Reviewd by Colin Bertram
Uncle Jeff CD Launch @ The Yorkshire House 31st July 2009
For this CD launch The Yorkshire House had been decorated with table cloths and candles in small cups while there were plates of biscuits for peckish punters to tuck into. On the walls were retro framed pictures of Uncle Jeff band members and fairy lights and a toy cash register on the table selling various Barnbox-related cds.
Quite a crowd had assembled for opening act Ponies, aka Tom Bramhall, with at least two members of Uncle Jeff sitting on the floor to get the best view of the performance. And quite a performance it was too. Tom is a mild-mannered chap but when he straps on his guitar there is an almost visible transformation into the passionate and at times howling presence that is Ponies. Perhaps his harmonica sensed another aggressive assault and forced its way out of its holder and landed with a thud on the floor forcing Tom to stop mid-song, apologise and get the gob iron back under control. Silent Mark’s observation that the now bearded Tom was starting to look like Rolf Harris caused some amusement at the start of the set but once Tom got going, such humorous asides were quickly forgotten as he got into his music.
It’s fair to say that most of the audience were pretty much spellbound throughout Ponies set with Tom refusing to conform with the expected norm of standing on stage. Instead he stood on the floor almost in amongst the audience barely needing to sing into the mic such is the power of his voice. Being the opening act he did play what seemed like quite a long set and the intensity of his songs might have proved a bit much for some but during his final number Tom broke in to the old Elton John number ‘Crocodile Rock’. Suddenly it was as if the Ponies mask had slipped and Tom had a smile on his face as if to say, don’t take it too seriously. Ponies was described on the gig flyer as “visceral folk from Lancaster’s brightest solo performer”. I won’t argue with that.
There then followed a brief interlude with compère Mr Ramsbottom persuading a couple of audience members to join him on stage for a “posh versus working class” game. Ramsbottom specialises in innuendo-laden poetry and later in the evening recited a poem titled something like “Coming In Books”. Having heard the poem a few weeks ago its novelty had worn off and he could do with adding a few more poems to his repertoire.
Next up was Married To The Sea described as “stupendous summery pop from Liverpool” which I didn’t feel was a very accurate description. Their sound made me think more of rain, wind and thunder storms rather than sunny days but then again that’s the sort of weather we’ve had so far this summer. Their sound is much more guitar-driven indie than pop and they certainly threw themselves into their performance with the drummer thrashing away behind his kit. The line-up looked a fairly standard 2 guitars, bass and drums but the drummer had a small keyboard on his floor tom-tom and on one number he strapped on an accordion which he played along with a micro Korg at the front of the stage while one of the guitarists took over on the drums. All in all they made quite a decent noise though the audience had shrunk somewhat during their set most of which I assume was original material apart from a cover of a Wilco song.
And so to the head-liners, Uncle Jeff, who were launching their EP ‘The Sun Might Shine Bright’. The band revolves around singer\songwriter\guitarist Stephen Hudson who has a fair amount of stage presence. He led the band through a lively set, the highlight for me being ‘Roll On Holy Roller’ which starts with chugging guitars mixed with power chords which certainly got the crowd jumping down the front. But even on such a rousing power-pop number there are quiet phases which kept you wondering where the song was going to next. Being a home-town gig there were obviously various friends of the band who encouraged both guitarists to jump down into the crowd and at the end Stephen even managed to slide across the floor on his knees in imitation perhaps of Pete Townshend. The band certainly has plenty of energy and a gifted songwriter in Stephen Hudson and hopefully this new EP will bring them further success.
If you were there please add your own comments as I don’t feel I’ve done justice to Uncle Jeff’s excellent set mainly as I don’t know the names of many of their songs.
1 August 2009