Thu 15th June 2006
Support from Tim Holehouse, Louis Romegoux and Rob Himself
Brace yourselves. The words 'folk' and 'indie' will be mentioned in a positive light several times during this review. Don't say I didn't warn you.
We were brought to the sweaty, un-airconditioned room above the Cricketer's Arms during the tail end of a heat wave to see two modern troubadours more normally associated with sludge & grind - Rob Himself, formerly of Mfkzt, and Tim Holehouse, he of Among the Missing and Naked Shit. What we got was much much more.
First up, sat on a stool with only his acoustic guitar for company, was Rob Himself. Imagine a younger, much less annoying Billy Bragg or a clean shaven, less comedic Bill Bailey and you'll get the idea. Lyrics seem to be the driving force of Rob's songs, with barely a space for breath between most lines, let alone room for a guitar solo. The observational, idiosyncratic lyrics cover a range of subjects from Big Brother to the Space Race, via John Prescott. Although not always perfectly executed (the John Prescott lyrics eluded Rob more than once, prompting shouts of 'play one Rob knows' from friends in the audience), when the songs were in full flow it was an impressive display of folk influenced indie.
Next on was Sheffield native Louis Romegoux, who I'd not heard of before but certainly won't be forgetting any time soon. 19 year old Louis looked fairly unassuming in his shirt and jeans as he approached the mic, but once he opened his mouth the audience was stunned into silence. This guy has a startlingly good voice - we're talking Jeff Buckley good here (to whom his voice bares more than a slight resemblance). Accompanying himself on a 12 string guitar, Louis played a combination of folk and Buckley-esque indie. Despite his youth, 1960s folk has obviously had a strong influence on Louis' music, his cover of '60s protest singer Phil Ochs' 'The Highwayman' fitting in well with the rest of his set.
Louis is a hard act to follow, but Tim Holehouse doesn't let it faze him. Making absolutely no concession to the extreme heat in his black jeans, tshirt and cap, Tim takes up the stool and begins to entertain. Playing to an audience of mostly friends all sat cross legged on the floor around him, it's unsurprising that between songs there's a lot of banter with the audience, mostly anecdotes about how the songs were written. In between the chatter, though, Tim weaves a subtle, dark folky indie magic.
It took Tim seven years to write his first seven solo songs (which comprise the 'Found Dead on the Shoreline' album). Since then he's been a fair bit more prolific - having apparently written a further 41 new songs. Tim only plays one song from the album, happily it's 'Vessels' - my favourite track off the album (and not just because he sounds like a pirate in it). Although one of the new tracks, only finished a couple of days before the show and given the provisional title of 'Mike Shields' on the night, could do with a little more work on it, as it seemed to get a bit lost and lose its flow at a couple of points, in general the new material is impressive. Closing song 'Melley' certainly marks a lighter, poppier shift. What's more, Tim managed to go a full set without one mention of ships, boats or any other water going vessels - now that's progress!
On tour with Tim are Icelandic three piece, My Summer as a Salvation Soldier. I came to the gig with absolutely no expectations about MSASS, but left kicking myself for not having brought enough cash to buy their cds. Kinda like a less jaunty, more melancholy Steven Malkmus (the guy from Pavement), I'd probably call them emo if it wasn't such a term of abuse these days. MSASS occasionally veered in a more art rock (in the dEUS mold) direction, but there were a couple of short but satisfying heavy bursts to keep the less indie-minded interested. Singer Thor has a sweet but plaintive voice, while the music has an similar mournful undercurrent. The combined effect leaves you with the impression that, despite what Bjork may lead you to believe, being Icelandic isn't all that fun.
We came to see two singer/songwriters we knew were good. We left having reaffirmed this and discovered an amazing new singer and a new favourite band. Not bad for three pounds.
(Apologies to Service Users who played last - I'm not ignoring you, but we had to leave shortly after MSASS finished so I only saw the very beginning of your set.)