At 19:40 the music of The Rodeo Falls was tantalisingly pushing its way through the doors which lead into Fibbers as I stood in the queue outside. Despite it only being a few minutes past the advertised door time not only had the music started, not only was there already a queue (albeit a small one at this point) but the York band – and one of my revelations of the year – had decided to carry on after original bassist Bob’s departure. New-boy Jono had, frontman Marck explained, been thrown in at the deep end. Originally told that the band wouldn’t gig until November, giving him time to bed in, he found himself on stage at the beginning of October. Not that you would have noticed. When I finally made it into the venue the band had just started an energetic version of Pepper Potts, which was followed by beautiful version of the epic Long Distance Runner during which Dave’s electric guitar could be heard coming through superbly. A nicely mixed, but very short, set was rounded off with sixties-referencing The Beat Goes On and Road Tricks which, with its somehow more bluesy sound, built up nicely to a rousing finale. I have seen The Rodeo Falls three times this year and they have sounded better every time. Tonight’s performance was greeted with appreciative applause between songs and it was nice to see people crowding the stage barrier during their set, even if they were probably just staking their claim for when the headliners arrived.
The second act to take to the stage were Genghar and, apart from the fact that they hail from London and used to be called RES, that’s about all the background I have found for them. Both Keane and Snow Patrol popped into my head during their set, but that could just be how my mind works. An effects opening to the first track led into quiet guitars behind surprisingly high vocals from the big, leather-jacketed frontman. The rest of the band came in in bursts and, eventually, the vocals changed to something more “normal” and the track became more energetic. The next was slower and steadier with some nice lead guitar work and was followed by another slow-starting but lively finishing song. And that pretty much sets the scene for the whole set – pleasant but a tad repetitive. It was an assured, confident performance, with little audience interaction. One song may have been called Bathe In Life and another, possibly, Power something. While the falsetto vocals were pleasant to start with, they soon got a bit tiresome and only changed again during the last and best song of the set which provided a powerful ending both musically and vocally.
The last time Dry The River played Fibbers they filled the venue and, despite multiple recommendations, I wasn’t able to attend. This time Fibbers’ move to a bigger (and, post-refurbishment) much better venue meant that it wasn’t quite full but was still one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen in York. The new venue has much clearer lines of sight to the stage, especially for those of us slightly vertically challenged and I had taken up position next to what I think will probably be “my” pillar for most shows there. The crowd were already cheering the slightest on-stage movement/change in lighting/smoke machine and when the band took to the stage, frontman Pete Liddle looking like an escaped Bee Gee, they were greeted by a huge cheer. Keane again sprang to mind during the first track, which was nothing like what I was expecting from the write-ups I had read. As Liddle switched to acoustic guitar for the second track Andy, my gig-buddy for the evening, explained that he remembered them as a more acoustic act. The first few notes brought forth another huge cheer and, as the set went on, it became obvious that most of the audience were big fans, cheering familiar songs as well as singing along. There was little or no concession to those of us who hadn’t heard the music before – I don’t remember one song being introduced. The changes between acoustic and electric guitar were made pretty much between every track, prompting Andy to say more than once that they were heavier and less folk-y than he remembered them. (Researching this review I came across a quote from The Guardian – “offer a glimpse of the pastoral with their infectious semi-acoustic ditties” – now, I know these are proper music writers but nothing like that entered my mind tonight…) Admittedly there were glimpses of something a bit more folk-like. One song opened with something that brought to mind old-fashioned troubadours or, perhaps, minstrels, others started in a gentle, folk-like fashion only to explode into life partway through. Vocal harmonies abounded, the (unnamed) keyboard player briefly switched to violin and, for one song, Taylor played his guitar with a bow. Throughout it all, Liddle quietly got on with his job while guitarist Matt Taylor and bass-player Scott Miller were much more expressive and energetic, the latter rocking out with hair flying like some nineties metal star as he head-banged along to some of the songs. Despite being guitar-led, there was a fair degree of variation. The keyboard provided a baseline to the songs without apparently playing extravagantly and drummer Jon Warren varied between the heavy drum-line of one song and the much gentler, brushed sound of the next. The band were watched by what seemed to be a cross-generational audience – just in front of my was what I think was a mother and daughter and it was the mother who was slowly creeping towards the stage, arms raised to applaud every song while the daughter stayed put, singing along to some of the tracks. The main set ended with the three part vocal harmonies of, I think, No Rest which was almost drowned out by the audience singing along but it wasn’t long before the cries for more saw Liddle, Miller and Taylor return to the stage for two quieter songs, both of which prompted instant audience interaction. The rest of he band returned for the finale which, once again, most of the audience seemed to know every word to and weren’t afraid to express themselves.
In some ways this gig reminded me of those of Kodaline and The Temperance Movement – both bands that I was late to the party in following, at which I found myself in the middle of big crowds and ended up thoroughly enjoying the sets. There was a great atmosphere throughout, with very few talkers near me. Quite simply, superb.