Venue : The 12 Bar, Swindon
Date : 6 July 2012
Some of the links in this review are to videos of the performance by Andrew Conner, so you really should click on them. You will make his YouTube go crazy and leave him wondering where all the hits came from.
This is both the warm-up for Celebr8 and Tinyfish‘s penultimate full-electric gig. Mixed feelings, then. On arriving at the 12 Bar (which is a nice little venue) the news is that Dec Burke cannot make it because of traffic problems. The management of the venue are very apologetic, although it clearly is not down to them, and tell us they have been unable to find a substitute support band at such late notice, and so we will have Tinyfish playing a longer set. That suits everyone in the venue (apart from, maybe, Leon Camfield, who may not know the material…). We hear Tinyfish soundcheck Nine Months On Fire and then they begin to try to relearn All Hands Lost (which they retired at RoSfest), although they will need to get on soon if they want to have the extra time to play it. We can also see them on the screens in the bar area. At one point Rob Henderson asks me if they are playing a new song. I listen for a while before realising that it is still All Hands Lost. The excitement builds. As it turns out, support entertainment for the evening is provided by Leon, in a legendary moment which has become known (now, here, in this blog) as ‘jigsawrage’. More of that later.
Simon Godfrey bends down to scribble a change on to the setlist when Tinyfish come on at 2115. He then apologises on behalf of Dec, “He just phoned up and said “Godfrey, feck off!”. They will be playing Celebr8 but if you are really, really angry then some members of the band are here.” Without further adieu they thump into The Sarcasm Never Stops with Jim Sanders‘ guitar screeching, sounding sharp and sweet. Paul Worwood‘s bass rumbles with Leon ‘jigsaw’ Camfield’s rattling drums and it fades to a bassline before big riffing takes it on until it kicks away with Simon singing. It is hard, heavy, with a sharp edge, as it continues to drive away, kicking once more into a rhythmic riffing part, then moving in phases with the sharp guitar pushing behind Simon’s strong vocals. It develops into a harsh guitar solo which flows as Jim eases it through. Simon sings in before the drums bite and it shuffles into a sudden stop which seems to take the crowd by surprise.
“We are now going to play the vast majority of the last album,” says Simon, “which is available here,” adds Nellie on The Merch Desk. “Move your fecking foot, Sanders”, says Leon, so he can get the cue into Rainland, which blasts away with that wonderful guitar hook. It drives on hard, wrapped up in that brilliant sound, demanding attention, unrelenting. The drums thump in with the bass, before the guitar screams and the track drives on then calms and swirls hard with wonderful guitar parts edging through. It pushes with an edge until the vocals come in and then it eases back again. There is sharp guitar behind the driving rhythms and the melody of the vocals. Robert Ramsay comes on in his driving gear to narrate as sounds tumble around him, and as he concludes it blasts off and drives into the big riffing hook and soaring chorus. And as it finishes Jim keeps it going into I’m Not Crashing, which gradually grows before they blast in and bluesy guitar squeals, bursting open with wah wah and then rolling away with floating bursts. It is an excellent guitar sound from Jim, staying controlled as the vocals soar before the track settles and more bluesy guitar notes mix with the rich vocals. Leon joins in on vocals for the chorus as they produce such a massive sound. It holds and then flows into a screeching guitar solo as the sound rises to a climax and then edges down. Robert comes on as the uber-chav for the spoken word Refugee, with all manner of ambient sounds swirling behind and around his voice. As he leaves the stage they tap into the floating strains of The Big Red Spark, which eases in melodic before it builds into a tapping riffing and then soars into the anthemic chorus, which swirls around as it lingers above Leon pounding the drums. The guitar chimes out of that and it taps along again, the drums changing the tempo as it moves, Simon’s vocals become more prominent before it moves on with fast, repeating guitar. It pauses into Leon’s box of tricks and then rises into soaring guitar before the cymbals crash us along, until it finally drives into a big finish. Simon thanks Brian on the sound desk and then tells us, “We weren’t going to play this, (and Leon exclaims “are we doing this ?!”) but because Bert‘s here…”, although Leon would feel more confident playing Supper’s Ready “because I know how that goes”. So although this means that for once we do not have to cope with cocky git Camfield, we are already fearing the worst (not really !) by the time Simon messes up the opening after his Americana slide guitar. Leon laughs. “Bollox”, says Simon, and they edge into Weak Machine, properly this time. The two guitars chime along into the vocals and it wanders along. And then the drums rattle through to release it into a series of bursts before it settles again, and wanders some more. It grows through some more of that wonderful slide guitar and breaks open again, blasting in bursts (Berts) around the hook, before it settles, Paul stops Leon from playing over the guitar, but Leon still adds a little cymbal burst at the end, and declares “cocky git Camfield is back !”.
Jim talks about these being the last couple of gigs for Tinyfish, “you know that stuff about Simon…it’s a lie, we just hate him.” Simon spots someone in the crowd and exclaims, “it’s lovely to see Steve Harris from Paul Menel‘s Nomzamo band here tonight. Get your clothes off. You said you would.” They ease in bluesy to Driving All Night, and then stop as it all goes wrong. Which just happens to be at the same time that James Hendry and Karin Bergman arrive, and they have the song dedicated to them. It rolls along gently with subtle guitar bursts, slide guitar softly echoes in and the sound eases along before the track settles to Simon strumming as he sings, with more bursts of slide from Jim, percussive tapping from Leon and gentle bass from Paul. It is a wonderful sound. Then it blasts open with a sharper part before fading to silence and eases along again with echoing guitar to the finish. “There used to be a really nice venue called The Peel. There used to be a person on the door called George. At one of our gigs there, the reviewer from Prog Magazine thought this track was called Ginger. We are going to dedicate it to you tonight, Mouse, and this is called Tim” and Tim, from the Curious Things album, rattles away uptempo, rocking hard. Simon’s vocals are deep, forceful, precise as it crashes along, soaring out of the heavy sound as the guitar buzzes through, moving in phases through the verse and chorus, unrelenting until it pauses for the vocals and then kicks and soars into “I dedicate to Tim” and the guitar screeches out of that before it pounds along again until it fades to close. “Now we come to one of the optional extras of the evening,” says Simon, and to great laughter someone in the crowd shouts, “It’s the meat raffle !”, which in turn prompts Leon to come out with “sausages”. “I have to say, between you and I, we played RoSfest last year and this is actually a song about not liking Americans very much”, and this is Fly Like A Bird. “Is that out of tune ?” asks Simon, “Well, not by your standards,” replies Leon. While Simon is tuning up Leon rants about jigsaws. I did warn you earlier there would be more of jigsawgate. He had received two “beautiful presents” from adoring fans this evening, one of which he really liked (the remastered version of In The Court Of The Crimson King by King Crimson) and one of which he appeared to have taken exception to – a jigsaw. He had been seen in photographs on facebook completing a tricky jigsaw of at least 60 pieces, so Andrew Conner (and there was a strong sense of Mouse’s involvement) had very thoughtfully had a jigsaw of Robert Fripp specially made for Leon, showing Robert Fripp holding a tray of cakes with the caption, ‘Leon, you will eat Toyah’s buns’. And Leon appeared to be somewhat angry about this. Still. And most likely for ever more. “Anyway, this song’s called Fly Like A Bird,” Simon interjects, keen to move on, and it strums away melodic, flowing easily before tapping along below the vocals with some gentle guitar bursts. Very mellow as the guitar circles. Robert comes on dressed in American military uniform to deliver his monologue and the guitar screeches out of that, developing the sound it has been playing around with while Robert has been narrating. Simon sings in as it soars higher and the huge sound pounds along now, pushing to a screeching close. “So we’re playing Celebr8 on Sunday,” says Simon, and I am left presuming that no-one here tonight did not already know that. Nine Months On Fire begins with its intro tape, which prompts the band to ask “Is that loud enough ?” before they riff out of it hard and then float a thick, melodic sound until it rumbles along, hitting back into the big riffing in bursts. It blasts open with a sharp feel and pounds away, pushing on, edgy while also melodic and direct, bouncing along behind the vocals, then hitting into stacatto bursts before the vocals soar out powerfully. It continues on upbeat, pounding along before the vocals soar into a sudden stop and Simon has a look of bewilderment and apathy. He sighs. And then, after a pause, he adds, “I love that bit.” And the track flows away melodic with the guitar coming through and circling. The track moves away again, floating around with little guitar bursts, holding as the vocals grow and then soar into rolling guitar and a big sound. It keeps pushing until the guitar develops a sharper feel and wails as it rolls away. It calms and then the tempo picks up and kicks the track to a sharp end.
So what could the future direction of the band have been ? Leon suggests, “I want us to be skiffle” so he could use his washboard. “Have you seen it ?” adds Uncle Bulgaria. They have been waiting for Godert. “I was waiting for you to make noises,” he says as he arrives in his white lab coat for Infinite Pagodas as an intro to Wide Awake At Midnight. It gently grows and then shuffles away. The guitar strumming moves on and circles melodic, then gradually builds into Simon’s soaring vocals before finally kicking away into controlled piercing guitar. The track holds to big riffing before building again against a busy shuffle, then rushes away behind sharp guitar with the rattling drums chasing and the bass keeping it all together, and the track carries on growing and developing like that, providing example after example of just how musically talented they all are, which might be easy to lose track of amongst the on-stage antics. The track holds again, this time to allow Leon to have some fun and games with his electronic box of tricks before Simon sings in, changing the lyrics to “the terror that is Tim” as he points at Mouse, and it kicks away, then holds and soars, before driving on with a grand sound. It continues into big strumming, powerful vocals push as the guitar circles and it kicks with the drums, while the bass maintains the rhythm. Then it holds again, melodic sounds float, Simon sings and it blasts open with the guitar sound flying high. It drives on hard then settles to fade out before crashing cymbals blast it to a close. Leon has been laughing at Jim during the latter part of the track and now he reveals why, “You looked like you were growing hair”. “It’s a miracle !” shouts Neil Palfreyman, between photos. Robert comes on in a dark suit, hat and shades for Motorville against a huge rumbling bass sound. And it crashes away as he brings his narration to a close. It rattles along upbeat, rocking, the guitar flowing nicely before it develops and then returns to the original theme. It holds as Simon sings in against the guitar circling. The drums gradually build and then release the track as the vocals soar, and the guitar flies away again into a crashing climax which brings the set to a storming close. “Give me 10 minutes, I really need to pee,” says Jim, as he exits the stage.
“We said we would never play this again,” says Simon, to which some wit in the crowd replies, “Yeah, can I have my money back for RosFest ?!” “Do you want your airfare too ?” Leon very kindly suggests. “We haven’t played this for 18 months,” continues Simon, “This is called All Hands Lost.” “Good luck everybody,” says Leon as they start. Simon strums in as Jim develops a melodic, floating part, Paul’s bass gently thumps and the song drifts along. 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 upbeat, a full, rounded sound with the guitar strumming and the drums tapping with the bass. Jim’s guitar sound suddenly goes really badly and he cannot stop himself from laughing, and it must be bad because it provokes a “Jesus” from Simon. But it is all right because Simon makes a mess of some chord progressions of his own. Then the tempo changes and it becomes more upbeat, the guitar circles through and develops while the drums go wild, before sharp guitar pierces through and it eases right down into bass thumping, the guitar cutting through that sound in bursts. Simon’s 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, and it blasts out with screeching guitar 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 Robert comes on in a Bill Hicks tshirt to deliver his final bit of narrative, and it drives out of that hard and sharp, rattling along. Bass pedals flood the sound as it holds and Simon sings. Guitar cuts through sharply melodic. The track pushes on hard in bursts before easing down as the vocals come through with the guitar echoing as it holds, and then the drums roll in and it kicks away again with the bass throbbing as Jim cuts through sharply, and it holds again and drifts on. Sharp guitar notes come out, the vocals rise high, 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. Leon makes Simon laugh in the final verse which results in Simon muttering “kill him”. Jim cuts through again and sharply develops his part, pushing it higher and piercing out as the drums and bass drive us on, and the crowd join in with the chorus before the massive sound rises and soars with pounding drums to a halt. “We are the weakest link. Goodnight. Bye bye,” says Simon, and when the crowd keep calling for more he adds, “We literally have nothing more to play.”
They come back on. Some wit in the crowd shouts out “Grendel”, which prompts Jim to reply, “as Steve Hogarth said in San Francisco, not in a hundred million years, and I bet you don’t even know it !” And as the crowd begin to sing it he continues, “you just proved me and him wrong.” Seemingly at the request of Steve Birt, they play I’m Not Crashing again. It is a stunning version, with a full rounded sound, very tight, powerful. “Thank you, see you soon,” says Simon. “Yes, clap! Clap now!” demands Leon. It has been yet another excellent, enjoyable and entertaining Tinyfish show, the perfect blend of brilliant music, outstanding musicianship and clever humour. And now we have only one more show to go – Celebr8 on the Sunday.