Two years ago last December, I forced my friend to accompany me to the Christmas gig of the little known band, Jaws. At the time, Jaws had only released their Milkshake EP and hadn’t escaped the shadows of their B-Town chums, Peace and Swim Deep. The gig was at an infamous and tiny venue in the heart of Kings Heath, Hare & Hounds. Being a typical dark and somewhat stingy pub with only a one-hundred and fifty people capacity, my expectations for the gig weren’t exactly high.
Upon arriving, my friend and I were instantly approached by girls high off their faces and to say that the gig wasn’t looking promising is an understatement; I was beginning to worry that I’d dragged my friend to some dodgy drug-haven all for the sake of a band who had released only one EP. Nervous about what was to come, we waited for the support act to perform to the fifty-strong crowd. ‘What’s their name?’, my friend asked me. ‘Babypink,’ I replied. ‘Probably nothing too spectacular’ – how I was wrong.
To this day, I still have not forgotten my surprise that a band, unsigned and unheard of, could be so impressive. I strangely remember the gig perfectly; we were stood at the front left of the stage and, shuffling past us to clamber onto the stage, a scruffy-haired lad in converse and a Pixies t-shirt climbed the stage. The band looked nonchalant, unsuspecting. They were quiet as they picked up their guitars but, once they did, this casual and off-hand exterior was replaced with a frantic rapture of sound. With a release of guitar lines that hit you in the face with their raw energy and with an overall sharpness that made the whole room of only fifty look up in an unexpected awe, it was a performance that was both electric and addictive: you became absorbed in sound. While I had gone to see Jaws, it was Babypink who it was left the lasting impression.
It was at this moment that I realised the power of underground music; a band need not be signed to be impressive, and to follow a band who were at the very beginnings of their musical career was an exciting experience. It was at this moment I realised my passion for music, and my own desire to write about such passion. It was soon after this moment that I wrote my first live gig review.
Last month, however, it was announced via The Worcester news that Sam Killing, the scruffy-haired lad in converse and a Pixies t-shirt who, only two years early who had stood only two metres in front of me so full of life and talent, had tragically died. After the breakup of Babypink in 2014 the guitarist, aged only twenty years old, had become the lead guitarist for Birmingham-band Juice a matter of months ago. The news was met with grief on social media.
Indeed, while Sam may be dead, his music will lives on. For those of us who were down with the Birmingham music scene of 2014, Babypink helped provide the soundtrack that defined our great city at a moment where it felt like the world had finally started to listen. Sam may be dead, but the memories he helped provide many of us through music cannot be taken away.
With the reactions following the great David Bowie’s death this week, both Sam and Bowie show us the sheer power of music: their deaths showing us how music means so much more than just a few guitar chords and thrown-together lyrics. Music is something that reaches to the core of our humanity. It unites us and provides us with an artistic expression of feeling, reaching emotions that cannot be accessed alone via words. For a lot of us, music acts as a core point in which our lives revolve around – we rely on it like oxygen. It is there for the good times, it is there for the bad times, and it lets us know that we’re not alone in our experiences. In this labyrinth of life, music provides a hand that joins people together. It can immortalise people through the simple strumming of a guitar.
While on different scales admittedly, both Bowie and Killing were able to do this. And, while their deaths may be a tragedy, the fact that they were able to so poignantly reach people through music is something worth celebrating.
So, wherever you are Sam Killing, know that you lived a life that did not go unnoticed. Know that you left a set of unique footprints that cannot be retraced.
RIP Sam Killing, RIP.
Juice will be holding their Birmingham headlines show at Rainbowon the 23rd January in honour of Sam’s memory, with all profits going to the charities Mind and Turning Point, and you can listen to Babypink’s Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/babypinkband
Words by Juliette Rowsell