Archive | September 2010

soundCHECK 66 – September 30th 2010

If I told you that Reef were playing in Woolacombe next week, would you believe me? Probably not. And rightly so. Because it’s not true.

But 50% of me isn’t lying. Because on Friday October 8th, Gary Stringer and Jack Bessant – the vocalist and bass player from one of the westcountry’s most successful four-pieces – are taking to The Red Barn to perform songs from their musical bit-on-the-side, StringerBessant.

This is exciting. Because Reef are the closest thing North Devon has dared tread to a successful musical export. South Devon have Muse. West Devon have Seth Lakeman. Sure, Reef might actually be from Somerset, but the drummer (Dominic Greensmith) was a North Devon boy. And I remember seeing the bass player on several occasions in The Thatch in Croyde when I was growing up. That makes him ours, right!?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the rousing guitars and stomping rhythms of Reef, they’re the band that wrote ‘Place Your Hands’. You know, the one that’s played every Thursday and Friday and Saturday night by parochial DJs all over the land. “Let me see your hands, people!”

What is it with that? It’s like that song has been played in clubs since before time began. And come the day we all meet our maker in the fiery apocalypse of our existence, The Venue shall take its bow to the sound of those euphoric closing melodies.

Seriously. If I ever hear a DJ playing a song from Reef’s huge back-catalogue that’s not Place Your Hands or Set The Record Straight, I’m going to buy them a pint. Presuming I’m not killed by the shock.

I digress.

StringerBessant’s sound is one of introspective acoustic loveliness. It evidences a tenderness in both songwriting and performance that was never far away in Reef’s music, but was often cloaked by the distortion pedal. The seismic howl that is Gary Stringer’s vocal charters new territory too, unveiling the softer qualities of his voice that define Reef’s more stripped-down moments.

StringerBessant’s performance in Woolacombe offers a rare chance to watch these musicians perform in a laid-back, intimate venue. ‘Tis not to be missed! And don’t forget Reef are playing in Truro on Friday 26th November.

And to quell your short-term musical cravings, go and watch The Kabeedies at Inn On The Square this Saturday (2nd) ( The Kabeedies are a female-fronted powerhouse of a four-piece from Norwich that make an immaculate, supercharged indie sound. They also have something that is becoming increasingly hard to find in their genre: decent songs with decent hooks.

Doors are at 8pm. It costs £4. Support comes from Jackdaws and Baltic Sirens. Do it!

As I recently made public in this very column, I saw the aforementioned Jack Bessant a few weeks ago. I was strolling manfully across the pebble-backed beach at Westward Ho!, enjoying the salty tang of the fresh sea air, when I happened upon a television that was dangling from the sky on a pink vine. It was showing a video of Bessant sat in a red club chair, busily playing an amazing Led Zeppelin cover on a beaten up acoustic guitar.

And that’s what happens when you have too much cheese before bedtime.

soundCHECK 65 – September 23rd 2010

The first thing you are taught in school about fires is that under no circumstances should you leave a burning building by running. Should your building be stricken by a blazing inferno you should make your exit by walking in a calm and sensible fashion.

It’s the same in work. Many employees are still lucky enough to have properly organised fire drills. (I say lucky because it’s a great way to cut 30 minutes off the working day.) And even as adults, with fully developed brains and optimum levels of physiological coordination, we are told that we must exit a burning building with a cool head and without breaking into so much as a gentle jog.

Now I’ve never been in a fire. But I’d imagine that, in the heat of the moment, a real actual fire would summon the kind of primal fear that would force my legs into sprint mode. Whether they liked this rule breaking manoeuvre or not. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the benefits of being orderly. I’m all for orderly. But running can be orderly. That’s why we have relay races.

But no. Since time immemorial we have been instructed to make good our escape by walking. Calmly.

So can someone please explain why almost every fire exit sign features a stickman absolutely legging it?
Take a look! That stick man is running like Usain Bolt has just made off with his last Rolo. He’s running, in fact, as if his life depended on it. Which, of course, it would do. His little stick legs would be kindling for a stickman tragedy.

The whole shenanigan brings to mind a band called Run Don’t Walk who come from London. I like that their name is an imperative and I like that their name makes sense. You should check them out if you like trendy London bands that aren’t very good.

You should check this lot out too. Because they are all better than the aforementioned and they are all on your doorstep.

The Dead Betas play at The Plough Arts Centre in Torrington with Jackdaws, The Yum Yums play at The Thatch in Croyde, and Conflict Against play at The Cork & Bottle in Barnstaple – all tomorrow (Friday 24th); Sam Dowden plays at Seagate Hotel in Appledore on Saturday (25th); and Lunacry play at The Aggi in Braunton on Sunday (26th).
Have fun. And if you find yourself running late for one of these gigs, simply adopt the gait of the world’s most famous stickman and get your sprint on.