HMS Morris, Perfect Body and Zac White – The Social – March 12th 2019

For too many years to mention, I’ve been a fan of Dorchester Town football club. Just to be clear, they are not an obscure band that you really must listen to. They are my football team (along with Leicester City FC). Strangely, I’ve rarely talked football within this blog; from a Dorchester perspective, there’s been slim pickings to post about in truth.

Tonight, I went along to the Social. It’s hard to believe that it’s now a whole month since I saw Peaness there with Gary (review here) but it must be because the next Huw Stephens presents instalment is in town (even if he isn’t). Tonight he’s joined up with the Bubblewrap Collective, a well-regarded indie record label from Cardiff to give us three new Welsh acts. 

It seems all sorts of appropriate (to me anyway) that I’m keeping myself updated with Dorchester scores every time I make a note into my phone about the acts on stage; for tonight, DTFC are playing away at Merthyr Tydfil FC. When HMS Morris, the headliner of sorts, play songs about self love in Welsh or banter in the language with a countryman in the crowd, I allow myself a little chuckle. Dorchester, relegation candidates in a tight league, are crashing the goals in up in the valleys. It ends 7-1 and even the one for Merthyr was an own goal.

Zac White opens the Bubblewrap gig at the Social. It’s just Zac on the small stage with an electric guitar that’s set to a permanent reverb. The vibe is psychedelic; Zac’s long floppy hair for the most part obscures his face as he meanders through his set of fuzzed-up folk. He’s got a decent line in desperate and longing lyric; anybody able to rhyme ‘tourniquet’ with ‘tanqueray’ gets top marks in my book. He doesn’t have much to say in terms of between-song banter; in fact all he says is “I should have probably said but that was my last song”, as his set draws to a premature close. Despite the awkward stage manner, there’s enough craft on display to warrant further investigation. 

 

There’s a definite buzz about Perfect Body. You can’t help but notice the five piece (and entourage) as they waltz around the Social pre-gig and think ‘they’re in a band’. It’s not that there’s any arrogance about their behaviour; they’re all wonderfully polite, stylishly aware and evidently determined. Record company executives from significant indies are casually drawn into conversations before their set even begins.

When it does begin, the start is determinedly slow, deliberately ponderous. It’s music for wide vistas; perhaps we’re scanning across the outback in the opening scenes of a modern Western or seeing the setting sun over desert dunes. There’s longing in the languid guitar licks. This is the Welsh Wild West. 

When Perfect Body get fully into flow, their thing is dreamy shoegaze. They do it very well. Vocals from a keyboard player and a guitarist are barely audible over the shimmering noise that’s being created by the rest of the band. We’re probably not supposed to hear the words. It’d be easy (and lazy on my part) to draw comparisons to My Bloody Valentine so I won’t do that. Suffice to say, as the swirly atmospherics draw you in, you suddenly become aware of quite how loud the volume’s been turned up to. I move closer to the front to get more of the effect.

 

HMS Morris are a tough act to review. They’re not as easy to place or pigeonhole as many who have gone before and that should be a good thing. They’re a three-piece. Singer and guitarist, Heledd Watkins, plays for goals up front whilst the impressively bearded Sam Roberts holds it all together in midfield with samples and keyboards. Drummer, Alex Møller, sits behind in defence.

I can’t tell if it’s just the poor mix down here at the Social or if the piercing sound of the high-hat is intended but it hurts. My mind wanders and I begin to think how much more of a pleasant experience this could be without the drums in the mix. Seriously, it’s like fingernails scratching down the chalk-board. 

When HMS Morris’ music properly flows you can’t help but enjoy. But, for me, this is art-rock that rarely gets going. I’d make a point of watching them another time though as they’re not without appeal. 

See you all at the Burger King at Reading Services”, suggests Heledd, conscious that many of the crowd here are on a day trip and they’ll soon be travelling home back up the M4. 

The victorious DTFC team coach probably won’t pass them on the way.. But I’ll bet it’ll be a happier bus ride home for them. 

 

 

Peaness, Caro and Kelora – The Social – February 12th 2019

I went to a gig on Tuesday night.. Wrote a review and then forgot to post it.. Whoops!! 

I’ve liked Peaness for a few years now. Ever since a friend, an old school teacher of Jess, sent me a soundcloud link of their debut release, Fortune Favours The Bold, (review here) I’ve been urging Peaness to grow. 

I wrote about Peaness in my top ten of 2015 (here) and could barely conceal my joy after seeing them live for the first time at Leicester’s Handmade festival (eFestivals review here). 

Last night at a free Huw Stephens presents gig at The Social, they once again proved why they’re worthy of full attention. They make a fine sound for a three piece; lovely harmonies and melodies that hark back to your finest summer ever. It might be cold outside but Peaness cheerily warm the very cockles of your heart (and yes, I did use cockle deliberately there).

The trio smile on stage like it’s going out of fashion; there’s no moody faux here or mumbling grumbling. Instead, the between-song banter revolves around Gregg’s vegan rolls, whether or not Huw Stephens is actually in attendance and how they’re heading home to Chester after a late-night radio session (and this gig) because work beckons in the morning. An exhausting schedule but not one that appears to break the spirit. 

I go to the gig with a friend, Gary. On paper, Peaness are probably not his thing with his preference being for a meatier (or folkier) sound. But his head sways and toe-taps from the start. “I’d go and see these again given the opportunity”, he reveals.

It is very hard to not love Peaness. 

 

There are a couple of other bands playing this showcase. Caro are tight, competent and destined for bigger stages. They’re not afraid to mix things up a bit though obvious reference points would be Alt-J and Wild Beasts. “Ooh, this one’s very XTC“, says Gary – and he’s most certainly right. 

 

The first band of the evening, Kelora, didn’t entirely grab our attention. But that was no fault of theirs. Gary and I were still catching up after not seeing each other for almost a year and so arrived in the midst of their set. The insane levels of chatter from one table near to us rendered listening to the act nigh-on impossible – but from what I did hear, this was light, uncomplicated pop, not the finished article in terms of a live show but possibly intriguing on record. 

 

Another great night out in London watching music put on for free. And a reminder that gig-going is always better when you’re sharing the experience with mates.  

July Jones, VC Pines and Jylda – The Social – Tuesday February 5th

I’ve been to The Social on Little Portland Street before. I don’t remember this until I turn up at the free show tonight and recall how awkward it can be down in this basement room to see anything on the stage. Back then though it was an industry showcase of fingering folk from the bearded John Smith. We were hanging from the rafters. Tonight, for The Fix’s first promotion of 2019 we’re not. 

That’s not to say it’s empty here; it’s more of a pleasant hum as the three up and coming acts do their best to entertain us. Much like last night’s venture (review here), the variety impresses. It’s just a shame that it all wraps up before it’s really had chance to begin.

I don’t catch the very start of Jylda’s set which is a shame because, on balance, she’s probably my favourite of the trio on display tonight. She presses some keys, sets into motion some wonky electronica and then dances quite sexily with flamboyant flailing arms. I can’t take my eyes away from the red, curtain-net veil that’s pinned into her black hair. Jylda tells all that her forthcoming single is called ‘Torrential River’ and then proceeds to perform an industrial dark pop. You wish that she had a full band behind her so that she could simply focus on her movement. “Do you wanna dance?”, she asks and few are able to resist the charms of this performer who has the stagecraft if not the songs quite yet. 

 

 

VC Pines is confident in his voice (as well he should be). This is soulful, singer-songwriter stuff pared down from the ‘normal’ full-on seven piece band. If you want to see that there’s a Lexington show coming up in April but for now it’s just VC and his bassist, Andrew. In places it goes jazz chord and controlled falsetto. I find myself desperately hoping that they cover Billy Paul’s ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ for that’s their space but instead VC takes on the more challenging task of The Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind?’. It sounds nothing like the original save for the angst. There’s clearly talent here but, for me at least, there now needs to be a hook – perhaps the full band show gives that. 

 

 

July Jones makes me smile from the beginning to the end of her short set. Taking to the stage as a girl group trio, it soon becomes clear that the one in the middle is July. Full of fake gold chains and choreographed dance moves, the attitude is apparent from the off. “Fuck you up like a porn star“, I think they sing appealingly whilst the boys in caps on keyboards and decks look on from behind. There’s no doubting that there’s something here that could quite feasibly gather momentum, their last song being July’s next single. “Liar, liar, pants on fire”, goes the chorus as it mines itself into your head. 

 

 

 I’m loving these nights in London. Inevitably, personal preference says that some music will appeal more than other. Yet all that I’ve seen over the past two days has brave purpose and talent. I might take a breather tomorrow.