Review: Original Music at SAMM’s, 12th March 2019

So I decided to check out SAMM’s inaugural original music night this week and, boy, am I glad I did. Chilling out in the basement, sipping from the interestingly-named customer-created cocktails, I could almost forget it was the middle of the week and set aside all thoughts of to-do lists and impending deadlines. Friday night vibes were provided on a Tuesday. What more could anyone ask for?

We sat in the main bar for our first couple of drinks, whilst everyone was still soundchecking from downstairs. There were a few ominous sounds emanating from the basement and we genuinely almost drank up and ran home. Thankfully I already knew two of the acts on the bill so remained optimistic.

We ventured downstairs and took up a couple seats closest to the stage, yet still hugging the wall like everyone else. Within moments SIR opened his mouth to sing and I was instantly captivated. What a beautiful voice, so gentle and soothing, every note tinged with a hint of melancholy and yet somehow reassuring. The arrangements were interesting and the chord voicings unique. When his brief set drew to a close I was definitely left wanting more.

Little did I know, or could I tell, that this was his first live performance in front of an audience. He has been on the Doc Mason Radio Show on PCR as well as a guest of BBC Introducing but yet to put himself in front of a crowd. I only found out this information the following day, wanting as I was to find his music and make the requisite social media connections. If he seemed shy between songs it merely added charm and it soon dissipated each time he began playing.

If you want to hear for yourself, check out the fantastic song ‘Pale White Dress’:

Next to the stage was the more seasoned performer, Dan Poole. Dan was a frequent performer at SAMM’s previous incarnation Puzzles?, before it made the move a few doors down. He had yet to perform at the new venue, having spent the last year travelling around Asia. His hair now grown, tied back out of his face, and facial hair to boot, he came to the stage with the same charisma and wit but with an added gravitas to his very personal music.

Perennial favourite ‘Euphoria’ still evokes a very real connection with a familiar emotion – of not wanting to let go of somebody, just wanting for a brief moment to forget any recent changes and have one more conversation.

Rounding out the evening were Nick Corney + The Buzz Rats. One Buzz Rat short, and so lacking drums, it was interesting to hear the band in a different mode. As someone who has seen the band play quite often, I was happy to be afforded the opportunity to pay more attention to some of Nick’s carefully-crafted and – by his own admission on the night – rambling lyrics as well as hear the subtlety of the guitar work.

The songs from new EP ‘By the Skin of Our Teeth’ have a lot more punch than anything they’ve put out before but even without the power of the drums underpinning the performances they were still a tour de force. You can hear them in their original form over on Bandcamp:

Overall, a really enjoyable night was had and there were smiles on the faces of everyone around. I applaud SAMM’s for supporting original music. The night should be the second Tuesday of every month. Here’s to the next one… Cheers!

Review: Goldblume at The Ostrich Inn, 16th November 2018

Goldblume’s latest album Husk just released a couple of weeks ago and has quickly become the current soundtrack to my daily commute. It’s a fantastic fusion of almost every niche sound you’d find labelled ‘alternative’, heard through an audial kaleidoscope to create something extremely unique. It serves up acerbic wit on a bed of frenetic power-pop with a side-dish of grit. With this sonic concoction ringing in my ears, I was excited to check out the band live for the first time. They’ve been around since 2015 and I’ve been aware of them for a while but just not been able to catch a show. I wasn’t disappointed.

On the night, the band were supported by Polypin, Soviet Films, and Mean Caesar. I was unaware of Mean Caesar’s addition to the bill and had built up my excitement expecting Goldblume to take the stage, only to be confused when another group of guys started playing that I did not recognise. I quickly found the easily-identifiable Jethro Steel, of Goldblume, who confirmed that they were still playing and just who was on stage. I had to check that this wasn’t some Milli Vanilli situation where the ‘real’ Goldblume weren’t the face of Goldblume!

Polypin took me by surprise. Taking the stage all understated and meek, they then proceeded to kick straight into some bold arena-suitable rock of the kind that brings to mind images of leather-clad lotharios charging around giant stages. In stark contrast, their lead singer dedicates one song to his soon-to-be-wife. It was a refreshing feat for a band who play in a style renowned for borderline misogyny. Their music filled the room nicely and the audience was held largely captive.

Soviet Films I have seen before. In fact, I had seen them a few weeks before in the same venue – where they were providing the soundtrack to Battle Lines (an event featuring two visual artists duelling it out with Posca pens). I recognised several other attendees from the Battle Lines event who had returned to see them again, which should go some way to sell you on the quality of what they do. Immediate comparisons can be drawn to Biffy Clyro or Oceansize, mostly due to the focus on frequent and drastic dynamic shifts in their music. However one never has the feeling they are trying to be those bands. A big difference for me are the vocals which share more DNA with post-hardcore bands like Rival Schools or Underoath. I highly recommend spending some time with the band’s album Cetaceana particular standout track being ‘Kraken’ – then heading along to their next show:

I felt for Mean Caesar a little. They suffered being on the bill after Soviet Films with some of the more casual observers heading home. Undeterred, they played their hearts out like unattended hyperactive children, using every inch of the tiny stage to entertain the remaining crowd. There may have been fewer people but they managed to increase the energy level in the room well.

Finally taking the stage around 11, Goldblume picked up that energy and ran with it. They whipped up the crowd into a frenzy, culminating in a human pyramid!

The band’s performance captured the essence of Husk well. I was intrigued to hear how they would sound with a different person hitting the drums – previous drummer Neil Bruce left after laying down the core drum tracks for the album, replaced by Matt Kilsby (who did contribute backing vocals, percussion and other sounds to the recording). Live, you can still feel a pride in and sense of ownership of the songs from Matt and the band gel together well as a unit.

Ultimately, the whole evening was an enjoyable affair with a varied enough bill to keep things interesting and Goldblume’s performance was as good as I could have hoped it would be. I can’t wait to catch them again.

If you want to hear a little more from them, here is a stream of Husk:

If you want to hear more about the band, including a lot more on the recording of this great album, you might want to check out Local Distortion’s interview with the band below. 

Lastly, the band’s music is best absorbed live, so keep an eye on our guide for the next time they’re playing around these parts.

October 2018 – Spotlight on: Secret Traffic by Mesh-29

Our choice to spotlight this month, October 2018, is Secret Traffic by Mesh-29. Released 10 years ago, in October 2008, this carefully considered, powerful collection of songs is worth revisiting for those of us blessed to have caught it at the time and equally worth checking out for those discovering them for the first time.

Personally, Mesh-29’s music instantly transports me back over a decade and fills my senses with memories of dim candle-lit Thursday evenings at The Met Lounge in Peterborough, sitting on cold faux-leather sofas strewn across the uncharacteristically docile dance floor, sipping lemon Fanta, as I enjoyed the fragile sound of two friends on stage playing their hearts out.

However, beneath that comfortable sensory recollection lies a turbulent emotional memory. Secret Traffic came along at a time when I was trying to find my feet in life, negotiating the adult world as a 20-something – replete with missteps, mistakes and misunderstandings. The bands lyrics, passionately delivered, resonated with me at the time. I would frequently listen to this album for reassurance, taking comfort that I was not the only one who was yet to figure it all out.

The stand-out song for me has always been ‘Strangest Conversation’. I was always able to relate to the feeling of being underestimated, of willingly setting so much aside for someone and yet having them always closed off from you. That particularly chimed with my personal situation at the time (details of which would serve no purpose to be repeated here) and it kept me coming back to this album time and again. The melody is haunting yet catchy and the opening line – ‘I heard about the strangest conversation that you ever had..’ – still puts chills through my spine, summarising a situation so succinctly.

The album is awash with wonderful little lyrical moments, similarly painting whole situations so simply and yet so vividly with words, bringing the characters in this world to life. The direct fragility and frustration of ‘White Light’ – ‘You’re narcissistic… I had to look that up…’ tells you everything you need to know about a couple struggling to hold their relationship together despite vast differences in outlook and interests – she is likely acting self-absorbed and self-important and he is self-aware and self-deprecating.

Self-deprecation is a common flavour sprinkled throughout the album, but it never pushes too far into self-pity. The tone overwhelmingly feels cautiously optimistic and that is wherein the comfort and reassurance I found lies. ‘There’s a sign in the doorway that says keep on singing, so I hang on. We’ll all hang on.’ (‘Worse for Wear’)

Musically, at the time, the band drew a lot of comparisons to Keane. I think this is a shallow comparison, hearing the prominent timbre of the piano and not looking much beyond. More observant listeners will hear a lot more in the blend here though. The world-crafting of Bruce Springsteen, the emotional intensity of Bright Eyes, and the sincerity of Counting Crows, are all to be found here among many more influences, creating a sound uniquely Mesh-29’s.

The one song which truly sums up the sound of the band so well is ‘Waiting for the Day’. This was a staple set-piece of the band’s live shows from very early on in the band’s life. It originally appeared on their debut Dead Machine (an album also worth checking out if you want to delve further into the band’s oeuvre). Here however, it has been given a little more power and energy which reflect the subtle shift of the band’s overall sound from their first album to this. The band had been working and touring hard before its release and the song has grown up alongside the band from album to album.

This album will take you on a journey through the familiar naïveté of early adulthood. You may even briefly lament the passing of those innocent years. Either way this journey is one worth taking.

– Barry Walker

If you’d like to pick up a copy to check it out for yourself, it is available from our online store below. It is also available on all major streaming services.

Reflections on our first week in retail

Last Tuesday, 17th April 2018, we finally opened the shutters on The Merch Table to the public. Born in my mind a few years ago, it has been an interesting journey to reach this point. I’m very proud that I’ve been able to build the business to this point and I’ve been overwhelmingly excited by the positive response we have received so far. IMG_20180420_134918

Peterborough City Market is much in need of a new lease of life and there are several new stall holders who have joined alongside us here to start to bring that. Most of the existing stall holders have been very welcoming and within a week we have been made to feel a part of a community.

The city council have been exceedingly supportive of us at Here We Aren’t. They are aware that much needs to be done to improve the profile of the market itself and to increase footfall over here. The market is unfortunately poorly located in Peterborough’s city centre in 2018. In 1963 it made sense to relocate to the market here, but there is not much to draw people through this part of the city centre. (Tesco have also now closed their entrance on Bayard Place, reducing footfall even further, but I shall refrain from remark about the supermarket giant here.) I feel that they see the potential Here We Aren’t’s new business venture and particularly the community-focussed aspect of what we are doing with The Merch Table. That could be a key to changing perceptions about the market itself and move toward their intention to turn this into a desirable shopping destination in its own right.

The most enthusiasm though has been received by those who have come by. I have been personally surprised by the diversity of those that have chosen to stop in and chat – talking about art and music as well as local culture and history. Some of them have even bought some items! It’s always a relief once you see that we were right: there is a market for the things we’re all creating!

Sure, sales are slow, but no business can expect a mad rush from day one – with little-to-no paid promotion or marketing spend yet. This soft launch has been a good way to gauge reaction and to reassure me that we’re moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to seeing what the impact some real advertising and promotional efforts can make.

So, to summarise: it’s been a good start. Here’s to the future.