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OOTB 282 January 3rd 2008

OOTB 282 January 3rd 2008

Darren Thornberry, Ian Sclater, Nyk Stoddart, Nick Smith, Aaron Lowenberger, Carolyn Scott, Yogi, David Preston, Gavin Taylor (debut), P Gondo.

Darren Thornberry

Darren coaxes the scared child that is 2008 out from under the New Year duvet with the pleading and evocative ‘This thing I do.’ Self-described as ‘a little melancholy tune,’ its actually more gripping than that, with images of runaway trains and such striking out from lines such as ‘the brakes are shot, and so are my chances with you.’ ‘Hovering’ combines open and highly fretted notes to great effect, and as he sings ‘you hover in this room,’ I can almost see the bare shafts of light coming straight from the zinging notes. Darren’s third was also beautiful, but sabotage by my pen running out. If he plays it next week I’ll (because chances are it will be me writing the review) be extra nice about it.

Ian Sclater

‘She paints landscapes’ is highly allegorical (one assumes, with lines like ‘she wants to paint me’), but hits home with revealing admissions of ‘I’ll be her jealous lover any time.’ ‘Talk to somebody’ is a counselling session as melodic instruction , ‘Do you still hear their voice inside your head. If only all psychiatrists were this tuneful or catchy, as vigorous audience participation on the choruses attests. Ian starting the ‘Season Song’ a cappella is both brave and effective, immediately establishing him in a long tradition of folk storytellers. The pagan theme develops with the personification of our times of year as autumn cries ‘dry leaf tears’ and ‘the golden sun became a wedding ring’. He should be official troubadour to the Beltane Festival.

Nyk Stoddart

Hell yeah. If you’re not some chiselled god, go the other way , Stoddart looks frankly brilliant wearing a plastic police helmet like a skew-wif trilby as he launches into ‘Scarecrow Man’. A signature piece, he becomes the song, and you have to love someone who stands on his tiptoes to reach the high notes. ‘Misty Blue’ is quiet, driving and atmospheric, ‘fog rolls over the hills’. A bit like Sigur Ros! if Sigur Ros were anything like Nyk’s crazed bluesman onstage, and not just a soggy sack of tatties. His last actually manages to sound like the musical embodiment of going Cold Turkey. I’m not sure that’s the intention, but with lines like ‘I need to get my kicks, he said like a petulant child,’ it is an audience favourite.

Nick Splinter Smith

Continues the aural assault, with a tale of ‘Californian dream lands’ and other such drug-fuelled nightmares. Masterful changes of timbre and a 12string that’s just out of tune enough to create a phasing effect that I, for one, loved. Nick performs with energy and a real menace, looking genuinely demonic in the harsh red stage lighting. Easy Listening just soiled itself and ran home crying. ‘Let your ego’, or something along those lines, is berating and powerful , ‘the dogs of war are snapping at your heels.’ I’m not sure whose heels, but this is almost Wildman-reggae, and pretty entertaining. Finishes with a harmonica blues, in which Nick’s subject is ‘wondering the best friend to hit for a loan.’ And when he let’s rip! ‘A Night on the Bare Mountain’ can’t touch this guy.

Aaron ‘Lowlife Bam Burger’ Lowenberger

The Pride of New Jersey â„¢ opens with ‘Nothing to do’, a song inspired by the question, ‘What do I do without my girlfriend?’ Happily, it isn’t the musical equivalent of the obvious answer , m@sturb@tion. It’s more like ‘Wish You Were Here’, except with more foot-tapping goodness. ‘Solitude’ (man, this guy clearly does spend a lot of time on his own) Actually, that’s backed up by the shit hot guitar playing, evoking Davy Graham, with heavy dollops of John Martyn (I can see the dope haze and hear the incoherent gravel slurrings in my head), topped off with Bert Jansch finger-picking, it is executed with fearlessness and flair. ‘Lost/Last Man’s Jig’ (can’t read my own handwriting, apologies) could come straight from the Isles. It is stomping and flawless , this guy raises the bar for the evening. I want more.

Carolyn Anona Scott ‘Carried on the winds of sound’ is equal parts lyric and description for her first. Her open guitar is so resonant that I thought it was a 12 string (and was duly ridiculed for it later in the evening). ‘See You’ is driven by a fog-horn bass D drone, and has the power to dim the lights inside my head, as the lines ‘You float like smoke on the wind’ and ‘Why are you always running from me?’ transport me. It’s great to see Carolyn a bit more at Ootb again, and it has to say something that her performance overpowers the fact that any meeting with a guitar tuner may have been an unhappy one, as she sings that there are ‘stones on my shoulders the world can’t see,’ in her last of the night.

Yogi (squashee)

A typically ardent call to arms, Yogi’s songs don’t so much highlight the ills of society as beat them to bloody pulp with a rolling pin covered in spikes , ‘Take control, sanity is mine!’ Who would argue?

David Preston

His chords are open but palm muted, as he unleashes an effortlessly cement-mixer voice. He hides under a hoodie but projects to the back of the room. ‘Error 404’ is an affectionate ode of sorts to computers, expressing the frustration we are all too familiar with. It’s like Snow Patrol but way more biting and acerbic. ‘Brand New Day’ is jolly and lilting. Short and sweet, but David, now unveiled from the shadows of the hoodie, still has time to roar. Good stuff.

Gavin Taylor

Starts with fine blues that a voice and guitar that are truly cutting , the guitar for the staccato riffing, the voice for the sheer impact. When he sings that he has to ‘keep this devil from my door tonight,’ you believe him. Straying more into ballads for his second, it is a harsh and perhaps honest confession of a man at the end of his relationship tether , ‘I’m staying with you because you need me and nothing more.’ Like his first, this one displays a voice that doesn’t have to be put on , he doesn’t have to try to sound like he sings the blues, he just does. Puts some others to shame, to be honest. ‘Take it to the river’ takes it not into Al Green territory, but more country. Well, power country. I mean, more sort of ballads again , we’re not talking line dancing here, people. This may have been Gavin’s first OOTB, in which case, welcome. Otherwise, I hope we’ll see more of this.

P Gondo

The fact that he changes his name (Gondu) on the back of a typo (of sorts) says a lot about this man’s openness to styles, branding, and musical output. Never was that demonstrated so much as tonight. ‘The Medicine Girl’ kicks things off as performance poetry, which is attention grabbing to say the least. Quickly moving into Hendrix-style as guitar mimics his vocal melody. It’s all fairly obscure and one wonders if he is a fan of Nyk Stoddart. ‘Sofa’, so good. The lyrics work up a notch in terms of general weirdness and unintelligibility, with such gems as ‘basketcase on a steamboat’ and ‘I’ve got head lice’. By the time we reach Gondo’s final, I’m just scribbling question marks on my notebook, which must at least mean that its all very stimulating. The last is spoken word poetry, except that there’s an impromptu and dishevelled jam between some bongos and Gondo’s guitar going on in the background. Brave, original and nothing if not challenging. This may just be the most important stuff of the night, regardless of whether you can actually listen to it or not.

Review: Rob Sproul-Cran

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