Ponies, Homemade Lemonade, Jo Gillot, Niamh Starkey and Stephen Hudson

“It’s been a really enjoyable atmosphere.”  Thus spake Tom Bramhall aka Ponies after tonight’s show at The Yorkshire House.  “Very mutually supportive.”  Indeed it was, with musicians sharing instruments, staying to watch each other’s sets and applauding warmly.  But where were the ordinary music fans, those who weren’t involved in this gig?

Five minutes before Stephen Hudson came onstage though, the room was almost empty, only filling as his set progressed.  Shame for Stephen, whose pleasant sound and vignettes of small town realism showed promise.  I’ve seen plenty of solo, acoustic sets that I’ve enjoyed only to be disappointed that the CD is a full band and lacks the intimacy of the show.  If anything Stephen’s songs perhaps need to go the other way, certainly when Jo Gillot joined on violin they seemed much more fully realised as music.

After Stephen, and with Jo Gillot to come, I was expecting something on similar lines from Niamh Starkey, only to be very pleasantly surprised.   In her words her three piece band would do some ‘ambient loop things’ but it got less ambient as it developed.  Layers of guitar, wonderfully supple basslines and half-familiar riffs created the sound of Mogwai covering Joy Division.  From these beginnings Niamh, bassist Cameron on his first outing with the band, and drummer Harvey improvised subtly and to great effect.  Such a shame about the inaudible vocals, Niamh explaining that they were meant to be louder but not to distract from the guitars.  She also told me that the next step may be to add a Cello to the line-up, which should be exciting.

Jo Gillot’s rise to commercial success seems assured, played on Radio Two this week.  As always her strong voice is the focus, but her skilful guitar work and catchy melodies support wry lyrics well.  Seemed to be plenty of takers for her CD afterwards too.

 

Photo courtesy Rebecca Wilmott

Photo courtesy Rebecca Wilmott

Promoters Homemade Lemonade had cupcakes for sale where Jo had sold CDs, and very enjoyable too.  As was their performance, in parts.  Hampered by equipment problems they seemed to struggle for identity.  Members swapped roles a little too often for a consistent sound, veering from squealing guitars to drones, to a harmonic guitar and violin (Jo Gillot again) piece that seemed to make a whole song where others would have found an intro.  Best song ‘Walk On Water’ began with a tinge of Americana before its post-rock surge and mantra vocals took over.  Unfortunately where Niamh Starkey embraced improvisation, Homemade Lemonade were forced into it and suffered for it. Despite reservations about their focus and direction, I’d like to see them on a good night where I think they could be most impressive.

I missed Ponies last time here, arriving too late, but tonight I stayed to the end to see another good set.  The obvious first description of Tom’s style is Dylanesque, not just from the acoustic guitar/harmonica set-up, but his impassioned delivery and that curious way with emphasis that seems to make lines rhyme in the middle rather than at the end.  That’s not the whole story of course.  Tom uses his voice as both a vehicle for lyrics (often with echoing religious imagery) and as an instrument itself.  When he gets these two aspects to coincide the effect is marvellous. 

As Tom said, a good night all round.  If you missed it where were you? 

 

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6 Responses

  1. Why do so few people attend gigs at the Yorkie (outside the regular, pickled clique of aging musicians)? Let me think. Could it be the total lack of air, as the management refuse to allow the fire door to be opened, even when no band is playing? So any oxygen has to pass through about 4 doors to get to the room? Well, it’s better now since the smoking ban. Before that the place was completely toxic – perhaps it’s also that the smokers have gone?

    Could it be the lack of anywhere to sit? Not wishing to be genderist, but as a 5’3″ woman I don’t look forward to being on my feet all night looking upwards if I want to join in a conversation – or sit on a filthy floor. Then of course there’s the irrepressible charm of the landlady, who appears to view most of her clientele as potentially dangerous criminals.

    Then there’s the acoustic. Does every single band have to sound like an explosion in a tin bucket factory? Well no. Not if they have their own sound equipment and sound engineer and aren’t afraid of occasionally making some instruments or vocals a little louder or softer than others for the sake of musical interest. And if they can bear in mind that not everyone is deaf, or wants to be. Those hairy old guys with black t-shirts and beer bellies who reckon they can mix? Ha.

    • Well Muso, I would prefer if you used a real name to comment but I understand your reticence. Permit me to adress your comments from the point of view of a fellow punter.
      I think you make valid points about the ventilation though its not that different to many other venues I have attended. I wonder whether the Fire Door must be kept closed for some other reason, eg Fire Regulations? or Noise restrictions?
      Seating is an issue I agree with, I’m male and average height but some bands I want to sit for.
      The landlady I’ve never had anything but friendliness from but that might just be my charm.
      So where do you recommend as an alternative in the area?

      Incidentally, many of the gigs I have been to at the Yorkie have been reasonably well attended, my review was specific to this one gig.

  2. As a member of the ‘pickled clique of ageing musicians’ I would like to comment on the welcome arrival of some new faces at YH gigs.

    They have the audacity to be in their late teens and early twenties, but I like them. Especially the women.

    I have noticed them since they block my view from my (private) stool at the bar.

    Although too few people enjoy the often fab live music at the YH, I’m sure it’s not due to the air, or the floor…

    Besides- the floor is clean- since I remove the dirt with high-pressure urination at the end of the night.

    Ponies is cool.

  3. The Yorkie is a great venue, and like most places, if you go frequently, the staff and clientele become friendlier. I arrived back in Lancaster 10yrs ago, and found that there were a core of regulars, who were not unfriendly, but they’ve largely moved on, and a younger crowd have moved in.

    Re seating, there are tables out when it’s acoustic stuff, for rock shows it’s standing only – this is industry standard practice. The smoking ban has made the atmosphere much better! It’s very rare that it’s hot enough to become unpleasant.

    Kev has improved massively as a sound engineer over the last couple of years, and is surprisingly sensitive to the needs of different kinds of musicians.

    Thanks to LAWM, we’ve had people from all over the world play there and they all love it! People from out of town almost always make a point of saying how much they’ve enjoyed playing at the Yorkie. As someone whose played accross the UK, I can safely say that the Yorkie is up there with the best of ’em.

    Most places don’t have anywhere like it, we’re lucky!

    Of course, we all want to get more people out of there houses and into the venue. The council no longer allow fly-postering, and there are limited places to flyer. It’s a lot of work to promote, and in this particular case, I don’t think that much was done?

    I’m a Dad now, so my going to every gig days are over…

    Hopefully, the fledgling Ledge Collective that is being formed as we speak will help to network the various Lancastrian arts/performance groups and individuals together, and encourage more attendance at all events.

    • You may be right about the promotional aspects of that night, but they’re learning.

      What was notable was the youth of that bill, Niamh Starkey is what 19? Jo Gillot turned 22 yesterday, Homemade Lemonade and Stephen Hudson look similar ages, they made Tom Ponies look ancient! All credit to them for getting off their backsides and doing something.

  4. Absolutely, they’re all good performers fo sho. Niamh, Jo, Ste and Ponies have all done OoR’s, and Homemade Lemonade are booked for another…it’s exactly the fresh blood that makes Lancaster’s music scene interesting.

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