With no “lampy” on duty the Fibbers stage remained bathed in a pale blue light throughout the evening, giving it a washed out look and adding little to the atmosphere. Thankfully, the music more than made up for this.
First up was local singer-songwriter Sean Dunning who, during his set, admitted to having just come out of a period of writer’s block and, afterwards, told me that he finds it difficult to get gigs around York. Surely that can’t be down a lack of talent as Sean, perhaps looking slightly nervous, treated us to an enjoyable set which he opened with Who Knows? The folky, quiet start of this track made way for unexpectedly strong vocals and an unconventional guitar style which saw Dunning hitting the strings and somehow leaving notes hanging in the air. A cover of Biffy Clyro’s Man Of Honour again started quietly but finished strongly and was followed by Dunning’s first new song after that bout of writers’ block. An admitted “work in progress” Miles, containing some nice lyrics, opened with barely any music, just vocals over gentle percussion, before building in both volume and strength. From his newest song to one of the first he wrote, Fifth Gear was, for me, the strongest song of the set. “This is a quiet one. A very quiet one,” said Dunning as he introduced Smile. Unfortunately one group of punters didn’t seem to take the hint, nor the less subtle shushes, and continued their loud conversation. I doubt they even noticed the annoyed looks from the stage and, not having heard the song before, I don’t know whether the louder ending was usual or a deliberate attempt to drown them out. Another cover completed the set. Hey, It’s Okay, originally by Antonio Lulic (no, I hadn’t heard of him either) saw Dunning play guitar in a more conventional style than during the rest of the set. A nice ending to a nice opening set.
Embarrassingly, I didn’t hear the name of the second support act. Internet searches have failed to help, which is a shame as I would certainly like to know more about him. His first track opened with some subtle loops which unexpectedly turned into a rendition of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine. The second kicked off with a subtle yet somehow atmospheric introduction which led into the quietest and musically sparse version of Voodoo Child you are ever likely to hear. Those two tracks seemed to set the style for the rest of the set as even the original tracks were of an unconventional style. The first of those originals, introduced only as “a work in progress” had a fuller sound than the two covers, thanks to the use of backing tracks and/or loops and built immensely towards its climax. But it was the next track that really showed off the artist’s skill. I suspect it was a cover of Ed Sheeran’s Make It Rain (I can’t be sure, not having heard that version) but the track was, basically, mixed live on stage – wordless vocals into one microphone then looped as the lyrics were sung into another, the guitar also looped and then slung around his back and ignored as he sang, the end result a beautifully complex whole. The guitar was discarded completely for the final track of the set. Again two mics and loops were used to built the track up, vocal percussion to start with, then wordless, almost tribal. Despite the eventual lyrics being in English the whole thing had a sort of ancient feel to it, ending the set in a magical way.
Show me a picture of a man (or woman) with an electric guitar and mention the Blues in a gig preview and there’s a good chance I’m going to turn up, whether I know anything about the artist or not. I’m no connoisseur of the genre (as you may tell from the following) but I do like it a lot. Tonight saw South African Dan Patlansky, who last year opened for Bruce Springsteen in front of 64,000 fans in Johannesburg, playing in front of a much smaller number during a tour to promote his latest album, Dear Silence Thieves, which sees him appearing in the North of England for the first time. Taking to the stage with his band, including Clint Falconer, who wears his bass on such a short strap that I couldn’t help but think of Haircut 100, Patlansky opened with Drone, an increasingly complex instrumental with the unmistakable sound of the Blues, which segued into the rockier Backbite. There was a change of pace that was so smooth during the next track that I wasn’t sure whether it was, in fact, a segue into a second. Before Your War, Patlansky explained that, in his opinion, every classic Blues album always includes a slow track and that this was his attempt from the new album. Slower, it may have been but it was still powerful in sections, while musically very subtle in others, while Patlansky’s vocals were superbly raw. After Hold On, a track about getting older whose lyrics extolled the virtues of living life in the slow lane, came a rockier, more raucous track that I haven’t been able to identify. A crashing drum and cymbal line and rumbling bass behind Patlansky’s warbling guitar during its first instrumental section set the track up to get faster and faster while a second, choppier instrumental drew whoops of appreciation from the audience. With Falconer and drummer Andy Moritz having left the stage, Patlansky switched to an acoustic guitar, and ditched his leather jacket, for a raw-vocalled solo track that was, in places, more Spanish-guitar than Blues in style and that was received with loud applause from the crowd. With the band back on, Patlansky introduced the next song, a slide guitar track, as being about an incident when he was punched in the face and, rather than find the people responsible, decided to write a song about them. Pop Collar Jockey is, apparently, the South African term for the sort or person who goes around wearing a polo-shirt sizes to small, to show off their muscles, with the collar turned up. Only An Ocean s another track from the new album, a revised version of a song that he originally recorded in 2006. This one featured an instrumental section during which Patlansky’s guitar went so quiet that if somebody in the audience had dropped a pin it may well have drowned the guitar out. Thankfully they didn’t, preferring to stay quiet and appreciate the music which proceeded to increase in volume and become more lively. A very un-Blues-like drum solo opened the next track, again with shouts of encouragement coming from the crowd. So far this had been a fairly standard Blues gig, enjoyable with some great instrumental sections and good guitar work throughout. What came next, though, was jaw-droppingly good.
In what can only be described as the Blues equivalent of a twenty minute Prog-rock epic, Patlansky produced a long, technically complex, eardrum pounding instrumental track which included some of the best and most varied guitar work I have seen. (Obviously the caveat here is that 99% of the gigs I go to are in York and that I have yet to see many of the bigger, more recognised names in the Blues world.) Starting off by playing with no hand on the guitar neck/frets, then changing to frets only, with a section that included a naggingly familiar riff which I still haven’t been able to place, this track seemed to mesmerise the crowd. At one point the guitar was turned back to front, with Patlansky seemingly playing the springs visible behind the pickups. At others he was barely touching the strings, teasing noises out of the instrument by simply shaking it and adjusting the control knobs. This was a music denouement that was easy to get lost in, while still appreciating the techniques being used, and which ended with Patlansky holding up the guitar by just one string, bouncing it to bring out the track’s last sounds before leaving the stage to huge applause. In comparison, the encore of Bringing The World To Its Knees, whose loud instrumental section, with plentiful use of the wah-wah pedal, seemed tame in comparison, but still left the audience shouting for even more. Hopefully Patlansky’s first visit to England’s North will lead to more.