Well, wouldn’t you know it? A big Hazzard County reunion and two thirds of the group aren’t available. Instead, we have a rare appearance from Seldom-seen from Strensall and an even rarer appearance from my wife (with new camera), all on our first visit to the Duchess to see a band that we’ve seen and enjoyed before.
First up is Mike Newsham who we’ve also seen before, opening for the Yards at the Post Office Club. As last time, his vocals were a little indistinct (something I now put down to the microphone being too close to his mouth. No, seriously) but his guitar-playing was excellent. This performance was a little less energetic than last time, with less foot-stomping, and was a little short. Mike’s a good opening act and his five or six songs were a good start to the evening.
Before I move on to the next act, a few words about the venue (if only because I haven’t got to the bottom of the accompanying photo yet…) The Duchess is exactly what I was expecting and more. Spacious both in terms of the audience area and the stage, with an excellent sound system, it is exactly what York needs. With seating areas comprising of chill-out sofas and two bars, both selling hand-pulled beer (although still in plastic glasses), compared to Fibbers it’s a palace amongst venues. We managed to catch a few words with joint owner Michelle, who explained that this is the tenth time she has been involved in opening a music venue and that, so far and despite its own special kind of problems, the Duchess is doing well.
Second on the bill was GT Turbo, another York-based solo guitarist but with a slightly different sound to Mr Newsham. This one is a more laid back Neil Young type sound, with much clearer lyrics than Newsham. For about half his act, GT was joined by a second guitarist (I missed his name) and, for one song, by Andy Gaines of the headline act and these guest artists produced a fuller, more rounded sound experience. Overall, however, GT didn’t do a lot for me, which is a bit surprising as I generally don’t have anything against this type of music. I put it down to just not being in the mood for more subtle music tonight.
In contrast the third act, The Federals, were loud and proud of it. Billed as “garage” they sounded more punk to me. All their songs were short, sharp and angry, like a punch to the stomach. The drums were played so loud it felt like CPR, the guitars so fast you could barely see their hands and the vocals so harsh that the lead-singer might as well have been screaming. I’m sure that, if you like that sort of music (and there were plenty there that did) that The Federals are good at what they do. It’s not for me, however.
And so to the band we came to see, The Runaway Sons, featuring Jim Gipson. I’ve written about their history and mentioned how good they are in a previous post and it’s good to see them now headlining a gig. Tonight’s set was, as far as I could remember, very similar to the previous one but was a lot more polished. Gipson’s voice was still brilliant with clear vocals and songs that I am beginning to recognise. Overall, the performance was, like Newsham’s a little less energetic than the last time we saw them but that probably left more scope for intricate playing, rather than on-stage antics.
Since we last saw them, the Sons have recorded a six-track EP, which I picked up on the night, along with Gipson’s solo EP (at the bargain price of £1). I’ve since listened to both and, I’m happy to say, they continue the high quality music. Both contain excellent sing-along rock songs, instantly recognisable from the live set.
To round off the night, we wandered down to the White Swan to catch the end of a gig by Dave and Simon of Hazzard County. Or maybe that should be ex of Hazzard County. After last weekend’s posting, Chris Johnson contacted me to say that he hadn’t left the Hazzards and that a more full version of them would be playing the Cock and Bottle tonight. Unfortunately, it was just too long a walk by the time we left the Duchess. Simon and Dave, with just acoustic guitars, played the sort of songs we associate with the Hazzards, with the competency that we associate with… Well, you get the idea.
So, my first visit to the Duchess, five bands for a fiver (three of which I definitely liked and one I would probably enjoy under different circumstances) and twelve recorded tracks purchased for just another fiver. Top night!