It was nearly Christmas and so time for the end of year fundraising gig, organised as ever by Dan Lucas who, every year for the past fourteen (he thinks) has managed to bring together an array of musicians, technical staff and and others to raise money for local charities. This year supporting (and, ultimately, generating a four-figure sum for) the Jack Raine Foundation, the line-up could have been billed as a potted history of the York music scene, featuring as it did two bands who had reformed specifically for the event and another which had, after years of silence, got back together earlier in the year, as well as three more current acts. It wasn’t just those on stage, either. As the evening went on, sections of the audience became a who’s who of York music, with many not on the bill turning out to show their support.
The large bill meant an early start and The Falling Spikes had already started their set when I arrived at the venue. I first saw (and reviewed, in the second post for this blog) them supporting The Warlocks over seven years ago and twice in 2011 but, with tonight’s line-up being made up of members from their ten year live history, I only recognised Moz Magister, still all in black and sporting wraparound shades from those gigs. The music was shoegazey stuff, laid back and almost hypnotic – so much so that bass player Corbett spent a lot of the set looking as though he was about to nod off – full of mesmerising keyboards and droning guitars. Having said that, though, the second track I heard was lighter and slightly reminiscent of The Lightning Seeds, especially (somehow) in Chris’s vocals. It seemed that I had, in fact, missed a large chunk of the set and as the band drifted musically, rather than segued, into the next track, it was announced as their last. More psychedelic and space-rocky than the others I heard and built superbly to a great end to the set. Looking back over my past reviews, it seems that I liked the Spikes more each time I saw them and tonight was no exception. I believe that some of the tracks played tonight were newly-written. Time for a proper comeback gig, guys? I’ll be there.
New-ish band Van Der Neer should have been next on stage but circumstances beyond their control meant that the trio were reduced to frontman Simon Snaize, who started off by explaining that anybody who had seen him perform solo before would find tonight’s set very different as he was going to be playing mostly acoustic versions of the band’s songs. He immediately broke the usual acoustic mould with some boisterous playing and strong vocals, before mixing it up a bit with Southern Blues style vocals for a song from a “play with music” that he has been writing (despite, I think I remember him saying, that he has realised he doesn’t know how to write a play and is, therefore, stuck with the songs…). His guitar playing during the next track was less busy than the previous two, at least to start with. Amiable and humorous on stage, Simon introduced the next track, Decide, as a “new” one while pointing out that, to anybody who hadn’t seen him or the band before, they would all be new. Having a bit more stage time than he expected, Simon slipped in a couple of cheeky covers – I think the first was a John Martyn song, although it reminded me in some ways of Joan Osborne, but didn’t recognise the second at all – before finishing with a rocking acoustic version of Van Der Neer’s Everybody Knows.
The turnarounds between acts were surprisingly quick and it wasn’t long before Littlemores were on stage with their opening song, My Girl. They combined catchy pop and almost nonchalantly teased guitar lines with lyrics about teenage angst. As ever Tom Moreton’s lead guitar throughout the set was impressive and interesting. Most of the songs were lively – with just one, mid-set track being slower – the playing tight and with nice use of bass in places. A superb live band. There’s not much more to say, even if it doesn’t sound a lot.
Next up was the Boss Caine collective, with Dan being joined on stage by faces and voices familiar from previous gigs. The number of people and instruments on stage made this a slightly less slick changeover but, eventually, everybody was in place and opening with Ghosts And Drunks and a seemingly more up-tempo than usual version of Smoking In My Back Yard. The more sombre Star Crossed Lovers attempted to slow proceedings down a bit but Kieran O’Malley still managed to liven it up with his violin playing. A Kind Of Loving saw all but Dan, Kieran and Bradley Blackwell on double bass leave the stage, although Jennifer Chubb did come back on briefly to rescue her cello from potential damage from the Kieran’s increasingly animated playing. The brilliant Leaving Victoria was dedicated to BBC Radio York’s Jericho Keys, who had picked it for recent, albeit brief, airplay on Radio One. Usually low-key and taciturn between songs, tonight Dan was almost garrulous – explaining how the audience at one venue he plays at had taken the song as their own anthem, thanking the rest of the bands for playing and for everybody giving their time for the cause and pointing out that, once the live music had finished, everybody should make their way to the Bier Keller for a DJ set and, presumably, more alcohol-fuelled fun. This particular set was brought to a conclusion by a version of Truck Stop Jukebox made even better than the usual in no small part due to backing vocals from Amy Greene, Jennifer and mandolin player Andy Jackson.
Things were about to get louder and rockier, starting with the resurgent Black Night Crash. Although I missed them first time round and hadn’t managed to get to their reformation gig earlier this year, I had it in the back of my mind that Jim Gipson – who I had first come across back in 2008 when I saw The Runaway Sons three times in seven months but who I hadn’t seen since – was their vocalist. They came on stage to the sound of an air raid siren before launching into two short but impressive tracks, the first a riff-filled instrumental, that were greeted with enthusiasm by the crowd. The next was slower but no less powerful while the quieter opening of the fourth track, almost overpowered by its vocals, led into a scintillating mid section and a powerful second half. It was around this time that one of my gig buddies and I turned to each other and decided it definitely was Gipson – his vocals still familiar after all those years, even if neither of us recognised him by sight, except perhaps for his penchant for performing with one foot lifted off the stage. The band played exhilarating rock and roll with songs often opening in energetic fashion and sometimes, like Set In Stone, more atmospherically, although usually featuring epic, soaring guitar lines and a pounding rhythm. Those song, however, weren’t exactly of a conventional format, often just snapping to a conclusion rather than fading away. Like the songs, the set seemed to come to an abrupt, unadvertised end, leaving me (at least) wanting more and hoping to see the band again sometime soon.
Cardboard Radio, the final band of the evening (and, judging by the fact that I can’t find an up to date link for them, definitely reforming for one night only), are another band I hadn’t seen first time round. I’m fairly certain my gig buddies at the time went to their farewell gig but can’t remember why I didn’t attend and my only other knowledge of them comes from a Boss Caine lyric. They opened with a light, fast, almost humorous sound which seemed to increase speed dramatically towards the end of the track. “We’ve written down names but don’t actually know what they mean,” quipped Andy Gaines, referring to the set-list and the amount of time since their last gig. After another similarly style track, with an entertaining drum-line from Simon Edwards, he admitted that he was quite unfit and might need a chair before embarking into a vaguely punk-like song that the band had recorded as a single back in the day. A vinyl copy of that single was snatched up by a member of the audience after being placed at the front of the stage by Ben Cordrey for just that purpose. Two tracks fast and furious tracks, the first with tongue-twisting vocals, bookended an appropriately festive burst of Silent Night. The playing was tight, even during the more complex songs towards the end of the set which displayed changes of pace and, in one at least, a very staccato section. The trio were clearly having a great time on stage and so were the audience. The final song of the set, however, featured a Led Zeppelin style riff and a vigorous instrumental section that blew the earlier humorous feeling away (without diminishing it in anyway) and brought the evening of live music to a close superbly.