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OOTB 354 – 4 August 2009

OOTB 4th August

A hugely enjoyable night at the the Tron as we experience life upstairs for the first time!

Nicky Carder – Our compere debut kicked us off tonight, however yours truly had had a nightmare tuning the guitar…sorry Nicky. The song however certainly has potential and I look forward to hearing it again!

Matt Norris – The first of many ensembles tonight, and Matt’s is a cracker, treating us to a folky bluegrass romp of a set. The first begins with furious strumming, tagged back by the serene bass line, whilst Dave Law’s trumpet adds a truly rustic sound to the piece. Throw in the tight three part harmonies, and it’s evident that we are watching three highly proficient musicians. Their second has a slightly more intimate sound, which sounds (dare I say it, given their lamentable rarity at OOTB) like a happy song. It has a gorgeous outro, with a simple reiterated line on the trumpet carried along by the guitar and bass, as Matt pleads “Can’t you see I try?”. Their last veers into Fionn Regan-esque territority (if you haven’t heard of him, amend that state of affairs post-haste); the key to the performance from the trio is that they play upbeat songs without rushing, something which is easier said than done. An original and brilliant sound: look out for a featured act slot from these guys soon.

Jen – I’m not certain that I have the correct name here as I was trying to fight my way through the crowd from behind the jukebox as she was introduced (apologies if I’m incorrect). ‘Jen’ has a haunting, lilting voice which is well suited to her gentle songwriting style. The sparse backing of her first truly allows her delivery to shine. Her second has a beautiful melody, effortlessly carried by Jen’s almost nonchalant vocal. The last song also shows Jen has some skill on the guitar with some intelligent syncopated picking. I think that Jen would have benefited from the quieter surroundings of our usual environs, however I was glad to have paid attention to a most enjoyable set.

Hannah O’Reilly  – The key to any performance tonight was to wrestle the attention from the audience and Hannah gives a masterclass in how to do this, opening with a powerful a capella song of frustration. This is followed by “Kill the Man” , a bluesy groove which allows Hannah to showcase her trademark growling vocal. Foot-tapping sassy stuff.

Amy – Amy begins with “Aeroplane”; the hammer-on chords lend a spritzy rhythm to the song which builds into a really catchy chorus. A really controlled performance, with some nice strain in the voice, juxtaposed with some smoothly delivered lines (“we’ll fly off to the moon”). “Break up in Paris” is a song of yearning, a paeon for love lost. The performance is honest, as Amy forlornly sings “if they loved you like I love you”, certainly tugged at the heartstrings! Her last drops into a minor bluesy sound, with applied dominant chord structures and harmonics. It’s a real roof-raiser, and she clearly enjoys the performance as much as we do! Good stuff.

Jump Press A – When Dave had recovered from a small heart attack when asked to sort the sound for these guys, we enjoyed a unique set. Jump Press A could perhaps be described as acoustic nu-metal with a glockenspiel…what’s not to like?! The chromatic shifts of  “You Are” and melodic minor passages lend the song an almost middle eastern air, as the song loses itself in layers of sound. The only thing that could be said is that it would have been great to really hear the vocal really let loose of its restraints and belted out. Understandable though given the hushed vocals we are used to at OOTB. Their second is a really dark number, with some cruel sounding cello lines; “I like you like I need a shot in the head”. A song of dread and hopelessness. “Masquerade” again reintroduces swirling lines of music to a hard rock sound. The glockenspiel, instead of sounding incongruous, gives an interesting counterbalance to the harsh tones of the other instruments. Really enjoyable, and original set.

mayhew (Featured Act) – Tonight was the first time I heard mayhew in their full incarnation and I was not disappointed! “Come Through” is a sublime start; I was particularly struck by the lyrics on this one, the lyrics flow together beautifully. Cathy delivers them expertly, her voice at once sultry then anguished. “Broken Alarms” erupts in the chorus into an aching and evocative melody which washes over the intricate guitar work on the nylon string. “Spin” is my personal favourite of the set and is perhaps the band’s most commercial. The song is constructed by layers of separate musical ideas, which form a delightful whole. The bridge is particularly affecting, seeing Cathy sing “there’s something on my mind” as the music builds around her lamenting vocal. Stunning songwriting. “When Starlings Scatter” is an acoustic epic, you can almost imagine the chorus being accompanied by a full orchestra. Again, some intelligent lyrics on show (“will you teach me how to wait?”), packed full of natural imagery, which is well in tune with the epic sound on this one. “Shallow Water” is a slightly more downbeat song, with a busy jumping vocal in the chorus. It struck me as a mood song, the cello creating a real ambience. Their penultimate was another highlight of the set for me; the guitars are insistent, whilst retaining the intricity of their interplay. The song is one of quiet desperation, the lyrics urgently begging “just say something”. They finish with “Massachusetts” which as well as being one of the most difficult to spell songs that this reviewer has come across, is a song which for me sums up what mayhew do best. This band craft songs of such musical complexity that one can become lost in their sound, yet remain accessible enough to stay long in the memory. Tonight has been a testament to their growing and deserved reputation.

Yogi – Next we are treated to a set from this erstwhile Edinburgh performer. “No Man’s Land” is a palm muted rock song of angst. As ever, the performance from Yogi is wholly committed as he cries “I am stuck in no man’s land”. “Not Far Away” has a slightly more laid back feel, with a pleasant outro; I can imagine this sounding great with a few more layers, which you can probably find on Yogi’s newly released CD. Yogi finishes with “Blood from a Stone”, which sees Yogi sing over quick changing and furiously strummed chords. It’s an angry, and engaging set as ever from Yogi.

Rab – I’m not entirely sure what happened in this 15 minutes of my life but it was the funkiest quarter of an hour in my life. Blues riffs, scat singing, and truly mind blowing guitar playing…I can’t do it justice, you had to be there. Rab, you are a hero, please return one day.

Cameron – Cameron begins with a horrendous foot joke; fortunately for everybody involved the songs are infinitely better. Cameron’s songs are packed full of acute observations and delicate lines; “It’s time to slowly slip away” he almost sighs on his first. His second uses sliding suspended chords to create a flowing feel, which breaks into a pained falsetto in the chorus. Some good lyrical ideas on show; I liked the line “I stayed up and waited for the sky to change”. His last is an upbeat catchy number, which gets the audience’s feet tapping, and is destined to be a real sing along. As I get to know his songs, I’m enjoying Cameron’s sets more and more each time… I look forward to his next one!
review: Jonny Pugh, Sound: Dave O’Hara, Compere: Nicky Carder

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