Live Review: Kojaque // Headrow House

Irish sensation, ‘all round cutie’, deli assistant come green diesel launderer, known to some as Brother Samurai, definitely Luka Palm’s father, maybe even Kevin Smith… but known to most as Kojaque, returned to Leeds for a headline show at Headrow House. With support from the supremely talented Gemma Dunleavy as well as some familiar faces and windmill arms, the king from the south certainly had the city buzzin’.

If you’ve ever been to Headrow for a gig you know it can be intimate, with little between the crowd and the artist performing. The initial awkward gap of timidity was breached by Gemma Dunleavy as she ushered the crowd to come closer during her opening set. These words of reassurance were matched by her music which was warm, welcoming and enchanting. There is something really special about an artist who sounds just as good, if not better, live than in their recorded material. For me, Gemma’s talent and expertise regarding lyricism and production mark her out as one to watch. ‘Better 4 U’, a track released earlier this year in May, was a highlight of the night. Showcasing unusual timbres such as the harp and the flute, it has the driving force of a steam train but the lyrical qualities of a coy fox. It’s beautiful and certainly worth a listen (p.s. her DJ was supporting a cool hat – props man).

Kean Kavanagh spun the 1s & 2s throughout the night, in between sets as well as throughout Kojaque’s performance. Great tunes, groovy vibes and the dude has an uncanny resemblance to Cream Caviar… has anyone ever seem them in the same room together??? As the crowd eagerly awaited Kojaque’s apparition, a soft boy sporting almost head to toe slowthai merch jumped on stage from the side of the crowd… he had arrived. Kojaque opened his set with a poignant monologue version of ‘White Noise’, really emphasising the spoken-word poetry element to his art. The power of this song has never been wasted on me but live it’s just something else. The pace of the speech, the passion in the words, even as a listener you feel out of breath. When that final exclamation comes: “I’m never gonna drown out”, it feels like such a release. In classic Deli Daydreams fashion ‘Last Pint’ and ‘Love and Braggadocio’ followed. I was glad the latter was included because it’s definitely one of my favourites from the Dubliner – I was proper cringey closed eyes singing along.

After this we were treated to TWO new songs. At least I think it was two… there was a beat change which I took to be the start of a new tune (although it could have been a track made in the image of that switch up in Frank Ocean’s ‘Nights’, you KNOW the one). Teasing us with that new new is both at the same time SUPER exciting and SUPER mean because now I just wanna hear it again! Two newer tracks followed in the form of ‘Flu Shot’ and ‘Paris, Texas’, the second being the first track played off his newest collaborative album with fellow Irishman (and son) Luka Palm. Following this was the pitter patter of Irish rain in the form of ‘Bubby’s Cream’, one of three tracks from Deli Daydreams to be produced by JarJarJr. A fan favourite, the crowd really responded to this one. You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard a room full of people chanting “so for now can we fuck in a manger?” But a definite highlight of the night would be ‘Craic Baby’, a deadly OG chuuune from the Sunday Roast Mixtape era (you best believe I slayed the bridge). The fact that Kojaque can rock a crowd with material from back in 2016 demonstrates how long he’s been making magic. Some of my favourites are on that mixtape, ‘Wifey’ and ‘FiFtyfiFty’, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that rinses them on SoundCloud and YouTube.  

Image courtesy of District magazine

Following the soft boys on social media it had become clear that Luka was suffering with a vocal node, but bless his heart and soul he came out for two tracks: ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Date Night’. One of my favourites from Green Diesel, ‘Phoenix’ has such a vibrant energy about it. The music video, directed by Hugh Mulhern, is a masterpiece that draws attention to the crane-culture of cities as well as the complex characterisation of Robogarda. Jokes aside, my interpretation of the song and visuals is that it tries to draw attention to the commercialisation of cities (particularly Dublin). Public and cultural spaces as well as spaces that could be beneficial for those in need are being demolished to make way for corporations. This is a huge shortcoming of modern society and the public are frustrated that rich companies are being given precedence. Yet, ‘Phoenix’ has an element of hope in that the people will rise out of the rubble, strong and ready to fight. If you want more info on the outrageous stuff happening in Dublin right now, check out Give Us The Night and Take Back The City. Back to Leeds tho… and obviously ‘Date Night’ and ‘Wifi Code’ went off. The whole of Headrow was bouncing along, matching the energy created on stage by Kojaque, Luka Palm and Cream Caviar… sorry I mean Kean Kavanagh.

Admitting that to walk off for an encore would be a bit silly because the door was in the crowd, Kojaque remained in place for the final three songs. A momentary isle of paradise ensued as ‘Eviction Notice’ began, another fan favourite that showcases the golden tones of Kean Kavanagh. However, no red wine tonight. Instead Kojaque and Kean brandished coronas, served with a wedge of lime you’ll be glad to know, ‘twas lovely stuff lads. The penultimate track was a song of legend that has only been called, amongst a select few, ‘Curtains’ (and by select few I mean me). A track that frequently closes Kojaque’s set, it’s a storytelling number that features catchy melodies and endearing lyricism. I CANNOT WAIT for this one to be released.

The final track was ‘Spit Dat Out’, a straight heater from Green Diesel. At this point, Luka had bowed out due to his throat and I actually had to restrain my friends from pushing me onto the stage to perform his part. But it certainly left the crowd on a high even in the absence of ‘Air BnB’ or ‘Chew Toy’. Although it was a shame that these were left out of the setlist, I wish Luka Palm a speedy recovery and, to be honest, when Kojaque has SO many good tunes some are always going to be sacrificed. I could happily sit through all three projects in full, Kojaque and his team are masters at what they do. YUP THE PARISH!

The verdict: I’ve been saving this one… but the time is right. Rigatoni with an arrabiata sauce. It’s a personal favourite: one of the best pasta shapes with a yummy, fruity, spicy sauce. It’s a dish full of character that I could probably eat every day. Even when it’s finished, I want to do it all over again, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!  ♫꒰・◡・๑꒱

Listen for yourself:

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