Feeling like a homecoming for a band not yet left, Lincoln's Diamond el Fonsbrook and the Dead Baby Parade playing the pub in which they formed seems sufficient a draw to negate the freezing snow outside. The year has barely started but people are ready for an event. The contrast between the rainbow colours of the Jolly Brewer's crowd, and the sombre scenes outside merely the first in a night of intriguing juxtapositions.

The comparatively gentle opener 'Mystic Hymn' sets out one of the band's faces; a modern seemingly ego-less spirituality filled with frank, liberating confessions. The traditional band instruments are complemented by Sarah Ray's flute lines that provide almost Arabic, sometimes menacing accompaniments to lead singer/guitarist Del's call to prayer delivery. The presence of Anais Racca on piccolo further expands the band's sound; indeed for the next track 'Midnight Spies' she has swapped piccolo for a second flute. She then departs as 'Lucid' and 'Water Door' see the band continue to explore different shades of solemn, psychedelic folk.

Drummer Josh Jackson, almost hidden within a doorway arch, starts making his presence felt after a subtle start. 'Keep It Hidden', the fifth song, features syncopated hits and stop-start sections all underpinned by Si Fo's dirty bass. Then 'Flower' ups the ante once more. Sarah, now on tambourine, freeing Josh to unleash startlingly funky patterns on the receptive crowd while Del croons “down by the riverside/where your father lies.” It's as though their psychedelic influences are being allowed to float downstream to make way for the night's next musical evolution – although nobody is turning off their mind just yet. The crowd are rapturous.

Tom and Lee, from sister-project Joes A Fiend Josephine, are introduced to the crowd for the next two tunes. The mutant sing-a-long folk of 'Kid in a Snow Hole' sees the newcomers perched on a lone stool while their voices combine with Del's to form wonderfully ramshackle harmonies. Their glee almost seems at odds with lines such as “I lost a sister to those rabbit holes you dug.”

It is the next track that signals the biggest departure from the opening salvo though. 'Eddie's Alright' is introduced by mocking banter from the band, referring to Lincoln's oft heard lament for faces departed for the capital. Indeed the song itself feels all London. Grime influenced, rap-metal with demonic screams contrasting wildly with the gentleness of their opening tunes. Del is now on electric guitar laying down huge metal riffs over Josh's pounding hip-hop beats. Distorted keyboard squalls add to the feeling of controlled riot. Kansas this ain't - indeed some of the older faces look as confused as those expectantly in the know look insanely fulfilled.

Their opening cameo completed, Tom and Lee depart. The band, however, don't let up with their first set closer. 'Preety' - already a sizable local hit through jukebox and demo - justifies its acclaim with a riff that comes on like Fleetwood Mac's 'Oh Well', an assured vocal performance and more flute textures. The chorus line of “I see you love her her face-down again” is a perfect example of the band's twisted lyrics. Are they description or metaphor; who cares? And when Anais returns to the fray for the song's climax, this time on accordion, it's easy to imagine Peter Green, at his most lost, busking frantically on the streets of Paris. A perfect end to part one.

Set two commences with the night's darkest tune, 'Solitude'. The blaring sax intro - provided by local face Rupert (I say face though in truth he's all beard and sea-captain hat) - and bluesy guitar riff belying the nihilism of lines like “even summer was better in our time” and “don't believe the future is now”. Sarah Ray is now playing Moroccan flute – an instrument that looks perfect for a snake-charmer. Maybe this helps the band harness so much of Satan's own glee for the chorus - simply the word “suffer” repeated.

Never one to depress though the band's next song sees them at their most gonzo. Tom and Lee return to the stage for yet another local hit - The Joes A Fiend Josephine tune 'Dick & Caine'. Despite the threat of audience participation it's all about the triple vocals - “I wish I had a diver's suit and a balaclava/I'd do some crazy shit and just laugh at it after.” The lyric is repeated over and over as each vocalist tries to find some new demented nuance to explore over more thundering rap-metal breaks.

The yelps and whoops subside as drummer Josh gets out the brushes for 'Ocean Lies'. It's a slower track that gives everyone a chance to catch their breath before the evening's three song climax.

Unsurprisingly Tom and Lee return for the next track 'Grumble Grumble'. It's not as instantly catchy as 'Dick & Caine'. The words “Positive, Negative” are screamed out regularly throughout the tune, perhaps leading some of the crowd's older members to wonder if it's a tune about electrical circuits. Don't get me wrong, the instrumentation is powerful as their other grime tracks. And besides the players know their many faces can be divisive, and they very obviously don't care.

The last two songs are all Dead Baby Parade. The penultimate tune, 'Fire Lighters', features not only the frankest lyrical confessions of the night but also the return of Anais and her accordion. "I only fucked you because of the powder that was running through me altered your body in my mind" and "See my lover/see my crime" sounding like answers to questions that nobody should dare ask. These are sung over a delightfully light verse that tumbles down into a highly rhythmic, didactic chorus which serves as a list of suggestions as to how to avoid the remembered pain and guilt of the first section.

Before a note of the last song is played sound man Pete O'Hara is thanked by the band and applauded by the room. It is a deserved honour, the many instruments on offer have allowed such a variety of texture. At its most gentle there have been elements of refined chamber-folk – no mean feat for a gig inside a relatively small, yet totally packed pub with no clear spatial delineation between the players and the punters.

Finally though we have 'Bleed Away'. Underpinned by a rocky acoustic guitar riff, rhythmic vocals are complemented once more by dual flute attack. The flutes' controlled patterns adding elements of obsessive insanity that contrast with the return of Rupert and his sax. His rude squawks aid Si Fo's bass in driving the song ever forward. “Where's ya revolution? Let me know,” sounds the play out. It might just be right here right now.

It's a glorious end, and end it indeed is. There is no encore.“Play the Streets of London” somebody shouts from the crowd, and with Dave Fielding (of Chameleons fame) producing their album this February, it's more than likely that they'll start with the venues.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken for Pennyblackmusic by Alan Taylor-Shearer


















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