Ranger Spacey kicked things off with a set of hooky guitar music that sat at the crossroads between Pavement and The Band. They were a relaxed and jovial band who interacted with a relaxed vibe that suited their sunny-sounding music. Their drummer stood out as their backbone, able to switch effortlessly from skin pounding to subtle percussive inflections. They also got the early punters up close to the stage which set the scene for the celebratory mood that lasted for the rest of the night.
OXBLVD were also interesting in that they showed their influences (Kings of Leon, Black Keys) yet they didn’t come across as cookie cutter devotees. Some nice backbeat drumming and fluid bass playing added dimension and depth to their sound as singer Ed Worland played the frontman role with great conviction and good natured humour.
On the back of their live shows and the willingness of audiences to follow their lead and get loose, Little Bastard have built up a devoted following over the last couple of years. Tonight was no exception as fans, friends and ex-bandmates all crowded front-of-stage in the small, dark room and shared laughter, drinks and sweat with the septet. With their finely tuned mix of bluegrass, heart-on-sleeve punk rock and strident folk they showcased new tunes from their forthcoming debut album as well as crowd favourites such as Just Won’t Do. They always sound messier and more raucous live and hence some of their subtleties and excellent musicianship is obfuscated. That said, Matty Took, the newest Bastard, proved himself a damn fine banjo player and the sheer amount of instrument swapping and turns at lead vocals highlighted the band’s versatility. As the beer flowed and bodies were lifted above heads they seemed to be working towards a crescendo when, amid what looked like a smoke machine haze, someone from the venue appeared onstage to shut things down and ask everyone to evacuate the premises as fire extinguishing equipment had been deployed, possibly due to smoking inside the venue. It was a premature and disappointing end to a fun night but as the crowd exited with chemicals in their throats they still had smiles on their faces.
this review was first published in The Music