On 24th March Pennyblackmusic returned to Herne Hill’s Half Moon to put on the latest of our London band nights. This time around we had Creation Records alumni Pete Fij (ex-Adorable/Polak) and Terry Bickers (ex-House of Love/Levitation) providing the headline performance, with support coming from Manchester rockers Last Harbour, folky folks the Owl Service and Roshi ft. Pars Radio, whose mix of original songs and re-interpretations of traditional Iranian pieces were a gentle (but interesting) start to what turned out to be quite a gentle, laid-back evening.
The audience seemed quite lethargic, and possibly one or two of them may have been asleep. The majority of the crowd had taken it upon themselves to grab chairs from the side of the room and sit down for the night – which they were absolutely within their rights to do as course. Actually, I should compliment them for their quiet attentiveness during each of the bands’ sets; there wasn’t a single loud, obnoxious voice to be heard when they acts were playing their songs. Three cheers to you then, Pennyblack audience!
To take a selfish point of view, the lack of energy in the room was a little disheartening from where I sat in the DJ booth, and as I faded a white label bootleg of ‘7 Nation Army’ mixed with ‘Bring the Noise’ into a Japanese cover of Missy Elliott’s ‘Get Ur Freak On’, I couldn’t help but wonder if there might be a carbon monoxide leak somewhere in the room. I am told that the barmaid was having a bit of a dance to what I was playing though, so it’s a shame my attempts to flirt with her while buying some crisps were at best pitiable (there is not much scope for flirtation within the conversational realm of crisps, apparently; but we are knocked down so we can learn to pick ourselves up again, and next time I will try pork scratchings).
Aside from my own personal disappointment that hip-hop is not a universally-loved genre, the night was a lot of fun, with the usual eclectic mix of people and genres that one would expect from a Pennyblack bands night.
Following the beard-strokingly interesting electro/trad. Iranian mix of Roshi ft. Pars Radio, the Owl Service came to the stage, eight (or nine?)-strong and ready to folk! Now for my tastes, this was a little bit too trad. Folk-revival. Whenever I hear someone say “this song is about the equinox” or any song which uses the word “merry” twice in quick succession, I can’t help but think of Edward Woodward’s anguished cries when he first sets eyes on the Wicker Man: “Oh God! Oh Jesus Christ!”
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some of their songs, and clearly my opinion of the rest was in the minority; the audience were warm and receptive, and their applause was heartfelt and energetic. As mentioned before, there was not a voice to be heard outside of the band’s singers – a true rarity at a London gig on a Saturday night.
Next up were Manchester six-piece Last Harbour, whose Joy Division-esque noir-rock brought a welcome burst of volume and pace to proceedings. It could be argued that one or two of their songs are a tad overlong, but this is really a minor gripe; nit-picking for the sake of giving this review some semblance of balanced objectivity. Again, the crowd lapped it up, and the band themselves even remarked that this may have been their best gig ever, which brought a great feeling of pride to all involved here at Pennyblackmusic.
Finally Pete Fij and Terry Bickers took to the stage to play what was my favourite set of the night. Their set of blues/pop/rock songs were a real treat; Fij’s voice and Bickers’ guitar work so well together. Particular highlights for me were their song ‘Breaking Up’ and a cover version of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, which the duo really made all their own. To me, it just gave what could be seen as a - for the most part - quite downbeat night (musically speaking) a bit of an uplift, and a welcome introduction of some pop tunes.
But whatever I or anyone else thought of the individual acts and their music, it was – as ever – a brilliantly fun night and one that we would have to thank everyone who came along for; you make these nights what they are, and for that we are extremely grateful. Thanks too, of course to all the bands – we love putting you on and hopefully exposing your music to a few people who otherwise wouldn’t have heard it.
Thanks should go also to our writer Dominic Simpson who organises and promotes all of our London-based bands nights, and a fine job he does of it too.
We have more gigs coming up later in the year, hopefully in one or two places we’ve never been before. Exciting times, indeed! Keep your eyes peeled on the site for details.