Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Strap the Button, Gentlemens Relish, SJ Esau and The Liftmen

On the night I was down with the dreaded lurgy that’s been doing the rounds, but Mr Olivetti was on hand to document the evening:

The Sonic Sanctuary - Sat 8th March

Another fantastic and disparate line-up from Charlie saw a chosen few huddled in the Pump for aural delight. It was worth £4 of anybody’s money just to see the openers Strap the Button, all eight of them crammed on stage in a circle, tipping things down the stairs - seeing where they ended up. Two guitars, bass, two drummers, violin and part time sax and clarinet allowed them to brew up a lush sound which veered anywhere between epic instrumental rock and prog-jazz. They only managed to squeeze four tracks in, mainly improv, but always based around a lovely groove set up by the bassist and two drummers, one sticking to the rhythm, the other throwing some wild shapes at the audience. Over it all a hidden vocalist laid angelic mantra-like lines which weaved in and out of the mix like smoke. They hadn’t played together for months, but it sounded warm and natural, well worth checking out.

Next up, another outing for Gentlemen’s Relish, once again down to a two-piece, Gary the howling drummer and the splendid baritoned guitar player, alternating between Spanish and electric guitar, the warm theatrical voice mildly reminiscent of Jonathan Richman, telling tales invoking surreal yet everyday imagery. With tracks such as ‘Pencil Time’ and ‘Wig city’, the band gets you grinning, yet the playing is tight and with the help of a digital loop is a little fuller than you might expect. A band that makes you smile, as well as tap your foot.

Dropping to one person on stage, SJ Esau was up next, a one–man band Bristol hero accompanied by his trusty guitar, a cymbal, some pitch pipes and a very complex looking digital contraption with which he builds vivid soundscapes to accompany his at times languid, at times psychotic but rather charming songs of frustration and life in general. It is great that he doesn’t just rely solely on the box of tricks as a couple of lovely little guitar / voice tracks slip out and you realise this is a very real talent, yet modest and winning. The whole set felt urgent, alive and I would seek him out again.

Finally, an outing for Rasha Shaheen’s new band the Liftmen. Whether The Hard Returns are still going I don’t know, but this was another direction for her, a wickedly urgent post-punk trio with a fab guitarist who looked a lot like Ian Mackaye (who also sang) and another great drummer for the evening. I tell you, this event was the evening of drummers who seem to possess about one third of most drummers kits yet get the optimum sound from what they have. The drummer was superb, matching the pace of the guitar with ease while Rasha with her knowing vocals and unique bass playing (a lot played at the top end) made everything look deceptively simple. The duets worked well and it was a pretty storming set.

So, another under-attended yet hugely appreciated event organised by Charlie, which even though the crowd was not huge, the ambience of the venue and the enjoyment shown seems to enthuse the performers. Make it next time if you can, it’s worth it.

by Mr Olivetti

4 comments:

Alex said...

Nice! Wish I could have been there...

The Liftmen have been around for years and years - as far as I know the Hard Returns have only ever done two gigs! I thought I was the only one who remembered them :)

Cloudboy said...

Hiya Alex, sorry i missed you at the Men Daimler gig...

>>Wish I could have been there...

me too!!! loved to have caught this lot live, but was under attack from pesky microbes...

...saw the 'Hard Returns' twice myself, the latter time at Ashton Court last year, so i suppose their still an on/off project of hers.

Think Mr Olivetti's has only seen them once though, we both luv those skewered beatbox cover versions of theirs, Rasha seems to have dozens of musical projects on the go... all really entertaining...

Michael Henaghan said...

Strap The Button are a fantastic band, great review, really good blog and Im glad i've found it.

Cloudboy said...

thanks, Michael - i'm liking the Strap The Button dwlds, sorta makes up for missing them