Live at Cardigan Arms on Saturday, 2nd July 2005
The upstairs room at the Cardigan Arms is a perfect place for an acoustic gig. With its small, dark room, the atmosphere is made even better by the dozen or so candles that are situated around the room, creating a very intimate feel to the whole place. I walk in to catch the last two songs of Baxter Trappe, a young performer who is playing a set of solo acoustic songs. Baxter has an intriguing voice, with lots of falsetto singing that sounds a lot like Neil Young. Combined with some good technical guitar playing, and well-structured songs, he finishes his set having quietly impressed the audience and myself.
On next is Mark Wilson, who I have heard plays in a similar style to that of headliner Jon Gomm. Mark opens his set with several blues songs, which are played with extremely fast and technical strumming, simultaneously combined with tapping on the body of the guitar to create drumbeats. The overall guitar sound is extremely good, but the singing in the opening songs seems a little static and could really do with an interesting melody. Just when I'm beginning to fear that the songs are starting to sound a bit similar, Mark begins to play a song called "Better Days". This song is much quieter and slower, with picking that reminds me of Eric Clapton Unplugged, and the melody shows off his vocal range far better. "Realise" is another interesting one. The songs are all short and sweet, except for his final song, which turns into an extremely fast, solo instrumental song, which is a joy to watch.
Manchester acoustic 5-piece Dorne are on next, and sadly fail to impress. For an acoustic band, the guitarist's electric guitar and distortion is up really loud, and tends to drown out the rest of the band, leaving a very muddy sound and a set of rather uninspiring songs. On a lighter note, the female vocalist has a good voice, and the best bits are when she was singing in the quieter bits.
The Who are playing at Live 8 on the TV downstairs, which unfortunately means that there is only handful of people here to witness Jon Gomm start playing. Now, I'm reluctant of trying to describe Jon's music, mainly for fear of not being able to. Unique, intelligent, dark, powerful, great, are words that spring to mind. If you don't already know, I suggest you go see him play and find out for yourself. In opener "Afterglow", Jon's fragile vocals and intricate guitar playing/tapping in the verse make way for lots of distortion on his acoustic guitar and a belter of a chorus. His voice shows some real power and emotion, and then all off a sudden the chorus is over and it goes quiet again. "Cheers Mark for stealing my thunder", he jokes. But the thunder is all his. "Hey Child" is another great song, again demonstrating Jon's guitar playing and singing abilities. The rocking solo in middle makes me think to myself, "surely he's going to break a string any second", but amazingly he doesn't and the show goes on. Bloody brilliant. It feels like he has played these songs a hundred thousand times (and he probably has), everything from the performance of each song to the in-between banter gives off an air of confidence and superiority. Though the really drunk old guy who is rambling loudly to himself is testing Jon's patience quite a lot. He deals with it well, and the drunken guy finally pisses off, allowing everyone to enjoy Jon's playing in peace. The set seems to last forever, whilst at the same time still seems to not be long enough. After a unique cover of Radiohead's "High and Dry", a look at the watch reveals that it's half 11, and sadly there's only time for one last song. "Waterfall" is a new one, and I believe it was the first time he's ever played it to an audience. It was written about a picture of a Hindu Goddess, and the second verse is sung in a Hindu dialect of some kind. Intriguing, especially the part in the chorus where the guitar is imitating water flowing down a waterfall.
A great gig always ends with you wishing it hadn't ended yet, and this is exactly how it finished for me. Ah well, time to buy the CD I guess.