Frost* plus Al “The Gentleman Geek” @ The Peel 2008

I had been looking forward to this gig for some time.  I had read a lot about Frost this year without actually hearing any of the music, and had bought a ticket to go to this gig on the basis that it was part of a House of Progression Christmas party weekend.  I bought their first album at the same time as I ordered their second album, and listened to it a couple of times and wondered what all the fuss was about.  I listened to the second album for the first time to and from a gig at the Robin in Bilston, and liked bits of it, but again wondered why there was such a big fuss.  Then over the last few weeks I have listened to them a bit more, and over the last two weeks a lot more, and over the last week almost constantly…I think it would be fair to say that both albums have grown on me and thankfully before this gig came around I could see precisely what all the fuss was about.

As well as the music, the thing I really like about Frost* is the way they are totally on top of the whole branding and merchandising side of things.  Over this year I have spoken with so many bands who have told me that going forward the money will be in merchandising rather than in the musical product itself, and Frost*, with their Frosterisk, seem well placed to benefit from that.  So I bought a hooded top and tshirt – great images, good quality and very fairly priced.  And so Experiments in Mass Appeal became Experiments in Mass Apparel on the hoodie – simple, but genius.  And they were giving out badges with Experiments in XMas Appeal on them.  And they had a stage backdrop featuring a great big red Frosterisk on a black background.  It reminds me of the brilliant way Marillion used the jester back in the day…and I must have over 50 Marillion tshirts…

And so back to the gig itself…The Peel was packed.  I was at the two Pendragon shows in November, and it was more full than those shows.  The support act tonight was…a comedic magician – and he was just perfect for the party atmosphere which had already risen within the place.  You can find him on MySpace at myspace.com/tv_rots_my_head under the name of Al “The Gentleman Geek”, and he produced a performance full of wit, while performing magic tricks, some sideshow attractions, such as lying on a bed of nails while having a breezeblock on his chest broken with a sledgehammer, and the final escape from a straitjacket – into which he was assisted by Racing Hippo, who I had previously only seen online in some of the fora I inhabit.  it was the greatest of fun, and I will long remember the brilliant line that “the egg has left oeuf”.

And so to the main attraction, and the crowd were very well warmed up for this now.  The opening to I Believe In Father Christmas led us into Black Light Machine and we were lauched into more of a party than a gig, with a very relaxed band interacting perfectly with a very dedicated and appreciative audience.  John Mitchell was clearly having some problems with feedback (which I later heard was being caused by the lights), but while he was frustrated by this the audience simply did not mind, and nothing was going to spoil this experience.  One of my favourites, Pocket Sun, was followed by the excellent Experiments In Mass Appeal, and the place was rocking and bouncing and full of absolutely positive energy.  Apparently it was something from Tupac’s California which moved into Hyperventilate, and the band threw santa hats out into the audience – and they must have had a good throw on them because one reached me standing at the sound desk.  Picture a room full of santa hats, because that was now the image I had looking towards the stage.  Wonderland moved into Snowman and things eased off a little as the audience sang the end of the song.  John Jowitt was using his Rickenbacker (“one of the weapons of prog”) and now appeared in a red wig, as John Mitchell produced his best Jimmy Saville impression “could you fix it for me to buy the Frost* record”, and we were into Toys.  “How much longer have we got”, Jem Godfrey asked – it was 25 minutes.  “What have we got which lasts 25 minutes”, he asked, and we were into Milliontown…and the sight of John Mitchell and Andy Edwards playing some keyboards.  And this classic epic brought an excellent set to an end.  The relaxed atmosphere on stage had not meant a relaxed performance – it was the highest quality, at times hard to understand how Andy produces so much from such a small drumkit, and Declan Burke’s vocals suit the tracks perfectly.

On returning to the stage Jem told us of his long standing hatred of the Mellotron (“the second weapon of prog”), “and this next song has got Mellotron in it, which means we did not write it”…and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Fly On The Windshield came as a wonderful surprise, leading into The Other Me, with a very funky beat to it.  And maybe it was just my ears deceiving me, but I thought I heard the drum opening to Rock ‘N’ Roll in the ending to the song.  I know I heard “shabba” !  And there was a well-deserved second encore – it seems Declan’s voice had gone, so once he had done a Bez he left the stage, and it appeared that someone from the audience was going to get up and take over until he said he did not sing but he did play the saxophone…but the day was saved by the Cosmic Lawnmower – up he got and produced a fine rendition of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.  It turns out he does sing in a covers band and they had played the song the previous night – still, kudos to him for getting up in front of the crowd after such a performance from Frost* and pulling it off.  It was a brilliant gig, one of the best atmospheres I have encountered, a top notch performance, and just perfect interaction between band and audience – so here it was, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun.

And I met some famous people !  Adam Hodgson, Rob Cottingham, Moo and Elkie from Touchstone, and had a very interesting chat with Adam – it sounds like 2009 will be an exciting year for them.

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