Skinny Pelembe – Green Door Store, Brighton – 26th September 2018

Photo by Liam McMillen

On the independent venue live circuit right now, there really isn’t anyone like Skinny Pelembe. Born in Johannesburg, but raised in South Yorkshire, he makes “Hazy afro-tipped soul with psychedelic tangents” and his set at Green Door Store, which was surprisingly packed-out considering the niche appeal of his music, was an impressive and experimental 45 minutes into the psyche of Skinny Pelembe. World music, with an indie and trip-hop sensibility, it was incredibly unique and profoundly impressive. There’s many artists around at the moment that seem intrinsically linked to Brighton and Skinny Pelembe’s genre-bending style looks like it’s perfectly made for the city’s aesthetic.

Support on the night came from Brighton quartet Super Lungs, who will be known to many on the Brighton live scene having gigged around for a few years now. A dream-pop band, with laid back tendencies, it was a good support slot with the highlight coming from debut single ‘On the Run’. A slice of jangle pop, it cleverly focuses on Billy Doyle’s excellent, languid vocal performance and a lackadaisical drum beat. With a debut single now in tow, Super Lungs look set to make the next step up, and this looked like a very impressive stepping stone.

When Skinny Pelembe and his band made their way to the stage, however, it was instantly clear this wasn’t going to be just any old show at Green Door Store. With a four-piece band behind him, including steel pans, it was an eclectic line-up that was worthy of Pelembe’s excellent repertoire. While the trip-hop style of ‘I Just Wanna Be Your Prisoner’ was an early highlight, the jazz fusion elements of ‘Spit/Swallow’ received the biggest reaction from the crowd on the night.

It was ‘I’ll Be On Your Mind’, however, with its haunting backing vocals and Massive Attack-style main vocals, that made it clear why he’s the main support for electronic duo Maribou State on their huge upcoming UK tour. Much like Tom Misch and Amadou & Mariam, there’s a sense of breaking-out of the niche when it comes to Skinny Pelembe, and it’s sure to be any minute now he’s awarded rightful indie success.

The highlight of the night no doubt though came from Pelembe moving away from his band, and performing a couple of songs on his own. Truly focussing on his unique vocal style, as well as his splendid guitar playing, it provided an intimate atmosphere and one which generated silence amongst the Green Door Store crowd – which, as many up-and-coming performers will know, is no easy feat.

“I really didn’t expect anyone to turn up, so thank you,” Pelembe announced to the crowd during his performance. After this set – and a support slot with Maribou State to come in the next couple of weeks – Skinny Pelembe’s worries about audiences turning up to gigs will certainly be a thing of the past. A consummate professional, and awe-inspiringly talented, Skinny Pelembe is sure to turn heads and looks nailed on for a dedicated fanbase in the very near future.

Liam McMillen