Saturday, 16 February 2013

old red lion gig

Went to my first gig of the year on Tue 22 Jan, continuing my midlife crisis tour of unknown bands in tiny venues. Looking for a Tuesday gig, I saw this free one at the Old Red Lion on Kennington Park Road, which along with the Mansion House is between the Tesco and the chip shop on the way to the tube. It's had an overhaul in recent years, and is now rather a trendy place (part of the Antic London chain) - I asked if they had any cider on tap and they had three, only one of which I'd heard of. The clientele at the gig matched the demographic, trendy 20s and 30s, perhaps a bit crustier. It was a free gig, in a room at the back; I was in what probably used to be a cupboard but which gave me a pretty good view, plus a seat to sit down and read in in-between acts (and also meant that I could write notes on a bit of paper - the back of an Old Red Lion menu - to help me remember who was on in what order and what they were like).

It was what was described as a folk-punk gig, part of a label tour, with one local extra on first. The artists knew each other (a lot of cross-performing going on), and seemed to know and be known by many of the crowd; felt very much like a little sub-culture of its own; the top man seemed to be a hero to this small roomful of people, and as the evening went on there were more songs which people clearly recognised and sang along to, in the last two sets in particular.

Survival Tour. Red Scare Records/Darlington Road Records. On in this order: Helen Chambers (Twitter and Bandcamp). El Morgan (Twitter and full site). Roo Pescod (Twitter). Kelly Kemp (Twitter). Great Cynics (mainly Giles Bidder, I think) (Twitter). Sam Russo (Twitter).

A photo from the gig. A review (and another) of The Darlington Road Sessions, the album which the tour is at least partly promoting, and the album on Bandcamp. A preview of the tour.

I don't expect to see any of them making waves (or perhaps even trying to do so) beyond their own sub-culture, where they seem perfectly happy (and why shouldn't they be) - except perhaps Helen Chambers, who seemed somewhat different from the rest of the pack, and seemed to me to have more talent. I appreciated her more as the evening went on, as I hadn't expected the first act to be my favourite. She had a pleasant voice (more of a vibrato - if that's the right word - than I am keen on), and sang country/folk-style songs with unremarkable words but actual tunes. The thing I have mainly learned from my midlife crisis tour is how hard it is for people to write actual tunes, however technically proficient they may or may not be. The rest of the evening (a mixture of singer-songwriter and shouty folk-punk) held little in the way of actual tunes, or voices or playing which grabbed me; Sam Russo was the best of the rest, sang and played well with okay words and music, but I still wasn't that keen, and left before he had finished, knowing there was no one else to follow. (I took notes at the time, but it seems unnecessarily harsh to note the different ways I wasn't keen on each of them.) On my way out I saw Helen Chambers, now in the main pub talking with friends who had been in the same corner as me, and I expressed my appreciation to her. Talking to the performers - another mark of my midlife crisis.