@AlcunaWilds ambient trip hop @TheOakBath

Alcuna WIlds performing at The Royal Oak in Bath, February 2017

Friday night and news was everywhere that the Foo Fighters were playing a not so secret gig in Frome. Had we been invited? You bet we hadn’t! Anyway, we had more important things to do, like watching Bob Ross in an effort to prepare ourselves for our Friday night gig.

Bob Ross

Why Bob Ross? Mostly, because like any sane person, we appreciate the infinite wisdom Bob bestowed on us and the soothing sound of his oil on canvass voice, but mostly it was to get us in the mood for a band who describe themselves as ‘ambient trip hop’.

We arrived just as the support act were packing up, but not too late to pick up their EP and have a chat. They’re called Stillwave and to be honest, on getting home and listening to the EP, we regret not seeing their set. If you like Editors, you’ll easily enjoy Stillwave. Have a listen here.

A mature crowd had packed into The Royal Oak to see Alcuna Wilds and they waited patiently while the band prepared. Aside from the usual drums, bass and lead setup, Alcuna Wilds had brought two synths, a sample pad, a four foot pedal board and a laptop.

Alcuna Wilds performing at The Royal Oak in Bath, February 2017

The set started up with a trip into Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters and built some gentle cymbal work with careful guitar picking over soft synth, before breaking into a fantastic bass led groove, which was finally topped off with Nadja’s angelic, swaying vocals. Towards the end of this opening section Pete Barnes used his lead guitar to simulate the sound of a gale, stirring memories of Storm Doris earlier in the week. Whatever the intention, the opening salvo left us wondering where we’d be taken next.

Pete Barnes from Alcuna Wilds performing at The Royal Oak in Bath, February 2017
Pete Barnes from Alcuna Wilds performing at The Royal Oak

The songs were captivating and swung from tranquil arias to bouncing jaunts, perfectly depicting the “ambient trip hop” description we’d read.

Each member of the band is clearly skilled in their area, but like in so many art works it’s the coming together which yields the true beauty. The seamless union of technology and human artistry produced a mesmerizing performance.

Special praise should go to Simon their two week old drummer, that is to say he only had two weeks of rehearsal before the tour. His stolid percussive work melded perfectly with his band mates. Jordy, on synth, bass and laptop provided enough enthusiasm for a full festival as he bobbed along and Nadja proved not just to have an amazing voice, but charming stage presence too.

We’d briefly met lead guitarist, Pete last year, when his other band Galleons supported Effra at the Bath Fringe Festival. You can read that review here. Pete delivered a brilliant display, buoyed on by his parents who were seeing him gigging for the first time.

Alcuna Wilds have just released a new EP, are planning some summer festivals in the UK and possibly a full album later in the year, which we look forward to hearing.

 

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 24 February 2017

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Don’t Play With Guns @MolesBath

Don't Play With Guns performing on stage at Moles in Bath in February 2017

Thursday night STEREO at Moles. We were there to watch Don’t Play With Guns, but first our ears were subjected to two dubious support acts, who exploded a cacophony on stage, while butchering Nirvana and Massive Attack covers.

To be fair, they were enthusiastic and probably quite newly formed, so we’ll forgive them; this time, and review them properly at a later date.

So moving swiftly on from the shaky opening acts, lets talk about Don’t Play With Guns (DPWG). The anti-gun lobbyists, came armed with a camera crew, all adorned with DPWG t-shirts and ready to cover the gig from every conceivable angle and this is important; and we’ll explain why in a moment.

They started with a song called “We are who we are”, which was nice, mellow and smooth, but irritating, because it sounds similar to another popular song, yet we couldn’t place it. The second song, “Before she realizes” was an emotive piece in much the same vein as the opener.

Things started to get a little louder in song three, building up to the second half of their set where the gig got decidedly more interesting. Song four (I missed the song names around this area) was another number which sounded similar to a popular song, but this time we managed to figure out what song it was, “Killing in the name”. The next sounded like Slipknot’s, “Spit it out” with Angus, the frontman, executing a trademark Corey Taylor crowd interaction moment, followed by a rendition of “SpongeBob Squarepants”, another Corey trademark moment.

At this point, we realized just how reliant on other artist’s crowd-pleasing numbers DPWG are. Should we be offended? The answer is “No.”

Yes, a lot of the set was covers, including an actual performance of “Killing in the name” and an excellent execution of “Voodoo Child” and the rest of the songs sounded very much like reworkings of other people’s material; but when you’re competing in an industry where every note has already been played in probably every conceivable order, things are going to sound similar.

What’s more, it’s clever; not ripping off other people’s songs, that isn’t clever, but arguably the quickest way to become successful is to find someone who has become successful and repeat whatever it is they did. Now add the camera crew I mentioned earlier, there to gather footage of the band playing on the same stage Oasis, The Cure and a host of well-known bands have played, including Massive Attack; putting free EPs out for people to grab and asking someone to come and review their gig, makes this one of the smartest bands I’ve seen in a long time.

So many bands believe they will become superstars just through sheer talent. Nope. It takes hard work and a business mentality too.

Don't Play With Guns performing at Moles in Bath in February 2017

But, let’s put business plans to one side and talk about actual talent.

Angus Brick’s vocals are delightful, a cross between Eddie Vedder and Finley Quaye and he has superb skills when it comes to getting an audience involved. We already sang Jack Whitby’s praises in the last review featuring DPWG and it was a solid performance from Callum Brundle on percussion, but a special mention goes to Chris Nesbitt, who absolutely smashed the cover of Jimi’s “Voodoo Child”, along with some other creative moments.

They haven’t quite developed the level of lyrical brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody, but never-the-less, their lyricism is still a lot better than some of the main stream crud you hear on the radio every day.

The band gels fantastically, but they still have a lot of work to do, there were a couple of dodgy harmonies and they need more of their own material. Their set list could possibly also do with some reworking. The first two songs didn’t match with the later numbers and resulted in a slightly slowish start to the set, rather than an explosion of energy that they clearly have within them. However, considering how recently they formed, this was an outstanding performance and sets them up well for the future, if they have the drive and a bit of luck.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 2 February 2017

Listen to Don’t Play With Guns on Spotify

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Sam Green & The Midnight Heist @theoakBath

Sam Green & The Midnight Heist performing at The Royal Oak in Bath

The Christmas lull is done, the office parties are over, the students are back and we’re on the gig scene once more. Our first outing of the year was to The Royal Oak on Lower Bristol Road to see the brilliant Sam Green & The Midnight Heist.

The venue was packed; not difficult on a Friday night, but considering how long it was from everyone’s last payday it was impressive and testament to Sam’s ability to bring in a crowd.

Paul Hopkins playing double bass at The Royal Oak in Bath in January 2017

On this particular evening, ‘The Midnight Heist’ were replaced by a couple of more than able locals, including the ever-ebuliant Paul Hopkins, who showed a double bass is more than an instrument, it’s a dancing partner.

 

Sam utilizes a number of guitar techniques in his performances, some subtle others less so and more blisteringly fast and dexterous, but by far his best comes out when playing lap style and he showed this by dishing out a heap of swaggering blues-folk-roots concoctions. It was an auditory feast for the audience, hearing the blending of guitar and Sam’s soft yet rich vocals, with a peppering of double bass and percussion, all garnished with a helping of harmonica blasts.

 

Sam admitted this was a very rough and ready set, though you could hardly tell and to the audience it was proof of the quality of the musicians, as between songs he briefly informed the band of what they’d be playing next, whispering “…this one’s in A♭” as they began executing another flawless piece.

Some of the songs draw attention to themes like societal obsessions over capitalism, such as in the song “Money“, but without being at all preachy, where as others (most) are a bit more “Let’s get crazy and jump around”.

Sam Green performing at The Royal Oak in Bath

The only annoyance with the evening was that we missed the opening few songs, not by accident, but because past experiences have taught us The Royal Oak rarely start a gig at the advertised time.

That aside, it was a deft display of improvisational prowess on the part of the band and another inspirational performance from Sam Green. If you didn’t see them, don’t worry, you only have to wait till April to see Sam when he’s on tour. No more gigs till then unfortunately.

However, the release of his new solo album is imminent, so watch his page to see when. Even better than that though is the news that preparation has begun for a full band album following the April tour. So there’s a lot for fans to get excited about in the coming months.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 20 January 2017

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Want a gig/venue reviewed? Let us know. Otherwise if you just want to vent your spleen about something (music related) or give praise for a band or venue, do it here or on our Twitter or Facebook pages.