An unexpected email from Andy leads to an unplanned night out at Stereo.
Andy himself had yet to arrive when the first band, Patchwork Grace, took to the stage. It must be something about bands from Nottingham as, like Baby Godzilla a few weeks back, they did nothing for me on the basis of this performance. The MySpace page linked above states their genre as “rock” and there are citations from Kerrang, but tonight’s set was acoustic and comprised of vocalist Tori Tea dressed like a gangster’s moll and sitting between guitarist Christoph Marrizon and bassist Scott O’Conner (drummer Dan Rolfe was absent from the full line-up). The seated performance and simple guitar work provided for a less than dynamic set and, while Tea’s voice sounded as though it could have been strong, on this occasion it came across as just a little monotonous. None of their own songs stuck out for me and the best part of their set was a cover of Love Cats (The Cure). It’s perhaps unfair to judge them on an acoustic performance (the only one on their list of upcoming gigs) and maybe we’ll see them back in York as a full band sometime.
Andy Finally arrived as the second band were starting their set. I got the impression that Boys Off The Bench were a relatively new band and nothing in my research for this post suggests otherwise. Their MySpace profile has only existed since July this year and only lists brothers Luke and Adam Henderson (vocals and drums respectively) as members, although there is mention of them being joined by bassist/guitarist Kenny. Tonight, however, there were five members on stage – Kenny, not being able to play both guitar and bass at the same time had been joined by a second string-man and there was also an electric piano, which proved to be the lead instrument in most of the songs while the guy tinkling its ivories also provided backing vocals, leading to some nice harmonies particularly during Bugle Boy. Overall, Luke’s vocals seemed a little tentative and hesitant and it didn’t help that the drums were mixed too high during You Make Me Smile which made the lyrics difficult to hear. Ravens, however, was a fantastic song – lyrically almost post-modern folk and ending with some incredibly dark drumming which superbly complemented the imagery of the song. Following this with a bright and breezy pop song and a vocals-and-keyboards-only number meant a varied and interesting set, while the final song, When Nothing Else Matters, was a thoughtful, intelligently written number and the best song of a very good set.
Leeds based Eureka Machines are another band with differences between tonight’s line-up and full membership. Tonight we just had Chris and Dave, both doing vocals and guitar (one might have been a bass, I wasn’t watching closely enough…) Apparently, they wish they had proper “rock-star” names. Well, Chris, without too much effort you could change yours to Chas… Anyway, billed as Rock/Punk/Pop with more citations from Kerrang and a track on a past Classic Rock cover CD, tonight was another acoustic set with a nice line in banter and songs which, perhaps unintentionally, managed to raise a smile. As did Dave’s somewhat unnerving doorman stance, including piercing stare, when he had little to do and his dragging a chair on stage and sitting looking bored when Chris decided to do a song on his own. Despite some degree of audience apathy, the boys played a mixture of their own songs, including the excellent Story Of My Life (which was the Classic Rock CD track) and covers. “Who wants to hear the best song ever written?” asked Chris to no reply. “Nobody,” he sighed before asking again and getting one “Yeah” from a woman in the audience. So, the duo left the stage to sit on the woman’s table and serenade her with Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell). Apparently, the second best song ever written is A-ha’s Take On Me, which was also played tonight. Overall, a very enjoyable set which, in this format, would be highly recommended to fans of Hope & Social, of which there was more than a resonance of in the performance.
StringerBessant is comprised of Gary Stringer and Jack Bessant, both formerly of nineties Brit-rock band Reef. I don’t remember the band and so went to tonight’s gig with no preconceptions. However, it’s hard to imagine two people less likely to have been in a successful British band of the nineties, with Gary looking like a surfer dude and Jack perhaps having wandered in from a remake of Grizzly Adams, in which he was playing the lead. Nor would the music have given you any clues. Jack played acoustic guitar and harmonica and occasionally sang while Gary sang, occasionally played guitar and provided a rhythm section by playing tambourine (or his knees). As with The Union, a few gigs back, I got the feeling that I had crashed a private party. Most of the audience seemed to know the songs, which were from the recently released album The Yard, with Wild Day and Give Me The Keys – two completely different songs, the former slow, the latter bouncy – getting particularly good reactions. A lot of the songs were quietly introspective and almost brought a lump to the throat, particularly in the vocals. Both guys have strong voices, just different from each other to be complementary and they gave us an incredibly involving set which was topped off by the vibrant encore Cross The Valley. It’s safe to say that I’ll be ordering a copy of the album soon.