Venue : Robbins’ Well, Leamington Spa
Date : Saturday 8 May 2010
Date of writing this review : 16 May 2010
I had missed the first part of the Progeny3 Fringe on the Friday night (John Mitchell and John Beck (from It Bites), plus Christina Booth and Chris Fry (from Magenta)) because I had been down in Stroud watching Pendragon, but I was glad to be here on the Saturday lunchtime for another ‘acoustic’ set from Tinyfish. What you need to understand about their acoustic sets is that they feature electric guitar from Jim Sanders, and drummer Leon Camfield’s amazing electronic box of tricks. So, ‘acoustic plus’, if you like. This was being held in the lower bar of the Robbins’ Well pub, an intimate, standing venue, still affording an excellent location for Nellie to be selling what remains of the existing merchandise before the launch of…well, we will get to that in due course. First of all we have Simon Godfrey welcoming us and introducing the soundcheck, Eat The Ashes, which included a “Hello, Mouse”. Steve Tomlin of the Classic Rock Society, who were jointly promoting the Progeny3 weekend, introduced the band as “superfluous”, the band and audience begin to hum the theme tune to Vision On, Stephen Lambe says “I love how these occasions are so formal”, and Simon tells us “this is the setlist I have just written out. I am going to have to tell the band” (and you can now find the setlist in my photos on here). All in all, it is a typically wonderful and entertaining start to a Tinyfish gig.
They open with The June Jar from the Curious Things release, Simon on acoustic guitar and strumming in hard with Jim, rumbling bass from Paul Worwood, and Leon is playing congas and bongos (although for the sake of this blog I shall mostly refer to them all as bongos, and risk him pointing out my errors). It rolls along with a sway as Simon sings, pushing along upbeat and melodic before the sound suddenly becomes louder, fuller, and then slows as the focus is on the excellent, distinctive vocals, and as they fade out the track is picking up the tempo again as Jim’s guitar flows through considered and melodic, with the vocals coming back in as it rumbles on, pushing to a fading end. A wonderful start to the set. They continue with a “slightly rearranged version” of The Big Red Spark, the title track from the forthcoming album of the same name, Simon strumming as Jim floats through an echoing part, the bass rumbling with the bongos and it bounces along upbeat, with the guitars easing through and Simon’s vocals rolling on top. It pushes on into a rounded, melodic chorus, with more of that easy guitar from Jim drifting through while the track keeps driving along, still upbeat and very melodic. It pushes into the chorus again with a wonderful sound and then eases down and holds as the guitars strum through, with the vocals pushing through melodic and drifting, to match the mood of the track. Then the strumming gets harder, the bongos pick up the tempo, the vocals become stronger, before it pauses, Leon taps on his snare, adds some percussion from a shaker, and Paul’s bass eases the track along with Jim’s guitar cutting through, the sound full, rounded and floating, the vocals coming in too and it hits on with the guitar sound still floating. The vocals are powerful now and the bongos are running with them, driving into hard strumming on the acoustic as the guitar sound develops into a big, sharp ending. And if it is all anything like that, then the new album cannot arrive soon enough. Simon tells us about the Tinyverse and says that Robert Ramsay (which I have managed to spell correctly this time) will be doing some filming for that and then asks, “is everyone aware of Rob ? Does everybody know what Rob does ?” and most of the answers hardly bear repeating. Leon chips in, “I can’t thumb, because when I thumb he (he points at Paul) cuts out”. “It’s a medical condition”, says Rob. They continue with Nine Months On Fire, from their debut album, Simon strumming in hard as Jim develops his guitar part, pushing on with Paul’s bass rumbling through the sound and Leon tapping the bongos with his Early Learning Centre tambourine, then holding as the guitar eases through melodic in soft bursts. The vocals come in and the sound builds, buzzes hard and then kicking off before holding again, and finally easing on. It builds again in bursts, pushing on hard, with Simon and Leon combining on vocals, the track driving on as the guitar develops, the vocals coming back in with a big bongo sound, Simon slightly amending the lyrics to fit what has just happened, “and since my guitar cut out, when snow fell all around”, before it hits into a dramatic pause. “Now what ?” asks Leon, and Simon’s guitar sound rolls through with him singing on top, Jim echoing through notes, and it eases along with gentle bass, light bongos, twinkles from Leon’s sampler pad thingy (that’s a technical term). Leon adds in a shaker as the vocals push in and the track holds, drifts, Jim still echoing notes on his guitar, before the snare bangs in and the track now pushes on with a full sound, Paul’s bass thumping through as it sways on hard. The guitar circles in and the snare hits sharply, before the vocals come through again and soar out as the guitar rolls in melodic, piercing as the vocals push again, and the track hits away upbeat and bouncing, some tambourine coming into the sound while Simon and Leon sing together as it moves to a striking finish.
Simon talks about the new album, “we are about to finish mixing”. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, the end is nigh”, says Leon, who Simon tells us is only like that because he is not part of the mixing process. They are going to continue with another track from the forthcoming album, until it is pointed out to Simon that he has skipped a track on the setlist, in which case, “this is not a track from the new album”. This leads to a discussion of setlists and how when they were performing the show in Poland which became the live dvd/cd One Night On Fire, Leon got up to walk off before the end of the set because he thought they had reached the end, all of which prompts Jim to ask, “has anyone before ever plugged a product by pointing out a shit bit ?” They continue with Driving All Night, another from Curious Things, with Simon strumming through and Jim floating notes using a slide, the bass rumbling gently before it pauses and then rolls on gently with the vocals flowing in, percussion and finger cymbals from Leon as the slide guitar sound drifts through. The track eases along with the vocals pushing it, the bongos tapping in as the guitar comes through, then the vocal sound is growing, the guitar strumming gets harder, the bongos pound in and the track kicks on upbeat, rolling along, before suddenly easing and the guitar drifts through melodic, fading into silence. And then the vocals ease in again with strumming acoustic guitar, the slide guitar weaves through, and the sound grows again and drifts on, pausing and then kicking harder again and pushing through to a fading close. “Oh, shit. I’ve just seen what’s next”, says Leon, “I don’t remember practicing this acoustically.” And Simon strums in but he has got his guitar set up incorrectly, so he has to stop. “Please all point”, says Leon, and we do. Of course. And this time they successfully begin (and continue) Wide Awake At Midnight, the acoustic guitar strumming through, picking a part as the electric guitar drifts in and Leon mischieviously uses a scratch sample on his box of tricks, much to the amusement of the audience, as the bass rumbles and the vocals come in and it pushes on with the snare tapping. Jim is circling his guitar sound as the track eases along melodic, with the vocals leading it, pushing it, with busy sounds around the vocals. It eases as the bass rumbles down and the guitar flows through, before the acoustic strums harder as the guitar sounds grows, melodic and flowing, the acoustic strumming harder still and the track hits on into bursts of sound, rumbling on as the vocals push through again, driving on upbeat as the vocals grow, both guitars strumming through, the sound dynamic and dramatic in stages, a fine example of this band’s composition skills. Then Jim echoes through more notes, floating them, as the track pushes on hard with bursts of sound, building and then driving again with some tambourine percussion. It is a big, hard sound which is growing with melodic guitar within it, and it holds with rumbling bass as guitar bursts flow through accompanied by sampled sounds from Leon, and the vocals ease in on top of it all, the finger cymbals chime and it holds, with just the vocals carrying on. Then Leon counts in and the guitars strum away hard, the bass rumbles and the bongos are rolling through as they produce a big, melodic sound with the vocals again flowing in on top of that, and it drives on hard and soars out before pausing into some shaker percussion and thumping bass, the electric guitar picking a part as the vocals soar through and the track kicks on upbeat with the guitar developing its part and rising higher, and then eases down into Simon circling on the acoustic guitar while Jim’s guitar sound is floating through, rounded and melodic, and it pushes along gently with a hard edge, holding with the drifting guitar sound. Then Paul comes in and builds it with the bass, Simon strumming in and it kicks away, Jim’s guitar piercing through and the bongos rolling, a big sound driving on now. The electric guitar sound continues to develop, cuts through, soars out and then fades into a big crashing finish which is met with huge applause. Simon begins to introduce the next song by saying “welcome to a long line of live Tinyfish rehearsals” and then tells us “this is a song about how I burnt down my school”, so “this is a song called ‘sorry, Mr Davies'”, and they continue with the song from the soundcheck, Eat The Ashes, the guitars strumming in with deep bass from Paul and it eases along with a considered feel to the strumming and treble sounds from Leon. The vocals flow through and rise and push the track into a more flowing chorus before it eases down and drifts along with a full, rounded and deep sound. The vocals lead it into the chorus again with the guitar cutting through, and the sound grows out of that and pushes on hard, holding as the vocals rise and the guitar strums through melodic and deep. It drifts on again as the bass rumbles along, Simon strumming on the acoustic and Leon adding some texture with a shaker, the audience observing an absolute silence as the sound fades right down before it builds and crashes away, the warm vocals soaring as it moves on to strum to a fading end.
Simon says he would “like to thank all the guys at the CRS for being stupid enough to let us play”, and in this post-election weekend he tells us that the next track will feature Rob, the “member for Middle Earth and Xanadu”. The guitars strum through to begin Fly Like A Bird and the bass thumps against them as the bongos tap along. The vocals ease in and Jim’s electric guitar echoes through on top of it all as the track pushes along with a full, rounded, melodic sound, the guitar now circling through a part as the track moves in waves, building and pushing hard. And Rob comes to the middle and front of the ‘stage’ wearing an American army officer’s hat and a dark blue/black patterned shirt tp produce his monologue, and receives great applause for doing so before Leon interjects, “all of a sudden a vote for the BNP doesn’t seem so bad”. Simon’s vocals come back in and it moves along upbeat with the vocals soaring out as the guitar develops and it eases down to the end. At which point Leon complains that Rob clearly feels acoustic gigs mean only half the effort for the band because for acoustic gigs Rob “only puts the hats on”, which is true enough. Simon says that “normally at this stage of an acoustic set there is a low note” and Paul plays a low note on his bass, then plays another as he crouches and says “like that, but lower” and he and Leon proceed to try to produce the lowest note possible while Simon tells us to imagine dry ice, wizards hats (and “capes” comes a call from the crowd), and Rob comes on wearing a black hat and shades, looking every inch a Blues Brother (down to his neck, as I am sure Leon would tell you), and his monologue continues with musical sounds rumbling below him, and he pinches Simon’s nose as he leans over his shoulder, and it leads us into Motorville with the bass thumping with the bongos, the guitars strumming in hard and lively, and the track kicks along upbeat and driving as a melodic hook cuts through from the electric guitar before developing into floating notes, pushing out and then moving higher, piercing through, and the track kicks away again with that melodic guitar hook before a sudden pause, Simon saying “just imagine the dry ice”, and Leon releases it with some shaker as the bass thumps and the guitar now circles as the vocals flow through. It eases along with a gentle, melodic sound, before that sound grows as the bongos pound in and the vocals soar through. Then it eases right down into the melodic, floating guitar, with finger cymbals striking through from Leon, and Simon’s vocals soar through once more and it kicks along. The bongos are rolling and the bass is thumping, while the electric guitar is still gentle, still melodic as the track moves on into bursts of sound and hits to a sharp end. Leon says, “Simon, there is literally nowhere to go”, so Simon adds “this is the encore” and wonders if we can guess what it is. The Amazing Wilf shouts out ‘Supper’s Ready’, and Simon introduces him and his podcast (The European Perspective on The Dividing Line) to the rest of the audience and then dedicates the final track, All Hands Lost, to Dave ‘Grendel’ Elliott. Simon strums in as Jim develops a melodic, floating part, Paul’s bass gently thumps and the song drifts along with a cunning change of lyric, “David it’s dark outside”, and a bit of theatre as Simon points into the audience while singing “who knows – if there’s life there”, and the sound comes together and it flows on, with the sound growing and then pushing along with a hard edge, rolling melodic with the vocals as they soar out and the track moves along upbeat, a full, rounded sound with the acoustic guitar strumming and the bongos tapping with the bass. Then the tempo changes and it becomes more upbeat, the electric guitar circles through and develops while the bongos go wild and the acoustic guitar is strummed hard, before sharp guitar pierces through and it eases right down into bass thumping, the guitar cutting through that sound in bursts. The vocals come in and the song rolls along with a sharp bite from the snare as it taps and the vocals grow and soar again, before it eases all the way down into the rumbling bass and a silent, respectful audience. Then treble sounds rise from Leon and Jim echoes through notes as Rob comes on and talks over the melodic sound with sharp treble noises coming through it. As always, Rob gets warm, generous and genuine applause for his part in proceedings. The sound grows, then fades, then the snare taps and both guitars strum hard and it kicks hard with the bass thumping, the vocals pushing in full and fervent and it drives on with the bongos rolling, Simon adding “look at them dancing at the back”, but I was too engrossed with the band to check out who was ‘dancing’ at a Prog gig. The track pushes on hard in bursts before easing down as the vocals come through with the electric guitar echoing as it holds, and then the bongos roll in and it kicks away again with the bass throbbing and Simon strumming on the acoustic as Jim cuts through sharply on the electric, and it holds again and drifts on. Sharp guitar notes come out, the vocals rise high (prompting a “nearly” from Simon and a “close” from Leon), some shaker is added in, the guitar circles as it echoes high, the bass is pumping and the vocals are pushing before it eases into a flowing melodic fill with rounded guitar picking a part and developing it as the bass thumps. The vocals ease back in as it holds, and Simon strums through as he sings, all of them coming back in as it drifts on again, then gradually building, getting louder, kicking into soaring vocals. Jim cuts through on electric guitar and sharply develops his part, pushing it higher and piercing out as the bongos and bass drive us on into a fading, echoing sound. “You sorted ?”, Simon asks the band, and gets a “yeah” from Leon, prompting Simon to add “thanks for coming along, we’ve been Tinyfish” and they hit into a crashing, extended finish through the loud cheers and applause. There are calls for more, to which Leon responds, “More of that ?!”, and it only remains for Stephen Lambe to thank James for the excellent sound through the set.
Tinyfish always put on an excellent show, both in terms of the music and the entertainment, and this was no exception. You really should put the date of Friday 8 October into your diary and make sure you get along to Summer’s End to see them. Before then, you also need to be ready to buy The Big Red Spark in August, because it promises to be one of the albums of the year.