Two weekends ago. Two gigs. Two nights. Both very different. Both amazing...
First up, some sophisticated indie pop enlivens a dull Thursday evening. My good friend and fellow blogger Tom Wiggins
had very generously bought me a ticket to see Slow Club at my fave venue, Gloucester's Guildhall. I didn't really know the band but I'm always ready to try something new and I trust Tom's taste in music.We got to the venue just before the support band, Happyness, began their set, only to find the place was virtually empty. This didn't bode too well... and neither did the fact that there were chairs and tables set out in the hall, like it was some WI
meeting or something. Very odd. Happyness are a very young three-piece band who played some low-key indie, nothing too exciting, but well done. Their set meandered and was in danger of losing the small crowd's attention, despite some decent tunes and accomplished vocals, but they managed to inject a bit of enegy into the last couple of songs to recue it. Tom and I had a chat with the drummer afterwards ( mostly about other bands like the Flaming Lips and The War On Drugs ) who seemed a very nice guy and told us about the band's upcoming dates in Europe and the States. Living the dream...
Slow Club ambled onto the stage and started with the slow burning Tears Of Joy
, a quiet intro building to pop perfection as the song uncoiled around Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson's sublime vocals. Like many of the songs from their latest album, Complete Surrender
, this opening number brings subtle touches of '60s Soul to a modern pop sound - never quite an obvious pastiche, more of a colouring that adds extra class. The sparse crowd began to warm to the band but had to be coaxed by Rebecca to come nearer to the stage. Tom and I, of course, were first down the front. Inbetween the full-band songs they dropped in a couple of solo slots, Rebecca's unaccompanied take on Not Mine To Love
being absolutely spellbinding. Occasionally her vocals almost hit on a Country sensibility, as her voice catches, as if she can't bear to go on but forces herself to face the emotion of the song. To be fair, Charles has a fine voice too and it's great to see that the couple work so well together, but the sultry Ms. Taylor is the star of the show, with a great line in wry banter and a sensual shimmy across the stage which is approximately 1000% sexier than most pop stars' animalistic twerking.
( Wow, I've never typed the word "twerking" before. And probably never will again. )
After finishing the set with a storming charge through Suffering You, Suffering Me
, with its Motown / Phil Spector vibe, the band came back on for a couple of encores and then sat at the front of the stage and serenaded us with a beautiful acoustic version of The Pieces
, a wonderful song made even more special by the up-close-and-personal delivery. The unusually poor turn out for this gig actually worked in our favour here, making this an unexpectedly intimate ending to an excellent night. Slow Club are a great band with some soulful, heartfelt songs - hopefully their big break will come soon; they deserve it. Thanks to Tom for introducing me to their world...
The next night saw an entirely different gig experience:
James and I went down to Bristol's famous Fleece to see Australian psychedelic loonies Pond doing their cosmic thing. After a detour to the other side of the city ( we were dropping Sophie off after she'd been home a few days to do some dancing / filming at Gloucester College ) we got to the venue just in time to catch support band Younghusband. They played some decent, jangly indie pop, influenced by the likes of Teenage Fanclub and early Blur, but without any real identity or standout songs. A pleasant enough way to pass the time but hardly memorable. And then the venue began to positively crackle with electricity as the sell-out crowd surged forward and a bunch of ( mostly ) hairy men took to the stage. Looking like an Antipodean Grateful Dead or MC5, Nick Allbrook's band of misfits plugged in and proceeded to melt our brains...
Pond's sound is one of total cosmic chaos and inspired the same loopy wildness in the crowd. It was one of the maddest nights I've seen in the Fleece as wave after wave of psychedelic sound splurged over the pogo-ing crowd until it felt like the grimy old rock 'n' roll barn would levitate and float across Bristol. From the Zeppelin-esque guitar blasts of Giant Tortoise
to the more electronic, keyboard-dominated new material, the set was a fantastic sound collage, now heavy, now grooving, now lighter than air. A cover of Brian Eno's Baby's On Fire
was one of the few concessions to the verse-chorus-middle eight-chorus model of pop song - everything else seemed to be a massive melting-pot of psychedelic psounds, vocals and all thrown into the churning mixture. But, somehow, it all made sense. And the flowery-shirted kids and beret-wearing hipsters all dug it, maaan. The biggest grin of the night came from the keyboard player who dominated centre stage with his mad profesor experiments and looked to be loving every second.
It was certainly eye-opening for James - the music was outside of his usual dance comfort zone
( although there were some pretty slippery grooves in the psychedelic gumbo ) and the crowd was far wilder than he'd been used to at previous gigs. I was concerned about his reaction ( particularly to the claustrophobic push and pull of the crowd ) but he absolutely loved it. Me too.