ADMT, Archie Langley & Tom King – The Social – Tuesday September 3rd

My love for London life has taken a literal bashing over the past couple of weeks. I thought that I was immune to the danger. I walked in the clouds, hopping onto night buses from gig to gig without a care in the world. Such naive freedom came to a grinding bump over the August Bank Holiday weekend when I was mugged, punched, bruised, battered and scuffed-up in broad daylight. 

It’s fucked with my confidence and messed with my head. 

The police are on the case and CCTV has captured the robbery in full technicolor glory. As time passes, I’ve no doubt that my confidence will once again build. But for now I’m content to just do a couple of gigs a week as opposed to the typical five. My bedroom, the rocking chair and a new vintage record player will see more action. 

I did head out on Tuesday though. Invites from Propeller records are never to be sniffed at. The Norwegian artist label are branching out via Propeller UK into a new market. And tonight at The Social, there are three acoustic acts that have been linked as early signings.

I arrive half way through Tom King’s opening set but see enough to realise that here we have an exciting new soul-pop talent. Only 17, he’s got a bit to learn about stagecraft but that’ll come. He already has a voice that’s the spit of Boy George at his most soulful. Tom’s polite and relaxed; he introduces each tune as if he’s communicating to a jazz crowd – and perhaps that’s where he’s heading. The Robyn cover that he ends his set with takes on new life in these surrounds. One to watch. 

 

It seems that most of the crowd at the Social are here to see the second act to take to the stage. According to his PR brief, Archie Langley draws his influence from the likes of Coldplay and Ben Howard. As I don’t this could be a painful half hour. Archie is tall and anguished. You suspect that he’s not really experienced extreme and tumultuous times in his tender years but that doesn’t stop him mining the grief. “Still feel the pain when you say my name”, he says in one ballad before launching into Greyhound, a song about when a friend, in this room, was going through a hard time – it’s Archie’s best on the evidence of tonight. Archie is joined by Christian on keys and guitar; Archie has a rich voice and a songwriting team around him and lyrics about waking up next to somebody so you suspect he might ultimately be alright. 

 

ADMT headlines the night. From Doncaster, he’s assisted by Tom for this set. There’s a stoned reggae-pop feel to the tunes and they’re delivered with charm and good grace. Sometimes when ADMT gets worked up by the emotion of his songs, there’s something a little Frank Spencer about his delivery. In one tune, I swear the chorus is going to launch into an ‘oooh Betty’ before taking stock and realising that most of the crowd here won’t get the comparison. But I like ADMT; I warm to his tales about mental health issues, city living and being a young man today. Indeed, Man Now, the future single more than connects and you realise that here we have another talent who could cope with a lucky break.

 

Every night across this town, there’s musical talent oozing out of bars, pubs and clubs. Life can sometimes toss some shit your way but that shouldn’t stop us punters making the most of the music. 

Bjørn Tomren – The Betsey Trotwood – 20th March 2019

Everybody likes receiving an invite to a ‘showcase’. Obviously the lure of free beer is simply a hook and the chance to see new music in a live setting the deal-breaker. 

Propeller Recordings are rapidly becoming one of my favourite labels. Dedicated to the promotion of Norwegian acts, their thorough and diligent UK based coordinator has invited me to some right cool stuff in recent weeks (here) and (here).

And it’s because of Georgie that I’m standing in this basement at the Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell on a Wednesday evening to watch an act newly-signed to Propeller, Bjørn Tomren, do his thing.

A word about the Betsey Trotwood first. The more that one scratches at London’s surface, the more you uncover great bases of entertainment. The Betsey is a dinky pub where streets converge. The basement, at a guess, holds no more than 50 though it could be deceptive with nooks, crannies and alcoves all offshoots of the main space. It would appear that they hold folk sessions down here, ukulele jams and knitting circles. It has community and great charm.

Bjørn shuffles to a bar-stool, emerging out of one of the nooks. He has a self-deprecating manner that verges on the fatalistic; he’s an observer, a storyteller with a dry sense of humour and it’s hard not to warm to his folky reference-laden Americana.

After celebrating Vera Lynn and questioning the validity of there ever being ‘bluebirds over Dover’, Bjørn launches into a story about Eartha Kitt’s invite to the White House in 1968. Eartha speaks out about the Vietnam war and sees her career in the States nosedive as a result. Bjørn champions her and other protestors in his song, 68. 

He might be Norwegian but his outlook is truly global. A traditional Norwegian folk song complete with a form of throat singing is included but so to a tune about Drinking in Helsinki, an opportunity to literately reference the influence that the mathematical best-seller ‘The Drunkard’s Walk – How Randomness Affects Your Life’ had on his thinking.

Showcases, by their very nature, can be short affairs but I really don’t want this to end when Bjørn says that he’s going to close his set with a cover of Hank William’s Long Gone Lonesome Blues. Most of us gathered are more than aware of the innate darkness and suicidal sadness lingering within this tune but can’t help raise a smile as Bjorn effortlessly and impressively takes on the yodelling parts.

It’s just another string to his bow. Propeller Recordings have successfully whetted the appetite of those gathered regarding their latest signing. You can see why they’ve trusted in Bjørn.