At times the differences between the stereotypes of rowdy, commercial hip hop and isolated, pensive poets can seem to be poles apart, but tear away the sheens of misconception and the disciplines of MC and performance poet share many of the same skills. In fact, save for musical accompaniment, the two are often indistinguishable. And if a rapper can’t rhyme without music to structure the words, then they’re missing a trick.

This is the theme pivotal to a new night based at Band on the Wall named On Yer Mic. Taking his lead from similar local spoken word and hip hop crossover groups like Young Identity, On Yer Mic founder and ringleader Patrick Farrell has taken on the concept to align performance poets, DJs and MCs on the same evening’s bill.

As the compere and host, Patrick also dons his own performance hat under the Caveman pseudonym, voicing long-form rhymes on topics from public transport to western hypocrisy and dipping into a stockpile of haikus much larger than haikus themselves. It’s an old-fashioned role, but one crucial to tying together the main performances.

We spoke to Patrick after the second On Yer Mic event at Band on the Wall about the format of the show and other hip hop and spoken word in Manchester.

With a setting including sofas and candlelit tables, On Yer Mic lays out Band on the Wall as a more traditional jazz club, possibly better for spoken word than live music. Is it more the poetry that the night aims to emphasise?

I think when the night was conceived I wanted the music to take a slight backseat to the poetry, ‘cause it’s usually the other way around. But On Yer Mic’s still growing and finding itself, so I’m kinda experimenting. The next one might be in a different format. It’s a pretty versatile space. Just takes patience.

Did anything give you the original inspiration to stage the show?

I’d organised nights for a bit before I came to Band on the Wall and hosted a slam in December. Some of the programming team found out I did poetry and asked me to give it a go, so I did and we had a bit of a blast.

You act as compere between acts by reciting your own poetry. How important do you think this role of joining the dots is for the show as a whole?

I like nights that are sort of visceral. There was a great show at BOTW recently with a bunch of MCs and beatboxers and they all introduced each other, one at a time. It was cool. I think it’s mad important to pace a night properly, ‘cause it’s all an experience, not just the acts.

How did you get into poetry writing and spoken word performance?

I wasn’t very good at football so when I was a kid I’d hang out on my own and read and write. I’ve always written since I can remember, and always been a show off. I think I first got into performing poetry after I’d MCed for a year or two. I was about 16 and did a couple of contests in college, won a public speaking contest, did a poetry project that led up to a slam and, yeah, just found it a cathartic, honest, engaging art form. I was hooked.

Are there any other local (or further afield) nights showcasing poetry and hip hop that you’d recommend?

The One Mic Stand slam at Contact is always a place to see great poetry, plus they have guest headliners. I think they’ve had Jenna G, Jason Singh, Free Wize Men, Project Apex – a lot of good stuff, basically. Plus it’s a vibe. Freestyle Fictionary’s one of the best hip hop nights in the city too. Sort of a rap Whose Line Is It Anyway? And check for Gnarled Tongues too. That’s fun.

With Ben Mellor, Inna Voice, Sangy and Batz Inda Belfry having performed live already, who else do you have lined up for future events? How do you select performers to invite?

I pretty much just book people I think are good, really. Lips sealed for the next acts, but it’s brewing over. Patience, though. It’s a virtue.

bandonthewall.org

Ian Pennington