Posts Tagged ‘Flora Greysteel’

The Fulford Arms, York, 14th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Two weeks into the year and I haven’t had a single night off writing CD reviews to drink beer and check out some live music. The simple fact is, times are hard and I’m in the mod to hibernate. But tonight’s extravaganza is one of four nights of epic showcase events to mark the fourth anniversary of the current management – Messrs Sherrington and Tuke – taking over the venue. It’s something that deserves to be celebrated.

Time was that there was nothing much to be found in York apart from acoustic blues. York became synonymous with blues. You couldn’t walk into a pub without some bloke with a guitar doing blues. Some of it was good. Some of it was extremely good. Some of was less good and the less said about the remainder, the better. It’s all too easy to have too much of a good thing, let alone a middling samey thing. The Fulford Arms, as was, was integral to the scene for a time. Then, everything changed. Under new management, The Fully Arms really started putting on proper gigs. Taking chances with less obvious artists. Sorting out proper lighting. And with a decent PA, upping the volume.

Tonight is one of four gigs showcasing the expansive range of local talent which is anything but centred around gentle acoustic blues. Of the four nights, this is perhaps the most eclectic, with everything on offer from quirky, theatrical avant-art folk pop to droning psyche, via hard-groove electro and post-punk pub-rock.

Having still been cooking with my own fat spatula at 6pm, I’m too late to catch the band Fat Spatula. Shame, because their brand of US-influenced alt-rock / indie is rather cool. I was also too late for the electro pop of Short Dark Stranger who I heard good things about. I suspect he was the gut standing to my left in the conspicuous silk shirt while I supped my first pint to the strains of Jonny Gill’s acoustic alt-rock which furnished the space between sets ahead of the arrival of Percy. These guys have been knocking around since forever, and still hit the mark (E. Smith) with their post-punk, Fall-influenced sneering takes on the workaday life.

In fact, the first time I heard Percy was circa 1998, at a pub just over the river. They were on the same bill as a band called Big Vicar, who were fronted by AB Johnson, who now forms one half of tonight’s headliners, Viewer, who meld sociopolitical lyrics and indie sensibility to driving dancefloor-friendly beats courtesy of Tim Wright, who in another world is the seminal TubeJerk.

There’s so much more than blues, and so much more than Shed fucking Seven going on here. Meabh McDonnel’s self-effacing kitchen-sink folk tunes are good fun: she’ll probably not take the compliment, but her voice is superb and her lyrics are funny and often poignant, and unstintingly honest and direct. The delivery is an integral part of the charm of her performance: it’s not about polish, but relatability and being real.

Soma Crew’s set is abridged due to apparent technical difficulties but out front their psych-drone attack had been sounding good, while Naked Six – the closest to blues it gets tonight – crank out the kind of vibrant, full-tilt set melding AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with a grunge twist that they’ve made their standard.

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Naked Six

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Viewer, seeing as they called it a day before re-emerging as Stereoscope a while ago – and playing in darkness for the majority of their set, or otherwise illuminated only by stark backlit images. I’ve watched – and reviewed – these guys more times than I can recall, and not because I invariably drink too much beer at their shows (AB is one of those guys who is just the best for sinking pints and talking bollocks with – but, miraculously and ever the professional, he always manages to deliver the lines, cast the poses, and, just as miraculously, stay upright during their sets). They’re late starting, but this seems to work n their favour: the audience is even more buzzed up and ready and they groove hard as Johnson throws his shapes and wry commentaries into the space before him. They get down, albeit a bit tipsily – to Wright’s insistent beats and grinding synths. And Viewer were – are – ace because they straddle the line of playing dumb and acting up to dumbness.

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Viewer

Every single last one of the acts playing on tonight’s bill could go far given the right breaks and adequate effort. But this is the time to simply celebrate a landmark moment for a venue that’s spent the best part of its four-year existence punching well above its weight (Ginger Wildheart? Wayne Hussey? The March Violets? to name but three) while providing a space for some far-out and emerging acts. Hell, they’ve even had me on, more than once. But this is what small independent venues are for. It’s so hard to get a break these days, and it’s venues like this, with open doors and open minds, which keep new music alive.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Indie Noir have been putting on curated nights catering to the tatses of people with a preference for indie from the darker side for around three years now, with eleven previous events in and around London and Brighton. This is the first event in the north, and coincidentally the first show in York for Mishkin Fitzgerald, whose operation it is.

She’s already established something of a cult following with her band Birdeatsbaby, and is making progress toward the same as a solo artist, and tonight’s show represents the third night of a UK tour in support of her new EP.

Mishkin is joined by local talents Flora Greysteel and Vesper Walk, and despite being up against the Wales v. Belgium match in Euro 2016, and all of the other goings on (and drunken lunacy that is commonplace in York on a Friday night), it’s a respectable turnout.

I happened to have ‘discovered’ Flora Greysteel less than a week ago, appearing on the same bill at an anti-fracking open mic event. I’m not sur if they were taken with my performance of a brace of ‘Rage Monologues’, or if they were even in the room at the time, but I enjoyed their set. Off the back of that stripped-down set, the bearfooted minimalist duo have spent the week tweaking their songs, and the results are a compelling set. Simon Bolley’s taut, restrained drumming is admirable, while Emily Rowan uses voice and a range of obscure or otherwise unconventional instruments to conjure. Haunting melodies. The pair seem rather disorganised on the surface, but musically, they’re tight and display an idiosyncratic charm.

Flora Greysteel

Flora Greysteel

Mishkin Fitzgerald may be slight in build and quirky, even vaguely nerdy in appearance, but her piano-led ballads are rich in emotion and heavy with personal meaning. Her all-too-short set features three tracks (I think!) from her new solo EP, the last being title track, ‘Seraphim’. Touching. Alongside a number of track culled from her 2013 solo debut Present Company, including ‘Hanging Tree’, she covers ‘Help Yourself’ by lesser-known bluegrass country goth act The Devil Makes Three. Without the bombast and theatrics of her band’s material, the songs are stripped back and simple, and in this setting it’s apparent she’s an adept pianist. ‘Sugarknife’ brings a dramatic change of tone and tempo as she ditched the piano and belts her vocals out against a full prerecorded backing. It isn’t strictly heavy metal, but is a bold chunk of operatic rock and powerful at that. Closer ‘Stitches’ is a rich, brooding work leaves an ache hanging in the air long after it’s ended.

Mishkin

Mishkin FItzgerald

Vesper Walk are many in number and fancily-dressed. In fact, most of the oddballs I’ve seen floating around the venue are suddenly on stage. Glitter, kohl, cat ear headbands, crazy eyebrows and more theatre than the Apollo. The six-piece vocal collective with piano, cello, cajón and occasional flute, are accomplished in their harmonies. Extremely accomplished, in fact. As one may expect from an act who are well accustomed to performing in theatres and have featured at the Edinburgh Festival, they’re high on drama and theatricality, both in terms of performance and presentation, and the music itself. It’s hard not to be impressed by their composure, the way they command the audience’s attention, and they really do know how to entertain, providing a splendid finale to an enjoyable and appropriately offbeat musical evening.

Vesper Walk

Vesper Walk