Friday 17 July 2015
Review by Rowena Lamb
Photography by Inty Malcom
I don’t know about you but for me when your next festival is looming the time between now and then seems to slow down dramatically, with the weekend taking far longer than the usual five working days to appear. However, the other week served as a reminder of how good music can lift your spirits and bring that festival feeling into the everyday.
Fresh from a gig in Camden the night before tonight’s therapy was courtesy of Total Rock and The Friday Rock Show at the Hope and Anchor. I should say my thanks now to Total Rock for putting on these nights and letting me discover this little gem of a venue. (Shameful I know for not knowing this before.)
In the basement of the Hope and Anchor pub lies a small (and I do mean small) venue where the stage takes up a quarter of the room and the bar and merch stall another quarter. At a guess I’d say that around 50 people would pack the room out.
Personally I love small venues, it always makes the atmosphere more intimate and that night it was very much like a private gig.
If you’ve been to the venue before you’ll have seen the stage, which with the brick work, cables, posters and amps around the edge you could easily have been in an edgy bar in New York. The view towards the stage has kept that raw edge and lends the venue a unique atmosphere and was a great backdrop for the bands that evening.
Arcane Militia started the proceedings and apparently this was their first gig for a year and a half since their new line up, and from the off I thought they did a good job. They’re in the studio at the moment working on an EP so keep your eyes and ears out for that.
What was a shame was that it was hard to really process the vocals as the sound quality varied, with the vocals level dipping quickly if Joe Richardson turned his head anywhere other than facing forwards, which was a shame, especially after a strong start
There were some good variances in the styles they introduced to keep you engaged. However, the overall enjoyment was dampened somewhat with the time changes where many of the songs switched sequences often more than once. Not an issue generally as once your ear tuned to the switch each section worked well and was good, but it was the clunkiness of the switch that made it sound disjointed and slightly confused.
However, as mentioned earlier this was the first gig for a year and a half so don’t read the above and rule them out.
With the variance in sound quality I was definitely not expecting the ear assault I got off The Senton Bombs. This was a complete turn around in clarity of sound but also being very clear in their style and stage presence.
Their second song had a good easy rock style which actually reminded me of Massive Wagons whom I had gone to see the night before. With the ambience of the stage and their sound you could easily imagine them being at home in a Southern sawdust floor covered venue, especially during the following song; Black Chariot.
There was a laid back easy likability to their performance and an effortless interaction with the audience. Relaxed is a good way to describe them, as well as comfortable, but mindful also of their performance.
Moving aside the songs and easy interaction one clear selling point for me and those with me was their drummer; Scott Mason. Huddled at the back in the corner Scott is by far one of the most entertaining drummers I have seen. Imagine if you will a hairy, Northern version of animal. Nothing, not one beat, movement or rest break was wasted, there was constant movement, expression, and drama throughout. Hairy insanity pretty much sums it up.
Watching The Senton Bombs I was very surprised to think I had not managed to stumble across them before as surely I would have happen upon such a band before now. One thing is for sure; I will be keeping an eye out for their name on further gig listings and in the meantime I’ll just have to settle for listening to one of their albums.
So two bands in and already whatever tiredness I had been feeling earlier in the evening had left completely. This to me is what makes a good gig; where you may turn up tired after the working day, thinking you’ll be flagging long before the last band begins, but before you know it you’re wide awake and feeling energised. Another aspect of a good night is where each of the bands are distinctly different, bringing a diversity to each set.
Fahran took up the mantel from the previous band and ran with it, again being very confident in their own sound. There was a real clarity and solidarity in their style and they gave a very practiced performance.
What was interesting visually was that where the previous bands seemed to barely fit on the small corner stage, despite having one more band member Fahran had a tardis like effect, not only housing everyone but providing enough room to shift about throughout the set.
Again there’s an easy likability to their performance not least from their down-to-earth interaction with those watching. It’s clear that they enjoy what they do as well as begin onstage together and that comes across well, making their performance more engaging.
Similar to The Senton Bombs, very little was wasted and so visually there was a lot to watch and keep you entertained throughout. It can be easy in a small venue and a small stage, or with a smaller audience to give a muted performance, but that was clearly not what was in Fahran’s collective view that evening. Even when stepping back for the guitars and bass to take centre stage their singer, Matt was visually keeping up a performance and evidently enjoyed being there in that moment.
Similarly, if I hadn’t seen them play previously, most recently at Wildfire Festival in June, I would have thought that their drummer had something to prove after the earlier performance by Scott Watson (The Senton Bombs). You could also think from watching that his drum kit had offended him from the bashing it got, but it seems this is par for the course and something to watch.
Their hour set is played straight through with only the odd slight break including the non-en core, because as their singer stated, there was no point in going off and coming back on again in such a small venue because ‘there’ s fuck all places to hide’. Plus why bother breaking up something that was working? There was clearly no need from the audiences point of view who were all to keen to have then play on.
For those of you that missed that night Fahran will be returning to Highbury in September, this time playing The Garage with Falling Red on 18 September. Alternatively for those of you in the North , you can catch them at Redemption Festival in Wakefield on Saturday 12 September.
As you may have guessed earlier in the review I arrived at the pub somewhat knackered from the working week and dubious as to whether I had enough spare energy to see me through the evening. However that night reminded me of a couple of things. This first is that I love small venues like this one for their closeness and basic atmosphere and the way both the audience and band can interact more – if only due to the lack of space.
The second was a much needed reminder of how good music played well, with confidence and enthusiasm can lift your spirits and fill you with energy. When you head down to review gigs like most things, you never know what you’re going to get and this gig was a shining example of why you should go see live bands. Every gig should leave you feeling like this!
- Some Kind Of Family
- Are We Free
- You Could Be Mine
- I Heard a Joke Once
- Take This City Alive
- Chasing Hours
- Cased In Steel
- Long Gone
- Black Mirror
- Storms We Ride
- Stay Alive
- A Thousand Nights