It’s not who I am, it’s who I’m gonna be.” – Jack Jones/Trampolene

Plodding about in central London with nothing to do on a slightly chilly Wednesday night, I received an Insta DM from an old mate called Hugh, aka El Rey HQ, asking if I wanted a guestlist ticket to see him open for Jack Jones of Trampolene and Peter Doherty’s Puta Madres.. obviously I couldn’t say no. I met Hugh in the Manchester music scene circa 2018, where I first started properly gigging, back then he was known as King Kartel, but now he has recently re-branded himself and his style of music. I remember seeing him play at venues like The Whiskey Jar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and I was always a fan of the now off-line song “Sometime Sally”, which he says is to be re-recorded and released under his new moniker, El Rey HQ.

I walked into the small venue, The Waiting Room, underneath a pub called the 3 Crowns in Stoke Newington to find Hugh having a quick nap on the bench near the stage, he had just driven from Cardiff, knackered from the travel and a gig the night before. I tapped him on his shoulder to awaken him from his sleepy slumber, his eyes opened quickly and he shot up onto his feet and said “yes mate lovely to see you again, how ya been?.” From then on we chatted about his upcoming music and recent release “Sunshine Honey Blow” and his wicked new cover of Oasis’ “Supersonic”, available on Spotify now! After catching up and conversing, people started to fill the venue, I went upstairs and got myself a pint, Hugh responded with “don’t do that” and handed me multiple cans of the musician’s rider, an honourable gesture if I do say so. Opening up with unreleased tracks, El Rey then dedicated a track to me, saying “this one’s for the lad Chris over there” and burst into my all time favourite song of his “Sometime Sally.” After playing bopping indie-pop tracks with well placed electronic backing drums, he left the crowd ecstatic and curious for more. This definitely isn’t the last we’ll see of El Rey HQ!

After a short break, suddenly Jack Jones’ poetry came over the loud-speakers, the crowd cheered and he walked from the dressing room. As he walked he noticed me, as we’d bumped into each other in Hackney Wick not too long ago, shook my hand and gave me a cheeky kiss on the head, an affectionate lad. He walked through the crowd shaking hands with most of his fans, a true artist who appreciates the support he receives. Starting off with some well known Trampolene numbers he then burst into his recent track “Oh Lover”, with the whole crowd singing along. If he’d had the whole band to support him, there definitely would’ve been a mosh-pit. I didn’t know what to expect from his performance as I’d never seen him live. It was like seeing a mixture of John Cooper Clarke, Alex Turner and Peter Doherty all wrapped into one, with his original Welsh twang and mixture of styles differentiating him from his creative predecessors. I loved the poetic interludes and especially his recital of “Health and Wellbeing at Wood Green Job Centre”, as it wasn’t too far from the venue itself. He has an adoration of his fans, and was very personable from the get-go, interacting as he went along and played his set. He ended the show with his Doherty co-written track “Paradise is Under Your Nose”, to great appeal. 

I saw two great musicians that night. And all thanks to El Rey for reaching out and giving me a cheeky ticket. Jack Jones, well, he’s definitely one of the most underrated artists of this generation, and while he isn’t “mainstream”, his cult following will be remembered for decades to come. It was a blast and I’ll definitely see them on tour again.

Live review and photos by CHRIS HUMPHRIES