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OOTB 296 – 10 April 2008

OOTB 296 – 10 April 2008

Enroll (debut), Fiona Thom, Open C, Ghostboy, Arran Arctic, squashee, The Beggar Girls, Featured Act, Mick and Jeff, Stoddart, Hughes and McQuade, Jules, Monkey Helmholtz, Gustav Gustav, Michael Dummigan, Andrew Iain, squashee, Jake & Ross, squashee.

Enroll (debut) This duo step up for the first time. He stares at the ceiling and begs, ‘did I upset you last night?’ as she harmonises, and beefs up the sound considerably. With the subject matter of post drunken atonement, and the delivery which could be earnest or funny, it’s difficult to tell where the line of irony lies. I quite like the ambiguity. ‘This city’ is pure escapism, just want to go away with you.   His voice would benefit a few more outings, and I hope we a re treated to them.

Fiona Thom Fi is as lively as her lime green jumper tonight, as ‘The very next room’ bounces around. If only seen Fi in the Listening Room, and the extent to which she fills the comparatively larger stage of OOTB is a nice surprise. ‘Let me down easy’ mixes vulnerability in the lyrics with a powerful drive in the tune. I can almost hear the happy hand claps. http://www.myspace.com/fionajthom

Open Sea This three-piece bring a smile to the face. Intensely pleasing as their many instruments (two guitars and fiddle) chime as one. ‘Waiting for You’ ends with a nice touch of mouth organ, blending folk and blues instruments to good effect. Their second is a lively one whose name I didn’t catch. The verses rotate between singers. Brave but fairly effective.

Ghostboy ‘The One’ showcases his particular acoustic Britrock. ‘Breathe’ likewise, opens slow and builds. This is a serious business, as he lives inside the lyrics don’t know where I’m going, don’t know where I’ve been  . Give the man a compass.

Arran Arctic – squashee This is brand new and straight off the dis-chords intrigue. On top, he lays his voice like a blanket, guitar bubbling beneath. If only we could just share it all   (looks like I’ve written ‘shave’ in my notes, though I suspect that’s not what he sang) Lovely inflections as his voice flits between soft and a full falsetto. Loved it.

The Beggar Girls, Featured Act We booked these ladies the first time we saw them, and they didn’t disappoint. ‘The Charmer’ has home truths laid bare whilst in the age old pursuit, my raven hair is a wig.   After the comedy into, we relax into the musicality and pleasant company this quartet brings. ‘He was my love’ is beguiling melancholy. Their harmonies come from an earlier time and lend the songs an effortless authenticity. ‘Feather Dance’ is Eastern European with melodies colliding and intertwining. A bit of a misnomer, this is heavy stomp. A new one now, and an ode to sloth, ‘I’m happy in bed.’ They do their set unamplified, which works well when all are singing, but if only one does so, the sound doesn’t carry to the back of the room. ‘Eugenie’s Waltz’, in 5/4 time, naturally, is an instrumental bursting with character (sounds like a wine). The waltz is stately rather than romantic, best for a ball in the royal court. We finish with a song that begins with a chant and fairly bustles along, with tempo changes and other challenges. It is brave and evocative, and a fine closer to the set.

Mick and Jeff These gents haven’t graced these parts for a wee while, and I believe this could be their first gig anywhere in over a year. Welcome back. We start with ‘a Scottish song’, though they never break far from their blues roots, think Skye Boat Song as Prairie Yarn. Before long, we’re back in proper blues territory, with ‘Been Here Too Long Blues.’ Their fine partnering recalls Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Vintage. I hadn’t seen them before, but hopefully will do again.

Nyk Stoddart ‘Another Song’ showcases Nyk’s ability to play with perceptions and demolish them, with as riotous a performance as any. This is elemental acoustic rock.

Hughes and McQuade They begin with a ballad over a drone, and establish themselves as a confident pairing. Country-influenced, their stuff reminds me of those Lonestar chaps. Their second, ‘Glorious’, is no exception, speaking of redemption, I would pray for better days.   I don’t know which is Hughes and which is McQuade, but the singer has a voice of effortless pitch and power. Strong stuff. Pass me a bourbon.

Jules Everything solid melts into air,   he sings in a lively one that reminds of Pulp-style mock-disco. His second is decidedly repentant, all you ever get from me is trouble.   …and a song to remember him by, of course.

Monkey Helmholtz Perceptive, I know, this may not be his real name. I rather wish it was. A guitar that’s barely there builds through single notes, to hurried arpeggios, to pounding chords, while empowered vox soar overhead. The tide don’t come back in for me.   No, it probably doesn’t think it’s up to the challenge. His second has guitar mimicking vocals note for note, while the lyrics are feverishly spat and mumbled out. Being four days old, these dissolve by the end of the song, but it was striking, and well worth it, nonetheless.

Gustav Gustav A ginger rose by any other name (Calum Haddow), this man is one of my favourite acts to frequent (though it would be nice if he was a bit more frequent) OOTB, purely because the energy and fearlessness he brings ensures I’ve never seen a dud set. So it is tonight. Through me a line, I’m drowning up here   he implores, though he’s far from it. It is impassioned and compelling. Calum is acutely aware of the effectiveness of dynamics, as with ‘First Aid’, my favourite. His delivery raises giggles, which disarm the audience to the harrowing subject matter of a battlefield medic. By the climax, all my hairs are on end.

Michael Donnigan He’s still up from London, just, and I’m glad to have another chance to see some of the finest fretwork to grace OOTB. ‘Believe in me’ is about being dumped, with tight jazz nicely complemented light vox, and, as ever, immaculate guitar. A Dylanesque tale of when punk meant something (tight trousers and silly hair, not baggy trousers and silly hair like today); ‘Slanj’ is a toast to an old friend. His mate Brendan moans harmonies from the back, and the room crackles. Pretty touching stuff.

Andrew Iain – squashee Raises the mood again with the biting and funny ‘I don’t fancy you anymore.’ A jaunty song of the reversion to melancholy after the girlfriend is dispatched; he has the room singing the choruses by the end. Good fun.

Jake & Ross, squashee These guys have been solid attendees recently. ‘Spinning Rooms’ is pretty lively and happy given the debauched subject matter – getting wasted and comatose. This pair is pretty slick, and they’re on form tonight. I can’t help but think Jake’s onstage persona is bigger than the small arrangement here, bring more people onstage. All the same, one suspects a Featured Act slot beckons.

Compere: Daniel Davis, Review: Rob Sproul-Cran, Sound: David O’Hara

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