Wednesday, 26 October 2016

LISTEN WITH MONGER – LIVE AT #BLOGTOBER

Listen With Monger/Lost In the Manor presents #Blogtober live at The Finsbury, London – 23/10/2016

So here’s the premise – the fine people at Lost in the Manor PR wanted to put on 31 consecutive nights of live music in October, make it all free entry and pay all the artists with each night being curated by a different music blog (or ‘tastemaker’ as is the parlance these days). Listen With Monger was asked to be involved and that was an opportunity not to be turned down so along I trotted to the Finsbury venue in North London with five of my favourite UK acts in tow and a fairly heavy Westcountry influence as is my wont. What follows is an account of what happened next and be warned, it was glorious.

Rosa Belle
In a room lit only by the stage lights in the corner and swirling with dying embers of dry ice, a diminutive figure sits on the stage, nervously clutching an acoustic guitar. This figure is 19-year-old Rosa Belle and on a Sunday evening in late October she seems fragile, tiny and unaffected by the darker side of the music industry – in short I’m a little nervous for her. Then, with a couple of strummed chords and a deep intake of breath, Rosa Belle starts to sing and tell her stories with the most soulful, perfectly pitched and dusky voice that filled the room like a warm fire on a cold evening. Original compositions sat easily alongside covers of Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ and Sam Sparro’s ‘Black & Gold’ as Rosa Belle chatted with the audience like a nervous first timer before unleashing song after song of polished, accomplished and velvety smooth acoustic soul-pop that started the evening off perfectly. Impossibly young and improbably talented.

Devon lad Jamie Yost was up next and this was his first ever London
Jamie Yost
show so there was a certain amount of pressure on the young man’s shoulders as he hunched, unassumingly, over his guitar in that unapologetic spotlight. Sparse but shuddering guitar notes broke the silence and then that voice came over loud and clear through the night air. Soulful, for sure, but there is a maturity and depth to Yost’s voice that belies his few years and sits more comfortably alongside old Bluesmen singing from the corners of smoke filled bars down the years. A well placed cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ didn’t miss a beat as Yost showed the audience what can be achieved with just a guitar, a voice and sense of passion. Then, as if he were readjusting his hat, Yost slid that guitar down on to his lap and strummed, slapped and knocked the crap out of it like a man trying to get a radio to work with an increasing sense of frustration but the sound was sublime and the reaction from the audience was triumphant.

Seaker
After some stage rearranging, the quartet Seaker opened their set and mood changed – not for the better or for the worse, it just changed. Frontwoman Kiran dressed all in black captained her crew from the control panel of her keyboard as they steered through the kind of musical landscape that is, in equal parts, ethereal, precise, organic and genetically modified. Vocals that filled the tall room, guitars that bounced and clanged of the walls and drums that pushed and challenged at every turn all combine to make a sound so utterly perfect that it should be getting more than the few meagre airplays it has had on national radio. Comparisons could be drawn to the XX, Florence + The Machine or Bat For Lashes but this would only a lazy comparison when the live experience is so singularly unique. Seaker are a game changing band and are so much greater than the sum of their parts.

Pattern Pusher
The four gents who take to the stage next could be described as unassuming or non-descript at the best of times but despite appearing from the back of the stage through a tiny door, Exeter’s Pattern Pusher didn’t exactly give you the ‘wow factor’ when they arrived onstage at the Finsbury. Roughly 15 seconds later, however, the wow arrived. With the two main protagonists side on to the audience and duelling with their selected weapons of keyboards, guitar, vocals and a big box of gadgetry, we are treated to a visual and sonic onslaught of wondrous proportions. Sure, Hot Chip, Everything Everything, Dutch Uncles and LCD Soundsystem elements are evident but despite the calculated nature of this music, there is something soulful, something guttural coming from within these four gentlemen which is absolutely encapsulating. Recent single ‘Layla and Madman’ is still the standout track in the set but the overall energy, boundary pushing bravery and genuine enthusiasm for their art is infectious and by the time the set comes to a triumphant close, Pattern Pusher have converted the congregation to their religion….whatever that may be.

Berries
The final act on stage tonight are one of those bands that just makes you sit up and pay attention within seconds of hearing them play. The all-female London based threesome Berries have a raw energy and power that hits you at first but they follow it up with superb melodies, sweet harmonies and hooks that you just can’t shake off. The power trio played off the energy that had already been built up in the room and occupied that space between Biffy Clyro, Young Knives and Veruca Salt that nobody else has bothered to even try occupying before. Recent singles ‘Siren’ and ‘Written In Paint’ were present and very correct which bodes well for the forthcoming new EP but what really struck home was how skilled they were at performing these intricate tracks without turning in to the kind of navel gazing band that leaves an audience cold. As the lights refracted off the cymbals and the guitarist and bassist swirled whilst maintaining note perfect precision I don’t think there was a single doubt in the room that we were in the presence of something more than a little bit special.

And then it was over. Months of anticipation and preparation, an evening of serious talent and good vibes, the start of a number of musical adventures and proof, if it were needed, that live music is not quite dead just yet. The crowds drifted away in to the cool night air with a new musical love in their hearts and Listen With Monger prepared for the long journey back to the wiles of Cornwall with a slight sense of satisfaction but also a very real determination that this wouldn’t be the last show this blog curates. Watch this space…

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