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21 September 2009

Jo Verrent sees The Fish Police in an arresting decibel performance at Contact Theatre, Manchester

photo of Man rapping to a mike photo by Jon Pratty/dao

MC Dean Rodney of The Fish Police lays down the law. Photo by Jon Pratty/dao

Image: photo by Jon Pratty/dao

The Fish Police are one of a number of artists and bands in the Heart ‘n Soul ‘stable’ of artists – learning disabled musicians and performers who really get taken seriously.

The Fish Police are slick, polished, professional and certainly know how to play an audience.

man raps with two guitarists by Jon Pratty/dao

Dean Rodney gives it a bit more at the Contact Theatre in decibel09. Photo by Jon Pratty/dao

Image: by Jon Pratty/dao

Their musicianship was spot on and the lyrics had the audience bouncing along in agreement.

From upbeat tracks such as Japanese Girl and Black Scissors to complex pieces such as Expandable, the band oozed great timing, rhythm and precision.

For me it was learning disability arts of the highest order – an aesthetic built on the experiences of the creators that gave me insight and a new perspective – along with craftsmanship and care.

It shows that Heart ‘n Soul aren’t just club promoters but serious music producers. Spotting talent and then polishing it up to performance standard takes time, energy and commitment and The Fish Police are ready to be released – Heart ‘n Soul, I thank you.

The Fish Police’s website and publicity doesn’t mention their learning disability background – and why should it, if they don’t it want to?

This led to some interesting conversations. I got talking with one woman I met in the toilets, the way you do, and she said that she had really enjoyed the satire.

She’d seen the taking of, to her, banal subjects and turning them into intense, hypnotic tracks as a wry commentary on rap and the popular music scene.

She didn’t know about any learning disability connection and was really surprised when I mentioned it. And from other audience member: “I loved it”, she said, “it was so funny. They way they were sending up musicians.”

For her, it was like Spinal Tap – people ‘playing’ at being a band and she thought the ecstatic audience reaction was because we were all in on the joke.

It's not that anyone’s view was wrong, we were all right. We all had our own take on what it was we saw. If a context isn’t given to us, audiences make their own (and perhaps they do regardless of what we provide).

We have to be open then to whatever comes up, whatever responses the work provokes. The bottom line? What ever they thought they saw, everyone I met loved it!

More decibel here and more Fish Police wonderfullness here. If you were wondering how all this lovely music came about, check the Heart n Soul website.

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