Apprehension bubbled up in me as I drove to this gig. Milon’s Soundcloud hadn’t inspired me and made me feel like I was sitting in a bar in downtown SimCity. However, that was an old demo from nearly a year ago and Reuben from RMT Music Productions insisted they were one of the best bands he’d put on, causing a mosh pit at their last gig at the Royal Oak. So I thought “What the hell, I’ll give it a go.”
If you love jazz improv, once you’ve heard them you’ll want to tattoo “MILON” on your sacred parts. If you hate jazz, you’ll want to cut your ears off and possibly Milons’ sacred parts too. They’re an auditory deluge of jazz with a splash of alt rock and the bulk of their songs are improvised. Fantastic if you love it, a nightmare if you don’t. I’m in between and at times I did feel like I might be in The Fast Show’s Jazz Club, “Nice”.
It took three songs before I warmed up to them. Improvisation can be a wonderful moment of never-to-be-repeated genius, but it can easily become self-indulgent drivel. Thankfully, it seems Milon are highly skilled and versatile musicians and they yielded some magical moments. Occasionally, they fell back on the familiar theme of holding off while individual members bashed out solo pieces, a trend I’m not mad about, however for the most part they melded together nicely. The audience took some time to warm up too. At the beginning, I heard mutterings of “…not too bad…”, but by the end people were shouting for more.
That seemed to be the theme of the night. One of their songs, which I think was called “Teeth” initially seemed to lack the dental faculties to be so named, but developed as the tune went on, providing some fantastic fusions of sax and guitar effects and finally culminated in a messy, jangling, thumpy saxgasm.
Dino, the band’s leader, was a bit shy when it came to audience banter, possibly due to cameras filming the event, a pity as it made the band seem slightly gig green. Afterwards he told me how the band had come into being. At the age of 27, proving the adage that you’re never too old to learn, he decided to start playing saxophone. His Cypriot parents were less than thrilled by his decision and in an effort to please them he toiled away trying to mix staccato Cypriot beats into jazz grooves. A few years later and he’s managed it, at least the music, I can’t speak for how his parents feel.
The hero of the night was actually Reuben, who was the unseen champion of sound engineering, creating a comfortable mix which is difficult in a small venue with blasting electric guitar, banging drums and a blaring sax. For ages the Royal Oak has been a purveyor of fine ales and won many Camra awards, but I’ve always felt it’s not the best place for live music. It’s quite small and can feel like you’re either sat in a different room from the performers or on the stage with them. However, Milon fitted the intimate nature of the venue and aside from a delayed start to the gig it went off well.
This March represents a big step for Milon as they hit the studio to start recording their first album and soon will release the video from the gig. They’ll also be playing at Colston Hall on 19th March as part of the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival.