The last time I went to a start-of-the-week gig at Stereo, I was the only the only member of the audience not connected to any of the bands performing that night. It couldn’t happen again, could it?
“Well, this is a bit depressing.” More or less the opening words from Joe Baker (I think), guitarist and vocalist (in that order) of Halloe Away. Of course, it could have been Alex Partington, but as he is listed as “vocals and guitar”, I’m assuming the order is important and tending towards the former. The reason for the depression was that the audience for their set comprised of about eight people, including four members of the second act on the bill. Quite where the rest of the Halloe Away, as listed on the link, were tonight is anybody’s guess, but we got Alex and Joe, singing and playing guitars in a kind of folky, rocky, acoustic way and sounding, for one song anyway (I think it was called Just To Let You Know) a little like Ralph McTell. As usual, I didn’t catch all the titles but the set included a covers of songs by Cee-Lo Green and, I think, Girls Aloud(!). Of their own compositions, I quite liked the dual guitars of the third song of the set, as well as the softer, quieter Halloe Away. Yes, they have a self-titled song, and why not? Best of all was the final song of the set, which I have noted may have been called If A Sin. Overall, however, I got the impression that the boys weren’t really giving it their best shot, due to the small crowd and I can’t help but wonder what they would be like to see as a full band, complete with violin, cello and double-bass. At very least it would have been something a bit more original.
To give them their due, Joe and Alex, along with the young lady who had been watching them (one of the missing members, maybe?) did stick around to see InSpades.Inc. I had only seen them a few weeks ago, at Fibbers, and I have to say they sounded a lot better tonight. Frontman Stewart didn’t announce the first song and I don’t yet know their output well enough to recognise it with any certainty. Twenty Minutes From Now, however, is one of my favourites and it seems to sound more epic every time I hear it – tonight it sounded superb. Cannibals, written and sung by Adam Brady, tonight performing with the band for the last time, was much better served than last time out, benefitting both from better sound and a less nervous performance. Lost Track Of Time has a huge sound, again helped by the venue. The band performed all the tracks from their debut EP, joking that they didn’t have any copies with them tonight, so we couldn’t buy it. This is the second time I’ve seen the band at Stereo – the first was only their second ever gig – and they sounded so much better tonight. Once again it was a shame that a band on top form should have such a small audience watching the and, perhaps, even more of a shame that they were losing a member so early in their career. Thankfully, they ignored the lack of audience and gave a full-on performance tonight. Hopefully the band can also bounce back from Adam’s departure. Last I heard, they were advertising for a replacement guitarist and a keyboard player to complete the line-up.
Two of the reasons that the last gig I went to with such a small audience wasn’t a complete failure was that all the acts stuck around to watch each other and they all gave the same performances that they would have done for a bigger crowd. So far tonight, we’ve had one full-on performance and one that seemed a bit down-key, but the two support acts have had the good grace to watch each other. Which kind of begs the question of where were the headliners?
Well, Arthur Rigby And The Baskervylles finally put in an appearance, along with a handful of extra audience members who may (or may not) have been connected to the band, when it was their turn to take to the stage. Normally an eight-piece band, tonight they were missing the pianist and nobody seemed to know why. Still, it was quite a crowded stage and the band included quite an impressive brass and woodwind section, including James Hamilton on trumpet – yes, the same James Hamilton who plays with Hope&Social. The set started in a somehow chaotic fashion, with the brass instruments all seeming to play on top of each other and the first thing I noticed was that Benjamin’s vocals sounded more like those of Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon than whoever it was I said that about last time (Dorien Starre, I think…) The first song was, again, unannounced, but was followed by Far Far Away and then White Houses (the band’s current single) which contained a nice violin part (and you won’t hear me say that too often) from Hannah. The fourth song showcased Katie’s flute while the fifth – Ode To God (?) – contained some great lyrics and had an old-fashioned, somehow typically Yorkshire feel, thanks to the brass, which I have to say I found a bit overpowering during Here In My Arms. The more catchy Spies is the B-side of the first single and again allowed Katie to shine, this time with her saxophone. The set ended with a nicely extended Holding Hands, with another nice violin solo (blimey, I’ve said it again..) and One Stormy Night. As the set ended, Stereo’s Andy asked me what I thought and we agreed that we kind of liked the band but couldn’t really say why. They were certainly different and, like InSpades.Inc, gave a full performance, but they seemed a little reserved if not aloof and, in my opinion, didn’t really connect with the audience. The fact that they didn’t watch the other bands was, I think, a bit strange (and I can’t blame Halloe Away and most of InSpades.Inc for not sticking around to watch them). Having said that, the three bands were quite a bit different so it might just be that the others weren’t quite their “thing”. Even so…
In my opinion, only one band made the most of the circumstances tonight, which is a bit of a shame.