Brassneck, APPI and David Carroll

I posted a brilliant blog yesterday about this gig, but it has not shown up on MySpace, so I am having to do it again.  So this will be a tribute blog, and, naturally, nowhere near as brilliant.
It was not a short drive from Wakefield to the Hope & Anchor in Islington, but it was only a small detour to my journey home, and well worth it for the chance to see Brassneck again – especially because I had missed them at Maidenhead, and I wanted to see their full electric set with drummer.  I was listening to their cd on the drive down, so that had me eager for the gig – I did not appreciate just how much more I was going to enjoy the full show.  The Hope & Anchor has its own notoriety, including having hosted The Stranglers back in the day, and it appears to be running a good set up for live music now.  A very informative flyer sets out the schedule for the month and provides some information on each of the bands. This show was just £6 entry for 3 bands.
The show is downstairs from the main bar, and I did not realise things had started, so my apologies to David Carroll for missing most of his set – if the last two tracks were anything to go by then I missed a good one.  An Irishman based in Paris and London, his country/folk acoustic songs certainly had a French feel to them. For his final song he changed harmonica, which is surely a sign of a true professional; he also tried to drum up some audience participation, which is surely the sign of a true optimist – for his troubles he received some good humoured attitude from APPI and their following.  I will have to look for more from him and his band The Migrating Fellows when he/they are next playing in London.
APPI are listed on MySpace under ambient/breakcore/zouk.  I have no idea what breakcore and zouk are.  According to the programme notes “Mogwai, Sigur Ros and the like are certainly here – and some Muse/Radiohead power and atmospherics”.  I have heard very little by any of those bands.  What I do know is that I enjoyed APPI’s set and heard a lot in there which reminded me of bands which do come within my interest.  They are made up of 3 guitarists, 1 bassist and 1 drummer.  They produce a loud wall of noice, but not too loud, and never (really) uncontrolled.  Within the deliberate feedback, deep riffing, soundscapes, frenetic and mellow sounds, biting drums, looped sounds, melody, pulse, hard edges, structure, anarchy and soaring bursts, I could hear the riffing sound of Porcupine Tree, the ambient/drone solo work of Steven Wilson through Bass Communion, guitar edges of The Pineapple Thief, and some of the instrumental tendencies of Pink Floyd.  It’s a fine mixture and delivered with the aforementioned attitude, and with no vocals – so I think they played at least two tracks, it could have been many more.  I knew they had finished because one of the guitarists (Dan) walked off the stage.  Another band I will be looking out for in the future.
I had seen Brassneck before in Oxford when they were minus their drummer thanks to an accident.  I did wonder as I drove down if he would be there, or if I was to be the band’s Jonah…he was there, I am not a jinx.  So it was a full electric 35 minute set with no casualties. Nice.  The band’s free cd contains 3 tracks, and there is another one on their MySpace site, so I picked up a copy of the setlist to get the names of all the tracks…only to find some of them abbreviated – I’d blame Sid, if I was you.  First up was Sensitive But A Bit Of A ‘Rong ‘Un, with Mark’s drums running it along nicely and Kat’s violin adding some extra flavour to the guitar sound from Ben and Sid, and some extra rhythm to Neil’s bass.  The programme notes say they are “summery, wistful indie popwith big folky elements, a bit Beautiful South, a tad Magic Numbers, and a lovely dollop of Beatles” – the Beautiful South comparison is an easy one with their guitar sound and the mix of male and female vocals, but for me there is not a big ‘folky’ element to them, despite the use of violin – it simply does not come across in that way.  They carry straight through into Treasure It Because… not sure because of what, as that is where the setlist title tails off, but this is a very tight and together number featuring Kat’s delightful vocals, and bouncy as it is, it is still not as bouncy as Sid, despite the confines of the stage.  This is their first time playing the venue and it is a shame there are not more people here to enjoy it as they launch into a harder sound to begin You Were Right, some almost Clash-like bass from Neil before the mood is lightened by Kat’s violin.  Sometimes I’m Ashamed To Be Quite Normal is very upbeat with a mixture of vocals from Ben and Kat, and a very summery feel from Sid’s solo.  The only pity is that Kat’s vocals are low in the mix this evening and have some trouble working through the twin guitar sound.  The stage is small, and Kat promises to try to do the rest of the set without falling backwards off it, and they are into the more mellow, laid back opening to Leave Me Alone, the track growing as Neil’s bass adds some depth and Mark’s drums really kick in, and it soars through a very interesting sound in Sid’s solo.  Their song composition really is of the highest quality.  Stupid What ? is also off their free cd and features wonderful harmonics on vocals from Ben, Kat and Neil…and Sid, even if they don’t allow him his own microphone.  Kat is the obvious choice to plug the free cd because, frankly, would you accept a free cd from any of the others…but you have to wonder what was in her drinks when she congratulates David Carroll on his “brilliant crapping”.  And speaking of The Stranglers…Mess Of Contradictions starts with a driven bassline from Neil which is straight out of their playbook, and when Kat adds in a plucking violin sound, well…but not even Golden Brown produced such a smiley, disco-pop chorus !  Their songs really are light in sound and nood, even in this cellar setting.  And we are at the end of the set, the final number on the setlist only says Depression Is… and Ben introduced it as Depression Is Something Or Other – I can only hope that it is not Depression Is Playing To 12 People In A Cellar, because despite the low numbers I am sure everyone would have gone away from this gig feeling good about things.  The song itself begins in a very atmospheric way, a ballad with a martial beat, mellow violin, but it grows, grows through Ben’s very powerful vocals, holding that one note, then mournful harmonica taking us into a rocking ending. A surprisingly rousing finish then, and it really was an excellent gig, very entertaining, great musicianship throughout and a  band playing a very tight sound – no doubt due to the impressive number of gigs they are currently playing.  And they were all very pleasant to chat with both before and after the gig.  Not even a traffic diversion on the drive home could take away the smile on my face.

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