Posted by Jimmy Horrigan.
Reviewed on 16th September 2015.
Live at Brudenell Social Club (Games Room) on Monday, 14th September 2015
Monday marked the start of a rare run of school night gigs (three trips to Brudenell in four days!) and kicked off with me seeing one of my favourite artists for the very first time.
I can't tell you what draws me to Sweet Billy Pilgrims' sound but I do know it was started with a free copy of third album, 'Crown and Treaty' and my love for anything Vonnegut-related. Musically there's nothing similar in my collection and while I normally swerve phrases like genre spanning; in their case there isn't really a better fit. Whatever it is they do, it blows my mind.
First up were Huw Eddy & The Carnival. Three lads enjoying what they do and doing it well. Contrasting with the music that followed, they brought with them an honest energy and a respectable number of pals for support. Possibly early days but a solid set nonetheless - mixing upbeat indie-pop with modern balladry. The songs hung really well together and the skills seemed to come easily. Distinctive delivery on the vocals sat nicely with me and put me in mind of a blend between Spectrals' Louis Jones and Jack Penate. Listening to studio stuff and demos since, I think we'll be seeing more of these guys and that's a good thing.
Next up was Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) and his mate (Darren from Wales). What followed was nothing short of mesmerising - a sonic hinterland between psych (nice!), shoegaze (yes!!), prog (not something I'm naturally drawn to - sorry if that irks the purists) and experimentation (hmmm, ok then). I probably don't have all the right points of reference to call on to do them justice but I really enjoyed the set - particularly the atmosphere created between Bruce's guitar and vocals. I found my mind drifting between thoughts of The Perfect Prescription and Roky Erickson, Pink Floyd and 80s dreampop. If anything, it was over a bit too soon but that's probably more to do with the hypnotising effect of the sounds rather than how long Bruce and Darren were bossing the stage for.
They left the stage and soon after that, Sweet Billy Pilgrim filled it. All six of them.
Straight to business with 'Candle Book and Bell', the opener from their 'Motorcade Amnesiac' LP, SBP were everything I hoped they would be. I'm used to drifting off at least once in a set - usually a track I don't like from the depths of an earlier album is wheeled out, or my mind wanders to domesticated dullness - but that didn't happen once in what was a beautifully balanced bakers' dozen. No matter what side of SBP tickles your fancy, and there are a few, there was something in there for everyone. Old and new songs alongside each other not only showcased the utterly brilliant writing and musicianship at play, but told a story of how they only write songs they think are worth recording.
The playing throughout was outstanding but my personal highlight, other than simply being there, was the middle section of the performance. As if 'Joyful Reunion' followed by 'Archaeology' wasn't enough to floor me - they continued with 'We Just Did Whatever Happened and Nobody Came' and 'Future Perfect Tense'. Wow!
What is it about Brudenell that makes artists want to step off the stage and join their fans for a singalong? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's because the average Brudenell punter is a nice person, but whatever it is - it seems to happen a lot and I love it! Gigs like Mondays' can feel intimate enough already but when half the band stands within feet of their audience and gives them a part to sing; it becomes something else. A performance becomes a moment and for that moment at least - I'm a singer. And you can be too! If you're anywhere near to the remaining dates on the tour, get yourself along to see SBP. You'll be happy you did, maybe even wonder why you don't own all four albums already and they'll love you for it - because they love music and warm instantly to anybody who feels the same.