29th October saw Pennyblackmusic returning once more to the Half Moon in Herne Hill for another night of live music and general jollity, away from the costume-wearing student-style “fun” of the Halloween weekend, which was taking over on the streets of London outside. None of that silly business for us, or for the fine people who came to enjoy the eclectic selection of bands we had to offer. As ever, we were thrilled that so many of you turned up, so many thanks to you all!

Sure, a couple of people talked quite loudly throughout the evening, not bothering to stop when the bands were playing, which might be considered a bit rude and disrespectful by some people – but those people are no fun are they? No way! In any case, we really were extremely pleased you all came. Even that really chatty bloke. That guy who kept talking, pretty much constantly. All night long. Glad you could be there. Really glad you could pay us to be there.

Six pounds, you paid. You paid us six pounds to stand in a dark room and have a conversation. Other people paid that money to come and see some bands and hear some live music; imagine the rapturous joy they must have felt when they got to hear your monotonous drawl all night instead! How lucky we were to bear witness to your tedious ramblings! It was a shame people kept playing songs over the top of you, I think I missed a few of the things you said. Perhaps if you’re reading this you could send us in a transcription of all the topics you covered and we can run it in the next magazine for anyone that missed it?

Anyway, if you were one of those unlucky people close enough to the stage that you couldn’t hear Major Monologue, your evening will have kicked off two-bass and effects-laden guitar trio that are Rome Pays Off. RPO played a set made up mostly of tracks from their forthcoming album, 'We Were Wrong'.

Crawford Blair and Mark Beazley’s melodic bass-lines were at times hypnotically beautiful, and the accompaniment from guitarist Chris Gowers gave the whole sound an epic quality.

At times, the drone element of their sound became a bit overbearing for my tastes, but overall the band reminded me of guitarist James Blackshaw’s compositions, which is by no means a bad thing.

Next up was The Doomed Bird of Providence, an accordion-led folk band offering sombre songs of Australia’s early history who – despite said sombreness – were an energetic and engaging live band, and frontman Mark Kluzek was an entertaining and likeable fellow. I would imagine these songs of murder, misery and stormy seas wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes, but I was stomping my foot along and the majority of the crowd seemed similarly impressed.

At this point the audience of increasingly drunken revellers were suitably warmed up for the first of the night’s headliners; London-based Madam. The band essentially acts as a showcase for the songwriting talents of singer/guitarist Sukie Smith, and while it would be clichéd and lazy of me to simply compare her to other female singer/songwriters, that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

Smith is like a slightly more gothic Aimee Mann, or maybe somewhere between Cat Power and Beth Gibbons. She may also sound a bit like PJ Harvey. In fact, in sounding like all of these and none of them, Madam have a sound all of their own, and this along with their tight performance and haunting tunes had all of us at the Half Moon that night totally under their spell. I’ll admit, I had been worried before the gig that the bands on the bill might all be a bit too close to each other in terms of style and energy – I thought that perhaps the night would be lacking the kick needed to really make a night memorable – but within a couple of Madam’s songs those fears were totally allayed. All of the bands had contrasted and complimented each other beautifully, and I have to give it up for Dominic Simpson, who works so hard in putting out band nights together. He did a really good job, yet again.

As if further proof were needed of this, the last band to take to the stage was the magnetic, magnificent and....er....musician-filled Mortan Valence. By this point the crowd were well and truly buzzing with energy, and MV’s appearance on the stage came to whoops and hollers of delight. The band tore through a set of songs from their albums 'Bob and Veronica Ride Again' and 'Me & Home James', and, if I had any worries about a lack of kick in the night’s line-up, they were positively decimated by a storming performance from this London five-piece.

Alt-pop-rock in the vein of Magoo, Morton Valence brought a party atmosphere which really whipped the crowd up; indeed they had no choice but to provide them with an encore, despite the fact the amount of energy they pumped into their set must have left them exhausted. A second encore was screamed for, but denied, if for no other reason than we didn’t want to kill the band.

All in all – and despite my insane rant at the beginning of this article - it really was an excellent evening, and we really hope those of you that made it along enjoyed it as much as we did. If you missed it this time round, more fool you, but fear not! Pennyblackmusic will return to London with another night of first-class, live musical entertainment in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space.













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