What could be better, on a typically rainy Bank Holiday Monday, than sitting inside and listening to a bunch of talented musicians playing a free gig? Except, today wasn’t a typical rainy Bank Holiday – it might not have bee quite as warm as the last couple of days, but the sun was still out. But, there was a bunch of talented local musicians playing a free gig so, after a morning in the sun, we headed along.
As an aside, a small part of that morning in the sun was spent sitting outside listening to Andy Doonan (along with Sam Smith and Ellie Parker) busking in the centre of York. I’ve seen Andy play live twice recently and really like his own stuff. During the time we were listening he only played covers (as, I guess, most buskers do) from the likes of The Killers and Maroon 5. A good start to the musical day but not a patch on his full performance. People were dropping money and I saw at least one person buy a copy of his CD, but it’s a shame that more of those people don’t see him at a full gig. Still, I guess that could be said for a lot of artistes.
This afternoon’s family-friendly “Sounding Like Summer” mini-festival at Gibson’s Bar had been organised by the boys from Pelico, who had invited a handful of bands down to play. To be honest, it didn’t seem to have been advertised very well and,presumably due to the vagaries of feeds on Facebook, I had only heard of it through one of the other bands on the bill. When we arrived, the bar was nearly empty and there was a vague feeling that this was going to be another of those poorly attended gigs that York is infamous for.
However, by the time Dream Of Apollo took to the stage the place had filled up nicely and there ended up being quite a crowd. Indeed, compared to all but one of the other times I’ve seen this band, this seemed to be the most attentive and appreciative audience I think the band have had, a fact that seemed to be borne out by the big smiles they flashed as the applause came at the end of each song. This afternoon the current four-piece acoustic line-up were joined by Antonio who, playing with the band for the first time, provided some nice improvisational violin lines which added even more layers to the songs. This was especially notable during the lovely Hold Me and All For You. A shorter than normal set inevitably led to some of the usual songs being dropped and along with Someday, Children Of The City, Regrets Of The Devil and Sandman – which, I noticed for the first time, now has a beautiful lead-out from Sarah on cello – the band included two covers. I like their versions of Jolene, with Winston featuring more heavily on vocals, and Folsom Prison Blues but, personally, I would have preferred to hear more of their own stuff. Having said that, I have yet to be disappointed by any Dream Of Apollo performance and today was no exception. It was nice to see a few of their CDs and other merchandise being bought at the end of the set, as well.
“We’ve got a Soundcloud”, announced Leo from Leo And The Dandelions, perhaps in response to the fact that Dream Of Apollo have an album. To be fair, they don’t seem to have been around long enough to record and album and there’s very little information out their about them. A two-piece, with Leo on guitar and vocals and an unnamed young lady with a gorgeous smile on cello and backing vocals, they performed a set full of songs which somehow contrived to be lively and chilled out at the same time, something particularly emphasised by Mary Anne, with its slow-then-poppy make-up. My favourite song of the set was Filthy Like The Rain, in which the cello became more prominent, while Misunderstood contained hints of 60’s folk-pop. Even Lead By Example, introduced as an “angst” song and starting off with a slightly darker sound than any of the others, became lighter in tone once Leo’s distinctive vocals – higher than expected but not unpleasantly so – started. New song Catch 22 was followed by Gold Or Sand which featured lovely backing vocals from the cellist, and set finished with the lightest and brightest song, Peace & Loving. I’m not sure how you would classify the music of Leo And The Dandelions or even who to compare them to (which could be seen as a good thing) but their set was enjoyable and the music near-perfect for a Summer sound.
The Patron Saints are a young band who seemed to bring along their own fan-base. Confusingly, lead singer Jess Kelly explained that they were without their lead guitarist today, which saw them being down to a three-piece. However, they seem to be a five-piece normally and, with drummer Connor Dale on rhythm guitar today, it seems that both guitarists (Tom Parker and Declan Gough) were absent. The line-up was completed by Joe Kennedy-Pinnock on bass. Today’s set comprised of a mix of covers and originals. I didn’t hear the titles of the first but I’m fairly sure it was something about dragons, while the second was Prima Donna (Marina and the Diamonds). Jess has a strong voice, but it was occasionally drowned out by the music. She’s also very still on stage, but manages to act out some of the lyrics simply using her hands in a very understated performance. An original, written by the absent Parker was lively, with an almost rock and roll opening. I’d like to hear the full band version. It was followed by covers of Ben Howard’s The Wolves and Taylor Swift’s The Story Of Us and then Fallen, written by Dale – a slow starter which eventually sped up nicely and featured some confident guitar-playing, at one point verging more on lead than rhythm, from the drummer. Fallen sequed into Get Lucky without me noticing and my only complaint would be that it ended the set a little weakly, the ending being a bit too repetitive.
A trip outside to visit the barbeque for some much needed fuel meant that we missed the first song of Pelico’s set and they were in full flow when we got back inside. Well, almost. Somebody started Who You Are in the wrong key, resulting in a restart. Pelico’s only cover of the set, Elbow’s One Day Like This was followed by an acoustic version of Holes, from their album Smile, and the three-way vocal harmonies of The Feeling. Continuing the day’s theme of different line-ups, the band had an added member on various brass instruments. His trumpet during Funny How Thing Change gave the song an almost Mariachi sound, while the same instrument added a Yorkshire brass band feel to new song Only So Far Now which, in places, was a much quieter song than most of their others. With the audience encouraged to clap along, the set was completed with Sleeping On The Floor, another song which showcases the superb vocal harmonies of Brian, Ash and Nick. With their infectious folk/pop sound Pelico embody Summer music – they are light, lively and very easy to listen to.
Unfortunately a combination of having to be somewhere else and the misunderstanding that Pelico were the last band to be playing, we missed the set from Minster Conspiracy, a York rock/punk band made up of eleven to twelve year olds. To them, we apologise.
Overall, this was a great afternoon of music and a nice way to showcase some of the smaller (although one or two might not like the adjective) local bands in a venue which suited their sound. Well attended by people who, mostly, seemed genuinely interested in the music, these sort of things should be encouraged.