GIG REVIEW: Hak Baker @ The Castle Hotel
Hak Baker is a conundrum. He started his career at the tender age of 14 as a member of grime collective B.O.M.B Squad, but today he’s known for his stripped-back sound and spoken–word lyrics. Hak is up and down; high and low – and so was his performance on Monday night at The Castle Hotel.
His songs are honest and nostalgic, telling tales about growing up in the east end. But his personality is the total opposite; bold, bombastic, funny and facetious. He’s a proper east Londoner who loves to laugh, loves to live, and loves to drink. He joined us in the crowd during his three (!) supporting acts, drinking, dancing and hollering with the rest of the revellers.
When Hak finally took the stage he was pretty pissed, but he totally owned it. He instantly won us all over with his Cockney charm, and started the set with his EP’s titular track, ‘Misfits’. After his fumbling introduction and slurred sentences, we didn’t really know what to expect but we needn’t worry as Hak was most certainly on point. His almost-spoken word songs flowed out of him and his delicate guitar was tight. You could feel a hum of excitement around The Castle’s small gig space as the crowd started to vibrate right along with him.
After pausing for jokes and another pint, Hak started his next song, ‘Tom’. As soon as he started finger-picking strings and somberly speaking the first verse, his whole persona changed. Hak sang lines like ‘we’d give anything to bring back our boy, the lads miss you, we all do – yeah we do, yeah we do‘ about the friend he lost a long time ago, and we suddenly saw the vulnerability behind the east-end exterior. With dreads covering most of his face, you could feel the emotion pouring out of him, and by the final chorus Hak struggled to hold back the tears. The crowd cheered on as he wiped his eyes and brought the song to a close before taking a quick swig and speaking about the shit that gets thrown at us – ‘but that’s life I guess, you’ve got to like it or lump it’.
Hak snapped out of his funk and the gig picked up to fever-pitch as ‘Like it or Lump it‘ kicked in. The buzz was back in the room, and once again the crowd was jumping and singing along. In the 2 final tracks, there was a real family-feel to the show as Hak’s support acts joined him on stage. The energy was phenomenal – merchandise was thrown around the room – the floorboards were bouncing, and walls were shaking. This wasn’t your average chilled-out Monday night at The Castle – this was a party.
Hak Baker ticks all the boxes. He’s one to watch.