Saturday, January 21, 2006

Mixed Bills and 'Cello-based Thrills

Last night the three eldest Coles hurried themselves heartily to the Gloucester Guildhall for the latest ‘Acoustica’ evening. We merrily endorse and support ‘Acoustica’ and have yet to enjoy a less than very satisfactory time there having been sumptuously entertained by the great Boo Hewerdine and the idiosyncratic but rather marvellous Duke Special – a firm favourite in the Cole household now – last year. Yesterday evening saw a mixed bill and three very diverse artists. Sweet Laredo was a duo, a guy in a nice shirt a-strummin’ and a-pickin’ on a geetar while a large-lunged gal belted out torch songs and gospel with gusto. Not my thing exactly but an unchallenging and not unwelcome hors d’oeuvres nonetheless. I did fully appreciate the second act Bela Emerson though. In my eyes, half an hour of experimental ‘cello playing with sampling and loops can never be frowned at. This was challenging stuff, make no mistake, and I was smilingly taken by how warmly those in the audience appreciated what was, it seems, a largely improvised set. Hats off, I say, to the gathered Gloucester cognoscenti. I can now see why Emerson warranted a Peel session and my only regret was that she couldn’t play for longer. I sense that the first act – humdrum in comparison – overran and if that were the case, I can only mutter darkly, ‘criminal, criminal…’ The final act, The Family Machine, were a feel-good trio, full of whimsy and tune who crooned plush harmonies and performed charming songs, all with a hearty and unembarrassed English theme, about roadside floral tributes and lethal drug cocktails. They drank cups of tea on stage, indulged in banter and were rather entertaining. I spilt half my Guinness three-quarters into their set and that I didn’t mind shalt be my tribute to them. They reminded me of earnest Irish hopefuls Hal a little with a soupcon of Lemon Jelly – they used a fair few samples – and a small pinch of British Sea Power thrown into the mix. They were fine.

The legend that is Martin Stephenson plays 'Acoustica' in May. Such thoughts help a man through the dark mornings of a bleak English winter.

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