Tonight it’s a first trip to the Basement Bar for me, to see my current favourite “local” live band. As it’s name suggests, the bar is in the basement of York’s City Screen cinema. It’s a strange set-up, with the stage area being almost as big as the audience area. The are a few tables, lit with candles (very intimate), including one which is almost on the stage itself, an impression only heightened by the fact that you have to go around or over the barrier separating stage from audience to get to it. Roj and I, both getting somewhat used to going out during the week, positioned ourselves at a corner table and settled down for the evening’s entertainment, with me for one hoping that the hour’s delay in opening the doors didn’t mean that I had to rush off to catch the last bus home.
First up were two fifths of Sheffield band Dave Woodcock and the Dead Comedians, namely Dave himself on guitar and vocals and Chris Saunders on guitar. They are playing a series of gigs to promote Omaha High Low, their album due to be released in November. Dave sings with an almost growl, painting pictures with his lyrics and producing songs which could be the North England equivalent of Springsteen’s quieter, more parochial output. Highlight for me was City Lights (which is lucky as it is also the only song title I can remember…) Chris’s backing guitar almost gave the impression that he was ad-libbing as, at times, the two sounds didn’t quite seem to match up, but they always worked. An enjoyable, if not standout, set and it would be interesting to hear the full band line-up.
Next on the bill was Boss Caine or, more accurately, GT Turbo, from York. (Confused? The explanation is on the linked MySpace page.) Categorised as Americana, Country and Blues, this is a singer/guitarist with a rich, deep, mellow voice and songs about hard drinking and drugs. Again, like the first act, his songs evoke images of Northern life – Smoking In My Backyard was a standout for me. Other songs tonight included Lady Macbeth, Sweet Sorry Surrender and a cover of Has Anybody Here Seen Hank (originally by The Waterboys). This is the first time I’ve caught this act but, hopefully, it won’t be the last.
Finally, the band we had turned up to see – a cold-ridden, Leeds-based Hope & Social. I have waxed lyrical about H&S’s album, Architects Of This Church, before and still urge anybody who hasn’t bought it to do so. Tonight’s set was comprised mostly of songs from that album, although there was one that I didn’t recognise. Although they didn’t perform the full album, the songs were proper live (by which I mean extended) versions, including one which was preceded by the strains of Prefab Sprout’s When Love Breaks Down. There wasn’t a duff song in the set but the instrumental ending to Sunlight Hold Me was incredible. Along with the welcome return of comedy interludes (I’m never sure whether these are rehearsed or ad-libbed), audience participation is encouraged at H&S gigs and tonight we sang along with gusto to the chorus of Red Red Rose and (without encouragement) joined in impeccably with the “whoa whoa” section of Looking For Answers (performed acoustically by Simon on guitar and vocals and Rich on backing vocals, as the performance had gone on longer than they were allowed to use the PA system.) For a band whose various members were either dosing themselves with Strepsils or in imminent danger of having to rush off stage (you really don’t want to know…), this was another superb performance, retrospectively tinged with a little sadness when I found out that it was bass-player Jason’s penultimate gig with the band.
For anybody interested, I didn’t miss the last bus, but I did have to run further than I currently find comfortable in order to catch it!