It is a lovely Saturday evening and we’re standing around with a crowd of people outside St Paul’s Church in Hockley. It’s not the most conventional of settings for a night out — well, not for me anyway — but it certainly makes a nice change. Tonight sees the launch of local band Mr Bones and the Dreamers’ EP, In The Absence of Light, and several months after seeing them for the first time it’s really good to be here for their big night.
The unusual setting lends a very different air to the proceedings, but strangely fitting and of course the acoustics are quite beautiful (although apparently not all that straightforward to get set up!). Opening the evening is local musician James Summerfield, who reminds me a lot of Pinetop Seven — quiet, thoughtful, beautifully arranged music that is moving and oddly peaceful. The sleepy percussion sets off his country-tinged voice and the delicately picked guitars genuinely make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. He is currently out on tour supporting Scott Matthews but is back around local parts (Worcester, Birmingham) in July; if you fancy some genuinely gorgeous vocals and guitars go forth and see. There are some great tracks on his MySpace page.
Next up are Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam, who win both the award for the Longest Band Title Ever and also the Most Gorgeous Musical Surprise I’ve Had In Ages. Completely instrumental, they make what I imagine what the soundtrack to my life would sound like, if it didn’t already sound like creepy French carnival music. Anyway. There is some serious talent at work here — you’ve only got to hear the recordings on their MySpace page to clock that — but here, in the church with it’s high ceilings and curious atmosphere, it is lent a magical quality. The arrangements are beautiful and strangely touching, and for the second time tonight the hairs on my neck are standing on end; they remind me a lot of Sigur Ros, if Sigur Ros didn’t have vocals and were just a tiny bit bouncier.
All in all they are quite stunning and very different from most of the stuff out there at the moment; what is particularly lovely, when listening back, are all the little quirks and touches that are hiding to be discovered on repeat playing. Their EP, Put Your Slippers On, is out on Catcutter (as for Mr Bones and the Dreamers), and is really, really well worth a listen. Live, they completely charm the audience and are absolutely a band to watch out for if they come and play locally again.
Finally tonight are of course Mr Bones and the Dreamers. It’s the first time I’ve seen them headline a night and it feels tonight that their confidence and presence as a band has changed and strengthened so much since I first saw them six months ago; as they take to the stage in matching black it’s hard not to be just a teeny bit gleeful. Of course, they play an absolute blinder; the sound tonight up in the gallery of the church is just great, so the strong backing vocals come through perfectly and Anna’s violin sounds amazing. It’s also a pleasure to see the band having fun with their songs — the addition of Occasional Trumpet on Lend Me A Looking Glass suits their sound perfectly and the mixture of new and old material tonight is also well judged. Particularly strong is new(ish) song The Towers, which is included on the new EP. The atmosphere is nothing short of joyful; as always the core of diehard supporters are — as ever — dancing down the front, but the view from up above is of a band moving into a new and exciting phase. The EP launch has been a long time coming and it’s really good to see so much support, and — on listening to the finished product — to be able to say how bloody good it is. It is available on iTunes or via CatCutter Records.
Tonight was honestly a fantastic evening — excited, and exciting, and the lineup just amazing. My only grumble is that — okay no, there’s two. Firstly the acoustics in the church are awesome, but not selective, so any mumbling in the crowd really went a long way (fortunately most people were stunned into silence when the bands came out and played, so that improved things!). Secondly…this music’s made for dancing and there’s not much room in the pews…
Review – Gill Duckett
Photos – Betty Hagglund