Coke Can Jack, Mountain Feet, Polly And The Billets Doux

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Mr Kyps logoThis Thursday night finds me at Mr Kyps to see Coke Can Jack, who along with Mountain Feet are the opening support for Polly And The Billets Doux

Coke Can Jack KypsCoke Can Jack walk on laid back as ever, and start gently and smooth, very lazy afternoon sun style. That soon changes as they launch into Beg, Steal or Borrow, and start tearing things up a bit. Highly energetic, and much the better for having all four members present, compared with previous times I’ve seen them.

Nathan and Sam provide backing harmonies to Jim’s lead vocals, Chris sticks to the new acoustic bass they’ve just purchased to stay true to their acoustic vibe. This allows them to pick in a way not available to electrics – as they play Bad News it feels like a cheeky secretive trip to where one shouldn’t go, very jaunty and yet furtive. They finish it in their usual a capella way, vocal harmonies and simple repeated refrains combining into a complex whole.

They also play Devil On Your Shoulder, that they debuted last night on the HopeFM radio show they guested. Live and plugged in its raucous and punchy, until they strip it back for the end section, again with the complex rounds in the lyrics.

I didn’t think the majority of the crowd were theirs, however I’m proved wrong at the end, they’ve won the crowd over judging by the widespread applause and cheers.

Mountain Feet KypsMountain Feet are next up, lead singer Jordan’s sporting a The Neon Tigers T-shirt, fitting really since I’ve just met three quarters of TNT at the back of the venue. They open with some strong rolling blues. They’ve also brought a large active and vocal crowd with them, who all seem to be at the front, leaving the rest of the place sparse.

They are having a lot of fun – Freebird is requested, leading them to comment they don’t have a lot of material so with a little help they might play that one at the end. Hmm not sure about this – always keep us in the dark about what you’re doing, and what you can or can’t do – that way we don’t know if things don’t work out.

That’s a minor point, the music is great – really good stomp along to stuff, which a posse of people at the front do, forming up a line and bouncing around in unison…their third song opens quieter with just hamonica and “twiddly” lead, yet ever so slowly builds into the same stomp style, such that by the time the crescendo finally arrives many are pumped for it and appropriately go crazy.

Finally they break into the Stevie Ray Vaughan cover that I was anticipating, based on what I’ve heard so far. They choose Pride and Joy, and pull it off admirably – and I don’t “do” covers!

Polly & BD kyps 2Polly And The Billets Doux join us after the obligatory break, Ben on swing-rock drums, Dan on string bass, Steeny on bluesy guitar and Polly’s strong sweet voice. I would describe the music as a bit rockabilly, with rolling blues rock mixed in…

I thought the single guitar would be a drawback, but the lack of rhythm or lead isn’t really noticeable, just having it play the lead most of the time allows for a lot of space in the music, and allows the string bass to really shine through.

Halfway through the set Ben starts tribal drumming with a strong beat, then Steeny joins in picking up an anti-rhythm to the drums. Finally Polly layers her voice over the top, taking a cross cue again. It shouldn’t work, yet it delightfully does and makes for a lively summery vibe.

Polly & BD bass kypsTo cover an instrument change and tune up, Polly starts a shout of Pump Up The Jamm, just for a bit of fun she says; shows that she could do that soul diva thing if she wanted. Its also the first time I’ve seen a string bass held up on on a rack rather than laid on its side. Probably because of the band name painted on the front. What does a bass stand look like?, well think of a guitar rack and triple the dimensions!

Polly and Steeny take turns at leading on the vocals, and hence alternate harmony and melody as a result. On stomp favourite Who Do You Love Steeny leads, with the rest coming in on the refrain, meanwhile there’s a lot of jumping going on in the front of the crowd. There’s also space in the music for some screaming guitar solos, kicked in with an awesome kickbass beat that shakes the building through the subs.

They take an acoustic break after that amazing sound, Dan switches from bass to acoustic guitar and serenades us with a soulful number, showing off a surprising voice after the previous guttural affair. Then switches to a tenor harmony to Polly’s accompaniment as she comes in for the chorus.

They all switch instruments for Back To Earth, Polly on the string bass and Dan back to the acoustic. They then kick off into a sound that would be very familiar to those who are Absolute Darlings fans, starting without the drums as per the GloGlobes style.

Polly & BD duet guitar kypsFor their last number they turn House Of The Rising Sun into an irristible foot tapping riff, which is instantly familiar, mainly focussed on Ben on the drums again, yet giving Steeny room to shine on rhythm. Then Polly wanders over and takes over the rhythm guitar while Steeny switches back to blues harp. Not seen or heard that one before.

By the end its clear the crowd were for the earlier acts, there’s only a few dozen left from what seemed like over 100…even so the applause is massive from those fans that have stayed the course.

Another unusual take, for the encore the band depart, and Polly a capella solos a gospel number, slow and strong, and receives big applause as a result. Awesome stuff, and worth catching these guys again.

A Quiet Gig After A Quieter Show

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Unusually I was on my own in the studio tonight, just the listener keeping me company as I interspersed alternating Rock and non-rock tracks with phone-ins and chats with promoters. I cheated and left the show early in the hands of the computer playing Betika and Krista Green so I could dash across to Mr Kyps.

Hannah Robinson had texted me earlier letting me know she was playing support to Jackie Leven at Mr Kyps, and how many tickets would I like. This is both unexpected, kind and generous, plus gives me the chance to hear Hannah doing a solo set in an appreciative venue – I’ve seen her quite a lot as the front lady of the excellent Paint It Blue, and yet rarely get the opportunity to hear her solo (although Hannah did serenade me once as my guest on the radio show).

When I arrive she’s already into her set, I can tell by her distinctive voice overheard from the car park! Hannah is very soulful, and has a wonderful manner over the mic. No trace of nerves or collywobbles, each tune mesmerising with the simply played chords capturing the in-the-round mood effortlessly. Lovely!  Her last song in particular must become a showcase – whistling over the guitar, with some “la la la’s” – all very hard to do without a tremor, all achieved pretty much perfectly, to my ears.

There is one major disappointment for me – with doing the radio show (even letting the automation taking over) I’ve missed Pete Christie perform the opening set. “Doors at 8” must mean doors at 8, gig soon after nowadays, unlike other Mr Kyps gigs I’ve attended a while back, where  “Doors at 8” meant the first band of 3 wasn’t on until just before 9…my bad.

Jackie Leven is instantly charming and amusing, disarming a cold night with some warm Scottish Cheer, and dealing with my missing-Pete-Christie-induced disappointment in the way a muso only can, by throwing some amazing songs my way, mixed in with some great anecdotes and heart aching and warming stories.

Jackie has played and is playing with some greats – he tells us this is a penultimate gig of this current tour, before he hooks up with Ralph McTell for a gig, then Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Name drops over he enters a tone poem about his entry into the Johnny Cash fan club Jonny Come Lately division, while stuck in a Norwegian hotel room in Trondheim. Charming, engaging and captivating all at the same time as being a mournful dirge as good tone poems should be.

Jackie has an interesting style – he can generate deep guttaral vocals as if he has a digeridoo on hand. The way he plays guitar means the low E catches the frets in a way that should aggravate through fret buzz, yet it works well within the songs’ dynamics. As I said, interesting.

Something else I like is the way he tells his stories, while accompanying himself on the guitar, much as Pete Christie does if he’s holding a normal conversation with you. Perhaps they have the same affliction – can’t be away from a guitar for a couple of hours without getting some screaming heebies! Either way, it all adds to the engagement, even dispelling some of the vernacular language he uses overmuch for my tastes.

For a couple of photos of the night, check out Fiona Megapix‘ photos on facebook…