Live at The Library on Friday, 10th December 2010
The Library Pub is at capacity; a crowd of rabid fans of new music filling its every crevice in preparation for another night of the best unsigned bands Leeds has to offer, hosted as usual by the always-excellent 360 Club.
We begin tonight with the nicely jacketed Tom Learner. His Dylan-esque delivery and confident guitar playing provides a competent and honest start to the evenings proceedings, but his performance is improved immeasurably by the addition of vocalist Joanne who provides a Nico flavoured counterpoint to Toms less schooled vocal delivery (suitably so, considering their performance of a Velvet Underground cover). Highlights of Tom and Joanne's set of covers and originals include a great original track called 'Station', and a sublime cover of Bob Dylan's 'Boots of Spanish Leather'. My only point of concern regarding Tom's performance is a tendency to slip a little too much into the sound of his influences; it was occasionally hard to determine his individuality as a songwriter and a performer, but when your influences are of such a high calibre as Dylan and Reed, perhaps this is no bad thing at all. Another interesting new name to follow on the burgeoning Leeds folk scene.
As Sawsound take to the stage later on, I take a note of the presence of both acoustic guitar and violin in their line up and prepare myself for another set of mellow folkestry. My pre-conception is quickly and radically shattered as the band (celebrating the release of their album 'We Have It All') accelerate into a performance tinged with everything from proto-Tool guitar heroics to Celtic vocal harmonies and string lines. The angular guitar playing of front man Simon Whitton and frequently shifting tempos and time signatures are contrasted throughout by the unity of his powerful vocal performance and the playing of violinist Tori Campbell, creating a compelling, occasionally baffling tapestry of genres that threatens to collapse frequently into barely organized noise in a way that is most thrilling. The only thing consistent about Sawsound is how interesting and exciting they are to listen to; I can't help thinking that they'd be great gigging companions for fellow Leeds rock monsters 'Buffalo Bones'. 'We Have it All' might just be the most accurate album title I've heard in quite some time.
After a short break, I am momentarily blinded by what appears to be a living disco-ball strafing the 360 Club stage. I am relieved however, to discover that this is not some kind of perversion of science and disco, but is in fact Mimi & The Leaders, the former wearing a particularly bright sequinned dress. Mimi and the Leaders might just be the most bizarre band on the line up for the evening, playing a set that never quite settles into any particular sense of stylistic cohesion but isn't confident enough in the same way that Sawsound's set is to really pull it off. Their performance begins with a song that sounds suspiciously like Beyonce's 'Halo' and soon passes through eclectic musical territory inhabited by The Corrs and The Cranberries by way of a strange riffy detour, a-la Aerosmith. Mimi herself is an accomplished vocalist. She flexes her chops with some greatly confident vocal lines and improvisation; her band however (as formidable as they are, technically) could just as well be any four jobbing musicians, such is their lack of flair and disconcertingly subdued stage presence (which is only emphasised by Mimi's comparative enthusiasm). I am left slightly baffled by Mimi & The Leaders, and I can't entirely put my finger on why. They seem more like a band put together to showcase Mimi's vocal talents and versatility than an outfit trying to accomplish anything really groundbreaking.
Finally, The Blind Dead McJones Band (also celebrating a new album release) announce their presence with an involving cover of 'Mustang Sally', goading the audience into joining them during the iconic refrain, before blasting them away with a flurry of rapid fire blues soloing. 'Time for a guitar intermission' is the best introduction to a guitar solo I've ever heard. The Blind Dead McJones Band are also briefly joined by the elusive McJones himself before he orders his confused band to 'take it away' and strolls away into the night. The Blind Dead McJones Band remind me pleasantly of a more cohesive Birthday Party era Nick Cave or Dead Young records signed band 'The Cubical', and during their lengthy but consistently exciting set they cover some interesting topical ground, notably a wonderful ode to that most underrated of cooking appliances: The George Foreman Grill. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
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