There was a kind of symmetry between tonight’s gig, billed as a “farewell” to Dream Of Apollo, and the first time I saw them play, nearly three and a half years ago. (Blimey! Where has time gone?)
Both took place in back rooms of pubs, although tonight’s with a much bigger audience, meaning that the room had to be rearranged to fit in as many people as possible. During both, I shouted “Sandman”, the song that convinced me to go and see them, at the band. Admittedly this time I had to be encouraged/reminded to do it and it was to request an encore (gratefully received) rather than to remind them they had another song that began with the letter “S”. Perhaps most coincidental of all, though, was the fact that one person in the audience had only come along after seeing the gig listed on-line and checking out their music on Spotify, much as I did back in 2011 (although, for me, it was MySpace). “Why is it their final gig?” he asked me, perhaps annoyed that he hadn’t come across them earlier.
The line-up may have changed slightly since the first time I saw them – indeed, it had changed before then as well. I can only name eight of the eleven official members – but the band remain one of the friendliest I have come across, always appreciative of whatever support they get. They may not have reached the successes that their music deserves, never quite managing to take the “next step” in the York music scene, despite a number of tours taking them to audiences across the UK and even into Europe, but they have always seemed happy with what they have achieved, which includes Alpha, an album that they can be justifiably proud of, and a dedicated fan base. Now, however, with band members already spread across three cities and soon to be across two continents, they have decided to call it a day. No animosity, no fallings-out, no musical differences, just the right time.
Promising a set full of oldies, songs from the album and covers, the band performed an emotional yet fun and relaxed set of twenty two songs and an encore of four more, stretching back to Sanctuary, which I haven’t heard live since 2011, Smokin’, a song from a previous line-up and one which I hadn’t heard live before, and Free, a favourite of mine which didn’t make it to the album. A mid-set solo section from Vicki included Mine, the first of her own songs she ever played in public, and the bitter-sweet (and still hilarious) Dead Pets – “bought” with a bribe of a pint of Guzzler – which got a huge cheer. Covers included Jolene, Come Together, Eleanor Rigby, Your Loving Arms (which featured Vicki’s most emotive vocals of the evening) and the always well-received Folsom Prison Blues, which not only brought the main set to a close but the encore as well, with the audience clapping, stamping and singing along both times. Alpha was well represented as well, with every track from it played at some point during the evening.
Between songs there was the usual banter and reminiscing. Most of the former seemed to be aimed at drummer Caspar Haslam, whose slightly spaced-out demeanour, array of unusual percussion (“traditional Irish instrument, played with a bottle brush,” quipped Vicki at one point while, at another he used a carton of cake decorations as a shaker) and apparent disdain for Jolene, made him an easy target. Even being the shortest serving member of the band, though, he still fits right in with the “family” feel, good-naturedly accusing Rhys’ wife of taking him from the band. Drinks orders were send out from the “stage”, with Sarah, on cello, extending the introduction to Come Together while one particularly large and complicated one was sorted out, and drinks duly delivered between songs, while Winston’s search for a lost capo prompted Vicki to recall the time he used a child to hold his guitar instead of using one.
All in all, this was a typical Dream Of Apollo gig. Great music, lovely vocals, a friendly atmosphere and even a sockless bass-player. It’s just a shame it was their last. Of course, having said that, I’ve been to farewell gigs before and still seen the bands play again afterwards. This isn’t even the first “final” Dream Of Apollo gig I’ve been to and, with one member already saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and another bandying around the word “reunion”, there’s still a chance we will get to see them again sometime in the future. If not, it just remains to thank the band for the music and the memories and to wish the various members best wishes and good luck for their future endeavours, both musical and otherwise.