Live at Counting House (Pontefract) on Tuesday, 22nd June 2004
So we're in Pontefract, it's Tuesday night. The venue... ye olde Counting House, where else? The proposed line-up: Come And Smash Me (Said The Boy With The Magic Penis), Samskara, and last up, Come And Smash Me... in a special in the street acoustic performance.
This will be Craig's second performance under the name of Come And Smash Me (Said The Boy With The Magic Penis) - a name possibly several times larger than the man himself. Having missed the first gig (despite resolving to get off my ass and go) I wasn't sure what to expect. The advice to bring along whatever percussion instruments available did not exactly inspire much confidence.
The aim of Craig's set [can you blame me for writing Craig instead of Come And Smash Me (Said The Boy With The Magic Penis) - even the initials are longer than most band names], apparently was to have the feel of "teacher surrounded by children in the story corner."
Sceptical does not cover my feelings on hearing this. The clientèle of the Counting House... access to the bar... there are at least several major problems with having a rapt, cross-legged audience in yer local drinking establishment.
8.30 rolls around, Craig's about to start. I run off to drag some mates upstairs to hear him, while Craig is at the mercy of a few blokes who look like they haven't even sat down, let alone sat cross-legged, since they discovered the manifold joys of standing talking crap with a pint in your hand.
I return, with said mates in tow, to find fifteen or so people sat placidly cross-legged in the space in front of Craig, with more people round the edges, propping up the random walls and pillars of the Counting House. How he managed that one I'll never know. Then he starts to play...
[Okay, so that's rather a large cliffhanger by music review standards. I just thought I'd mention that due to extreme stupidity and crap organisation on my part in combination with everything conspiring against me, there's a pause of about 36 hours between the last sentence and the next. I thought getting enough sleep was more important than review-writing. In the intervening time lots of chocolate was consumed, and a relatively tiny amount of music was listened to, so hopefully I won't have forgotten too much about the gig. If I start going on about chamber music or harpsichords, you'll know what's happened. Although anything only slightly less way-out than that probably did happen. Pointless 'too much information' section over.]
So I haven't mentioned the actual sound of the music yet, but I'm getting to that now and if you like your reviews short, sensible and straight to the point I apologise, I haven't quite mastered that yet. I live in hope though.
The man behind Come And Smash Me... is also the eccentric (I use the term in the non-dressing gown wearing recluse sense) Kate is Cool frontman. Having seen Kate is Cool a few times now, I'd expect a solid set from the guy at the very least. Unless the other KiC guitarist, Robin, carries the group's musical powers in his hair, Sampson-like. Ok I'll stop rambling now and get to the point. To be honest, a solid set is what I was expecting, and not much more than that.
This is the point at which the review becomes peppered with ridiculous clichés because I can't think of how to word it in half-decent English. You have been warned.
Craig's set blew me away. The man is clearly a insane demi-god. I seriously considered writing a one-word review ("Fantastic").
So how good can one man with an acoustic be? (plus accompaniment on the odd song or two, but we'll get to that later). As good as Craig was this Tuesday night, is your answer. I've never particularly noticed this in his Kate is Cool incarnation, but Craig has a really good voice. During the course of the evening it covers the full spectrum, from soft spoken verses, to witty between-and-in-midst-of-songs banter, to "proper" singing, to hugely contrasting screaming/yelling, and finally to yelling because it's outside, it's raining and no one had any good ideas on how to amplify his voice outside anyway. Just in case during this long ramble you forgot (can't say I blame you) I did mention at the start that the evening was planned as follows: Come And Smash Me..., Samskara, Come And Smash Me. (in the street, just for the hell of it basically).
The set tonight includes Moldy Peaches favourite, 'Who's Got The Crack' and the seminal 'Downloading Porn With Davo'. Chuff knows how much of the set is original, and the question arises where on earth did he find this material if not. Common ground between each song consists of biting, witty lyrics and catchy choruses.
It impressed everyone in the audience [those, as you'll remember, sitting hanging onto his every word, along with numerous other punters, random drinkers who can't be bothered to come down nearer the stage (I say stage, I mean guitar case and amplifier-strewn area which is actually probably lower than the rest of the pub, due to damage inflicted over the centuries on it in the name of music and/or similar)] and certainly impressed me.
Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that I wasn't expecting it to be so good. But then again this probably speaks very highly for Craig 'cos I'm a born optimist. So this means, with the aid of some convoluted logic, that Craig was bloody good.
Following Craig's unexpectedly effective onslaught, indie-funk maestros Samskara. A lot of bands seem to absorb as few influences as possible, and continue to mine the same seam for as long as it is profitable. To avoid starting an argument I won't mention the mainstream band I'm thinking of... Samskara embody the antithesis of this, their sound a seamless blend of indie-rock aesthetics, funk feel dripping with fantastic bluesy guitar and probably several other styles I've missed due to slight inebriation/the time interval between now and Tuesday.
Oh, and they've got a drummer who, although I couldn't tell you whether he's any cop at drumming or not, certainly gives his all. Catchy songs (found myself singing along to half of them, and I'll have heard them once before if that), fab singer with a great voice (although his dancing this Tuesday, to my eyes at least, was extremely questionable) and classy melodic guitar hooks.
I've written much more about Craig's exploits than I have about Samskara, but decent bands seem to be becoming ten-a-penny these days over in this neck of the woods, and (truly insane) visionary pioneers rather less so.
Maybe visionary pioneer is a tad over the top, but the tongue-in-cheek, kick-up-the-backside, silly-bugger attitude combined with wit and talent and for lack of a better word, gumption, seems to be exactly what the live music scene has been missing.
To conclude a night of awful weather competing with the decent live music upstairs and the jukebox downstairs, Come And Smash Me..., complete with friend Rich on acoustic (who joined in earlier on the now-classic 'Who's Got The Crack', but is needed on this outdoor performance-the first of many - to complete the look and augment the decibels) are playing in the rain, standing on a picnic bench.
The sound is what you'd expect from a good guitarist, singing catchy songs, joined by twenty or thirty people singing along. In the pouring rain.
Only in Pontefract. And possibly other towns with liquorice or similar in the water supply.
Come And Smash Me (Said The Boy With The Magic Penis). Soon to be playing at an unexpected venue near you. Legalities and weather permitting, naturally.
My sincere apologies for my utterly rubbish reviewing capabilities [by the way, being biased is not among my numerous faults, (however, not being able to spell penis is) if Craig had been crap I would have said so, although hopefully I would phrase it more tactfully], and my heartiest congratulations if you kept up with all the open and close brackets.
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