I had an exciting assignment for Arts and Culture class – a live review. Now, I wrote Arts and Culture articles for two years and reviewed all kinds of things – TV shows, Films, Theatre – but never music. It’s the one thing that I’m not completely comfortable with. So naturally, I chose to review a music gig. And not just any gig – one that had 5 performers. And the review was only supposed to be 500 words. Challenge stupidly accepted. So here’s my offering, constructive criticism is appreciated but may result in angry Christmas fight (songs).
The line outside the club is a long one. With Dawes, Tom Williams and the Boat, Joe Banfi and Deap Vally performing – it isn’t surprising. Matt Corby chats to friends near the bar, Ben Lovett mans the sound booth– looks like musical talent isn’t going to be limited to the stage.
The smell of spiced cider is in the air, and fake snow on the floor, the night is kickstarted by Tom Williams and the Boat. A great combination of folksy, soul and rock and roll – Williams’ band rings in the season to be jolly with some ‘angry Christmas fight songs’. ‘Little bit in me’, ‘My Bones’ and ‘Teenage Blood’ – all resonate with emotion. Despite the depressing tag line, Williams’ energy grabs your attention, a reminder that for many, Christmas is a complicated time of the year.
Deap Vally, the angry Californian punk-rock sensations burst on stage in sparkly bras reminiscent of Madonna the early years. ‘Gonna make my own money’, their most famous number is followed by the intense ‘End of the world’. They’re definitely crowd pleasers – whether for their wardrobes or their music is debatable.
Next up is Marcus Foster, who was supposed to DJ later on but evidently couldn’t stop himself from playing a few songs. Nobody is complaining. Foster sounds like Van Morrison’s beatnik love child. Coupled with poetic lyrics that draw inspiration from sources like Kerouac, Foster’s music is unique, rambling and beautiful. Despite the introspective nature of his music, Foster is clearly an entertainer – dancing all over the stage and keeping the audience in splits.
Joe Banfi is difficult to categorize, having been described as ‘hauntingly beautiful’ and ‘a shrieker’ by two different sources. The truth lies somewhere in between. Banfi’s range is extensive but his lyrics are unusual and unsettling. He’s a tightrope walker – his soulful songs keeping you on edge, never truly comfortable.
Dawes don’t make an impressive picture. They look impossibly young and nervous. That all melts away the minute they take the stage. Visibly excited to be in the UK, the Californian folk-rock band play some of their biggest hits – ‘When my time comes’, ‘Time spent in Los Angeles’, ‘Fire Away’ and ‘A little bit of everything’. Though Tyler Goldsmith is an impressive lead singer, his brother Griffin, the drummer, steals the show. Whoever said ‘rhythm is life’ probably had the younger Goldsmith in mind. As he bangs away at the drums, mouthing each clash and bang – he looks like a kid on Christmas morning who woke up to find a noisy present under the tree – though he sounds considerably better.
The gig concludes with Ben Lovett manning the turntables, blasting out classics like ‘Girls just want to have fun’ and ‘Last Christmas’. Between the fake snowballs flying through the air and the cider induced warmth, we stumble out into reality full of Christmas cheer. Not even the angry Christmas fight song kind.