Gig Review: The Undercover Hippy @ The Golden Lion
by Polly Hember
Billy Rowan, better known as The Undercover Hippy, played to a packed out crowd at The Golden Lion last month. Upholding his reputation for a phenomenal and energetic live performance, his wonderful amalgamation of folk, roots reggae and hip hop was bound tight with provocative and politically driven lyrics. As Great Britain attempts to gather itself in the wake of Brexit, The Undercover Hippy’s talent for song-writing and sculpting songs with political drive (both private and public) becomes critically important. Crafting real songs with real world motivation, meaning and merit - Rowan delivered clever, socially attuned songs with a brilliant sense of humour and his tell-tale, unabashedly catchy reggae riffs.
Journeying down Gloucester Road in the rain to catch the release of DJ Hippopotamus’s remix of The Undercover Hippy’s hit ‘Boyfriend’, we arrived slightly soggy at a steamy and packed out Golden Lion in time to catch the support band Mama Cabasa. The funk outfit showcased deliciously catchy and upbeat urban soul whilst the small pub continued to fill up The Undercover Hippy’s cult Bristol following. With the low ceiling, draped in fairy lights, it’s intimate stage and modest capacity, The Golden Lion is always a fantastic venue for live music and never fails to see the whole dancefloor moving.
Performing with a full band, Rowan delivered a tight set filled with tracks from his 2014 album Monkey Suit, scattering some exciting new material in between these favourites. Highlights were ‘Borders’, ‘Coming to the Gambia’, with ‘Last Chance to Dance’ left till the end. However, the crowd did not need any encouragement and danced energetically from the first song till the last. This enthusiasm elicited from the audience can only be accredited to Rowan’s energetic on-stage performance; from his wry introductions to songs from harnessing the crowd’s vigour with a great call-and-response segment in ‘Long Way Down’. The unabashed joy of the cheeky lyrics and catchy rhymes of ‘Boyfriend’ are always something to look forward to at an Undercover Hippy gig, and this rendition did not disappoint, as the self-depreciating hilarity of drunken mixed messages was sung back to Rowan on stage.
With a list of festival dates throughout the summer confirmed, The Undercover Hippy is one to look out for. His boisterous folk-pop is as infectious as his lyrics are thought provocative, combining intelligence, talent and passion in a highly enjoyable set.
Listen to the DJ Hiphoppapotamus remix of 'Our Streets' right here.