By the time I arrive in Champions (slightly late through doing some dive club activities for BSAC), Zaardvark are already playing. I’m disappointed I’ve missed Yaaard‘s set, since I’ve not heard Chris Catlin doing things before, and I hear he’s one of the most appreciated remixers in town. I also gave gig 3 a miss through other commitments.

Zaardvark

Zaardvark bhone BdayI love their instrumental tunes, even though there are are no names delivered, these are knocked out pretty smartly. It’s quite funny as none of the lads want to speak, they just want to get on with the music. Dave (behind the drumkit) is perhaps the most likely to be a front man, yet he takes a step back in Zaardvark to put the music first.

Having said that about the tightness of the sound, one intro is muffed – Dave’s excuse is that’s what happens when he tries not to count out loud – small wonder really, it’s in a five beats to the bar time signature, with awkward cross-rhythms within that.

There are loads of effects also being generated on top of the music from this eclectic three piece outfit, the fourth man is a composite of an ipad with a click track and pre-recorded synth, a sampler driven by this footswitch, and Mark’s array of foot pedals, pre-programmed to match the track sequence.

The last song is indicative of their electro jazz style. Rather than just have a click track, they’ve opted for a click with synth overtones, therefore lots of electronic twiddly sound generator bits mixed into it. These are then mixed with heavily effect loaded guitar and bass.

The crowd, that seem to have heard these guys many times before, go appropriately nutty. Talking afterwards, not all the pieces have titles, and Zaardvark are building up to having them all presented together in an Opus, so they are all essentially different  movements of the same grand work. Good stuff, and look forward to that gig.

Matt Marr

Matt Marr bhone bdayAs these guys step out from the green room, I’m surprised to see friends Ed Pope and Martin Ruddock walk on stage. I’d previously looked for a band listing and not found one, so falsely assumed it would be Matt Marr doing a solo set (not that I’ve seen him before, either).

The opener is pretty heavy, then there’s a bit of kerfuffle because things don’t work initially as Matt switches to an acoustic, they’re then straight into a rock and roll inspired track. A switch back to electric rhythm guitar and we’re back to the heavy stuff, this time the keys are just about audible over the hugely loud guitar work.

Another electric to acoustic switch, using the same lead for both guitars must cause a problem for Paul on the mixing desk which probably why the levels are all over the place each time there’s a switch. Its only a mild distraction, I can just about make enough of the vocals to hear the stories in the songs, and these are songs with a story, showing there’s a talented song writer within Matt.

The latter half of the set is different, more pop focussed rather than heavy, with very catchy choral licks, this vein continues for the rest of the set, very punchy drums, and lively poppy music with it.

At the end Matt announces the band, Ed Pope on bass, Martin Ruddock on guitar and backing vocals, Grim Reaper on keys, Dixie on drums (when Matt says he needs no introduction Dixie gets his own little cheer). Matt himself as you’ve hopefully gathered is on guitar and vocals.

Dutch Husband

Dutch Husband bhone bdayTony from bhone gives Dutch Husband a huge build up, and understandably so for this reunion gig. I don’t think I’ve seen them live before, they were in the studio a long time back when I wasn’t able to make it; I loved the show they did when I listened back; their tracks have been regularly featured on the show ever since, even though they’ve not been together for some time.

There is a long pause after their opening track, turns out lead guitar Paul’s amp has blown and a replacement is hastily arranged. Apparently tech difficulties were a regular feature of Dutch Husband gigs when they were gigging.

As I’m not familiar with their live material, I’m unprepared for what follows. One song I discover afterwards [thanks Zaardvark] is called Map Of The Map courtesy of True Swamp Neglect (youtube link) has the refrain Aaah, the DH regulars know what’s coming and go mad in the appropriate moments, also joining in at the end with Aaahs on cue.

The songs are punchy and rocky, with generally New Order-esque bass lines from Imogen. They all rock out with huge sniles on their faces in the musical interludes between lyrics.

Then again we have true grunge numbers like White Teeth, where the guitars aren’t doing much as all the melody comes from a tiny keyboard, meanwhile there’s a large mosh thing going on in the front.  Good heavy and serious rock gig, and totally enjoyable. However I leave early to reach a totally different party vibe at O’Neills – sort of Big Face Reggae doing a sort of acoustic set.

Big Face Reggae

Big Face Posse O'NeillsI say sort of Big Face Reggae (perhaps should be called Big Face Posse) as there are a load of extras joining them on stage. Sort of acoustic as there’s lots of other things going on.

Its Fiona’s (O’Neill’s manager) birthday, and there’s a total party vibe as a result, walking in just before midnight I’d expect a few drunks, seems everybody is totally merry and has been for most of the evening, hence the mood is electric and glorious. 

Catching up with Si Crockett afterwards (leader of Big Face Reggae) he’s played so many gigs over this weekend, his fingers are worn, blistered and cracked, both as a result of guitar work but mainly from percussion.  He says he doesn’t care though, such has been the time he’s had over the break.

Taking my leave again, I head over to Chaplins on the way home, where Fiona Fox has played a set.  She’s only just finished by the time I get there, we spend a bit of time just hanging out and having a laugh with others.  By all accounts she’s just played her best gig ever, she was great, the crowd were great with her, so she is totally on a high, which is great (yes I know there’s a lot of great there!)

Great [sic] stuff all round.

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