Aaah, pub gigs. Not usually the best venues – in my experience there are usually too many people there more for the drink than the music and they tend to get in the way, both visually and sonically – but The Fulford Arms (and The Woolpack) should be congratulated for promoting original live music, as opposed to the covers bands of some venues.
Strictly speaking, this was a co-headline gig, but I didn’t know that until after I had arranged to go along to see The Rodeo Falls. Nor could we work out why we hadn’t come across These The Other Guy before, given that they have been active around York since at least early last year and they have already recorded an album.
They opened with two songs about greed, the first a sort of reggae/funk vibe then Like A Queen coming across as a bit more blues, with Gergo Kendick’s keyboards weaving their way through and around Andy Elmslie’s guitar. The subject then switched from greed to love and the sound changed again, this time to jazz, complete with piano and a sultry mid section. “We’re going to slow things down,” announced vocalist Alex Botham before they played Chocolate. By this time I was at the bar and found myself so entranced by a track as silky as my favourite foodstuff that I had to be told it was my turn to be served… This was definitely reminiscent of the archetypal smoky jazz-clubs that you see in popular media and it was almost a shame when the next track saw the band get “back into the groove” with a much livelier song that included an extended jam-like instrumental section. They finished the first half of their set with Leave Them By The Door, a musically fun, vocally fast and repetitive number.
After a short break, they returned with a short, snappy opener which was followed by another seeming change of style, this time to something a bit country. I assume by now you have worked out that is was nearly impossible to hear what was being said between songs, hence the lack of titles. However, it was easier to identify Where Did My Children Go? because I did manage to hear that it was in support of the War Child charity. This one opened with just piano and vocals, before Elmslie came in on clarinet, with Geoff Earp (bass) and Pete Spencer (drums) providing a subtle backdrop. It was a slow, sad track that would probably have been a lot more powerful in a more attentive crowd. After Botham said something about Eurovision, the mood changed dramatically into a sort of pop-rock track with soft guitar solo somewhere in the middle. By this time, with the set coming to its end, it was getting harder and harder to hear what was going on and the band were, from where we were sitting, providing little more than background music. I enjoyed what I heard, but I think the set could have been a couple of songs shorter, perhaps by dropping the two cover versions that were included. There’s no doubt that, while the music was pleasant enough, the main attraction was Botham – she is clearly a confident front-woman, engaging and expressive in her performance with a lovely voice. I am aware that I haven’t mentioned one member of the band – Andy Wilson, I think, is their main song-writer and was providing backing vocals. Unfortunately, from where we were (and using my old ears) I couldn’t pick him out of the mix.
I had been wanting to see The Rodeo Falls for a while and the reason for going along this time was that, with one of the band heading off for parts new, it was being advertised as the last gig with this line-up. In fact, they will be playing a short set at MorMusic’s Music on Rails Festival at the National Railway Museum in September but, after that, the future of the band is a little uncertain. When I last saw Marck Ck performing solo, my gig buddy for the night asked him what The Rodeo Falls sounded like. Even after he answered we weren’t sure and, as he told us tonight, any of the band would give a different answer anyway.
We got one example almost immediately. The opening track started slowly, with dual vocals from Ck and Dave Carpenter, before springing into something very like The Housemartins, complete with an energetic performance which completely fit the style of the song. Doctor Doctor continued the theme, being light and lively after a quiet opening, before Captains of Industry changed the format by opening with a tight staccato opening from the two guitarists leading into an indie/rock ‘n’ roll crossover. By this time, it was obvious that the sound was completely different to the previous band, much livelier and danceable, as evidenced by the Fulford Arms’ chef, who had vacated the kitchen and could be seen grooving along to the music. The band were clearly enjoying themselves on stage and, it has to be said, my feet were already tapping.
Their was a brief pause in the music while bass-player Bob Jackson (“I don’t normally talk…”) announced that it had been Ck’s birthday the day before. The audience partook in a sing-along of Happy Birthday while a cake was produced and Ck, although confessing to a number of food allergies (“I could probably eat the candles…”), said he appreciated the sentiment.
I had heard Ck perform the next song solo so, unlike most of the audience, knew that the answer to his question of “who was the first man into space” wasn’t Yuri Gagarin. (For the record, he was the first to return from space, at least according to conspiracy theory.) I still don’t know the song’s name, and can’t remember what it sounded like in solo form, but tonight it was slightly more ballad-like, with a strong, powerful ending. I thought Woe Betide Me came next, although a photo of the set-list with just one-word titles doesn’t include anything that looks like that. It’s subtle guitar sound was counterpointed brilliantly by the next track, whose scratch-funk led into a fast, furious and very fun sound included energetic drums from Mike Bilson and a fair bit of cossack-like yelping. The next one was slow and so quiet as to be barely audible above the noise of a room which was gradually filling up. Thankfully, what followed was much more brash. Gig-buddy Marc, said it reminded him of Gomez and I had to admit to another void in my musical knowledge. The dual vocals worked well and, by this time, more than the chef was dancing, with the area in front of the stage having been taken over as a dance floor and people at the bar swaying along as well. I’m fairly certain it was the music and not the alcohol… By now, it was practically impossible to see what was happening on stage but, by the sound of things, the band were having as much fun as the audience. The music continued in a lively fashion and, this time, the set ended too soon. The crowd shouted for more but, sadly, no encore was forthcoming.