Lucy Cav’s Café and Bar had a surreal Willy Wonka ambience when Aker and Corvus took the stageAlex Hall with permission for Varsity

There’s not a lot of Hip hop at Cambridge. Most musical experiences here are found in the aisles of a chapel or upon the sweeping stage of West Road Concert Hall. Steady, organised student bands and popular music are rarely highlighted beyond the occasional one-off role in an ADC mainshow or a college-specific open mic. The unfortunate upshot is that many people without classical musical abilities will arrive at Cambridge only to feel suddenly cut adrift.

All of which is to say that the Centre for Music Performance’s new Gig Nights are a welcome development. Lucy Cav’s Café and Bar bore witness to their first Hip hop Night, headlined by Aker Oye and Corvus. Both vocalists and producers, the artists promised a blend of rap, R&B and soul. The show then opened up to the floor for an open mic session.

“The Centre for Music Performance’s new Gig Nights are a welcome development”

Initially, the vibes were slightly questionable. Admittedly, not all of this was the show’s fault. This was my first time visiting Lucy and any newcomer will inevitably face the confounding difficulty of actually finding this venue. It felt like the first day of summer and, once inside – with birds chirping, the echoes of a flute rehearsal drifting and an orange sunset filtering over the grounds of what resembled a woodland resort in the Rockies – the whole setting gave a surreal Willy Wonka ambience. The café could’ve been better set up, with only a couple of purple lights illuminating one wall at the end of a long, otherwise undecorated room. As the show began, it took time for most bar-goers to gather near the performances.

“They were simply one of the best student bands I’ve ever seen, period”

In the face of this misplaced whimsicality, Aker and Corvus gave spirited performances. Brimming with charisma, both artists’ flows were generally slick, if marred by some hesitancy and mumbling (occasionally dependent on reading lyrics off their phones). Confessional, biting lyrics combined with enviable production, with Corvus’ unexpected ambient and electronic elements standing out in particular. Both artists closed off with freestyles embodying the energy and creativity of their performances.

The show really got going, however, with the open mic session. The sun had set and the room was darkening, coaxing people to peel themselves off the couches and bar stools to crowd the stage. Happily, my cider from earlier was starting to hit, disinhibiting me enough to join the dance floor.


Mountain View

Girlband and Daniel Daley Sextet at The Portland Arms

I was lucky I did just as the shining glory of the night, Lost Projects, took the stage. With some impeccably blended singing and rapping (featuring faultless diction and delivery) as well as guitar and whistling solos, the band was flawlessly coordinated and tight, bringing a fire-breathing energy to the room. They were simply one of the best student bands I’ve ever seen, period. Wherever they are in Cambridge, look out for these guys. With their jam session sandwiched between some soulful solo performances, the mood was balanced and alternated, bringing the evening to a pleasantly exhausted close.

Suitably buzzed – whether by the music or drinking on an empty stomach, I don’t know – I left the show in a great mood. The flautists from earlier had packed up for the night, thankfully. Although I was too tipsy to gather my immediate thoughts, I knew one thing for sure. Hip hop in Cambridge may not yet constitute a “scene”. But in the hands of this lot, it may well do soon.