turn of pop up gigs and DJ sets.

While we had the heads up on a set by hip-hop DJ Jaguar Skills, most of the people who closed off a back street just behind Oxford Circus had no clue and were simply shoppers wandering around the hell that is Thursday’s late night shopping on Oxford Street.

This in fact turned out to be a joint enterprise with Jaguar Skills, priming himself for his September/October “Smash Up! Tour” and the hosting Yo! Sushi celebrating the opening of their Market Place branch. Two brands borrowing from each other to market themselves.

So on a makeshift stand out of the front of the new restaurant and facing a row of shops, bars and restaurants, the ninja DJ himself turned up for an hour of mashing up singles from every genre he could get his hands up – pop, hip hop, drum’n’bass and reggae all featured. His tunes weren’t particularly cool or leftfield, but then this wasn’t a trendy corner of London. It was all about having an impromptu street party without exclusivity.

Every now and then we’d be warned that this was an illegal party and that it could be terminated by the police at any second – whether or not that was true remained moot – but the story at least gave Mr Skills the opportunity to bring out Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do by Goldie Lookin’ Chain. La Roux and Michael Jackson were mixed in with TV theme tunes and old school anthems from Josh Wink, before a final flourish finished things off with One Step Beyond. As waiters weaved within the growing crowd offering free sushi, people found whatever vantage point they could to get snaps of the mysterious man dressed as he usually does – mask over his face so that all you could see of him were his eyes and his forearms.

There’s inevitably a discomfort felt when a musician gets in bed with big business, perhaps reaching something of a nadir with Example’s recent tour of Nando’s outlets. But frankly if people are going to get their downloads for free, then the business model of artists being able to take advantage of their associations to make money and promote themselves becomes more acceptable. Gigs, tours and festivals are becoming increasingly bannered with sponsorship and while the issue can be analysed and intellectualised, the fact is that, having compromised a small part of their integrity for a tummy full of fishy goodness, those who were here this evening loved it. It was a moment for those who happened to be walking past, and it made central London feel a little bit more special.

Musicians and business sponsorship have gone hand in hand for years. It’s just that usually it’s the corporations and their workers who get the benefits of party hospitality. It was nice for it to be brought to the streets, literally, for a change. More of this please.

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