Like music? Inhabitant of Mother Earth? Got a well oiled memory chamber? Then there’s a fine chance you’ll remember a band. A band called Gomez. A band who students of the late nineties and early noughties were as fond of as they were Pikachu, Hooch and Tony Yeboah.
Gomez’s former status as the indie band du jour was due, in no small part, to co-frontman and lead guitarist Ben Ottewell, whose sandpaper-throated howl became a defining feature of the band; responsible for some of Gomez’s most soul-stirring and goosebump-bringing moments. (Seriously, listen to Tijuana Lady from 1998’s ‘Bring It On’ or We Haven’t Turned Around from 1999’s ‘Liquid Skin’.)
Well guess what? He’s coming to North Devon.
While Gomez still play live occasionally, the constituent members’ solo jaunts are currently the primary focus. So it is with Ottewell, who has been moonlighting in solo mode since the release of his debut album (Shapes & Shadows) in 2011. For hauling Ottewell Devon-ward, you can thank a trio of local promoters named Three Sticks Promotions (threesticks.co.uk).
“We have been putting music on, mostly at Pilton Village Hall, for almost two years,” fact-bombs co-founder Stephen Hiller. “We have been trying to get Ben since we started. I’ve been a massive Gomez fan since first hearing a track on Radio 1’s Evening Sessions many, many years ago. It’s a massive thing for us.”
This is a coup for Barnstaple. Ottewell is not just a bonafide, got-the-t-shirt musician, but a man whose husky howl rockets down the aural canal, gives the ear drum a little tickle and then bee-lines straight for the heart. Not in a wet-the-bed, first-break-up kind of way; but in a disarmingly powerful, rasping, sharply emotive kind of way. Imagine a Derbyshire-raised Eddie Vedder. A voice as tender as it is bruising. Stephen knows what I’m talking about.
“The first time I heard Ben sing live was a musical ‘moment’ for me. He must have only been 19 or 20 at the time but he had this really deep voice that you would expect a singer two or three times his age to have. I’ve no idea how many times I’ve seen Gomez since, but I have seen Ben Ottewell play solo twice: once at Start The Bus in Bristol, the other at End Of The Road Festival. Each time he has been amazing.”
Ottewell is a hugely accomplished guitarist too. Particularly in his solo career he fingerpicks his way around an acoustic guitar with a mastery that belies his rough-and-ready, refreshingly unpretentious stage presence. North Devon is rich with acoustic singer-songwriters and I would urge all of them to go. If you know a couple, corral them. Threaten them with violence. Bribe them with meat. Whatever it takes.
It all takes place on Saturday 13th September at Pilton Village Hall, which will be decked out by Three Sticks with the usual relaxed table-and-chair setup (capacity just 120), illuminated by the restless flicker of candlelight. A relaxed affair then. And a cheap one too. You can take your own booze: wine, whisky, some weird ale you’re scared to admit is disgusting – anything goes.
CONTACT: Send your local music news, deliver me from tedium: jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse
“That milk’s fine.”
“I’ve been busy all morning.”
“I’m not a racist, but…”
The moment somebody explicitly mentions something that should be implicit, a funny thing happens. You start to doubt them. It ignites the touchpaper of subtext. As a listener your semantic takeout is the binary opposite of the speaker’s intended meaning.
This milk has curdled, you lazy racist!
Such is the case with the moniker that has been selected to represent North Devon’s newest music promoter: Free Of Tigers Promotions. At the very least it suggests that the founding members have born graphic witness to tiger-based altercations. And at worst you might fear that the people behind Free Of Tigers know an unexpected something about North Devon’s big cat population. Something about which you, me and every other Journal reader are dangerously naive. Procure yourself some tranquiliser darts, sharpish.
Free Of Tigers is helmed by Toby White Chambers – aka the drummer from braunchy power-poppers Auction For The Promise Club – and will host regular gigs at The Palladium in Bideford. “The aim is to bring more new music to the region, inviting bands to North Devon that we have played with when gigging around the country,” battle-cries Toby of his foray into gig promotion. “I thought it would be a great way to share the new live music that we see on the road with gig goers in North Devon, while helping to promote new bands that I think have great potential.”
The launch night takes place on Saturday 30th August at The Palladium. Gambolling stagewards will be Cornish electro-pop trio Lightknife (lightknifeband.com) and one-man emo-punker Stay Late (staylate.bandcamp.com), aka Joe Hicks, who will be playing an acoustic set. Expect the usual lyrical fodder of love unrequited and tortured heart, albeit delivered with an unabashed gloss normally truant from the genre’s frontmen. Oh and get there in plenty of time to see a sultry acoustic set from Ilfracombe-based singer-songwriter Rachel Woolmer, who will make your ears go nice with her mellifluous voice. Doors are at 8pm, entry be £3.
Fingers crossed you don’t get mauled.
CONTACT: Making music in North Devon? Got a gig to promote? Secretly hate your friends? Brighten up my inbox: jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse