Gig Monkey’s Oxford Special! (pt 1)

This months Ocelot offering (November 2014) ended up being a double page Oxford special. So, first up a live review!

Following on from my mini-rant last month I decide that if the mountain won’t come to Gig Monkey, then Gig Monkey will go to the mountain. Consequently, a scan of the Ocelot Gig Guide, and a perusal of my oh-so-hectic social calendar highlighted a show of some potential down at the Bullingdon / Art Bar or whatever it is being called at the moment. It also gave me some material for my reviews page in a bit of a bonus, meaning this month I dedicate my whole column to the musical delights of Oxford! So, the gauntlet is down Reading – can you fill both pages next month? Get those recordings and gig suggestions in to me –

Co-Pilgrim, The August List & Swindlestock live at The Bullingdon, Oxford

August liveIn a change to the advertised openers (Vienna Ditto succumbing to illness) I arrived in time to catch most of the replacement. To my delight, this substitute was a couple of members of Swindlestock, a band I had enjoyed immensely at the Punt earlier in the year, and been meaning to catch again. Straightaway I was reminded why, there is an honesty about what these folk do, they are unashamedly country and don’t care. Singer Dava really does have a voice to behold; it is perfectly suited to their homespun, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll Americana, a sound that belongs in Bob’s Country Bunker, played behind chickenwire to a raucous audience of rednecks. Whilst The Bullingdon is a great venue, it wasn’t quite the same! Stripping the band down to a guitar and vocal two-piece worked a treat, it gave a real sense of the craft of their songs.

Since hearing their initial releases I had been champing at the bit to see The August List live, so I was somewhat excited to finally be getting the chance. Celebrating the release of their debut album (see review on the next page) the guys were also treating us to a full band show for the first time. I wasn’t sure whether this was a good thing or not for my first August List show as I had heard about the array of homemade, toy and vintage instruments that Kerraleigh and Martin play as a duo, giving me amusing mental images of one-man-bands (Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins?) and had been excited to witness this, still, if I needed an excuse to see them again there it was.

Any adverse thoughts such as this were soon banished however when the music started. On stage there is an appealing awkwardness about the two, a humbleness and gratitude that makes you want to give them a big hug and reassure them that all is going well. This downbeat persona increases the focus on the songs, which is a very good thing, as it is the songs that are the bands ace card. They have hit upon a winning formula of sublime melody, foot stomping beats, authentic southern sounds and hooks galore. Oh those hooks! Songs like Cut Yer Teeth, All to Break and the stomping sing-along Forty Rod of Lightnin’ are more contagious than a tropical virus. The second trump these two have is their singing. Martin’s style is understated whilst Kerraleighs voice makes your eyes widen – cutting and animated and the perfect, effusive counterpoint to her partners hangdog subtlety.

The delight and joy that the duo take in performing a set of songs that lyrically can be fairly dark is a wonder, and it is this that made the live set so compelling – I didn’t really think the whole band set-up added a great deal extra to the party, so I am looking forward to catching them as a twosome.  Although when music is this genuine, this exciting and this fun, who needs an excuse to go and see it?

Co-Pilgrim were also celebrating an album release (reviewed opposite) and in a further parallel also could be bracketed as an “Americana” act. There the similarities start to run out though, as they are a slicker, more polished outfit. Oozing a confidence on stage that only comes with experience they play a more West-Coast Americana, with honeyed harmony vocals and soaring melodies. Everything they did was considered, professional and highly polished (apart from forgetting to plug the keyboard in) right down to the on stage banter.

And excellent stuff it all was too, really giving a sense of place that other bands struggle to do. But, after the exciting rough and ready nature of the August List however, this came over as too smooth and too perfect and I was left feeling like I wanted some rough edges to appear in the music. Not a fair judgement perhaps, but the sort of thing that can happen at a multi-band live show. I will be seeking out my own second opinion on them soon, as I have a feeling there is much more to their show than I was able to pick up on.



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