Apr 07

Wednesday 25th April

Great Lake Swimmers
Le Pub, Newport.


The majority of the songs were from the latest album but a smattering of tracks from their first two (including personal favourite Lets Trade Skins) were were included in the hour long set. Frontman Tony Dekker played a 3 song solo slot to give the band break including the fabulous Where In The World Are You. Erik Arneson moved between banjo, guitar and harmonium with ease while drummer Colin Huebert played glockenspiel at various times while keeping the beat flowing. Understated, laid back with with heart-wrenching lyrics, the Great Lake Swimmers will undoubtedly be playing much bigger venues in the not too distant future. Have a look at their website: www.greatlakeswimmers.comor watch some videos from the night: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q29qRR5ppvY

Having seen Canadians  Great Lake Swimmers in Cardiff last year we knew we were in for a treat tonight. What we weren’t ready for was the relatively small crowd to see one of the best bands to visit these parts in years. With fantastic new album Ongiara getting 5 star reviews in the most music magazines and Bob Harris playing tracks every time he’s on Radio 2 we expected the place to be rammed. The laid back melancholy beauty of their songs worked well in the wood paneled Le Pub. Only the occasional interruption from stray members of Dirty Sanchez party going on downstairs broke the transfixed audience gaze. 


Sunday 22nd April

Mark Eitzel, Bedford Falls, Blind River Scare
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff.


At very short notice due to the sickness in Lone Pine, Blind River Scare assembled a set of their songs and approached the night with a "nothing to lose" attitude. Debbie picking out the lead parts on violin while Tim kept  the rhythm on guitar meant the acoustic approach brought a new dimension to the songs and highlighted the interplay of Tim and Lisa's vocals. The "country-rock Beautiful South" tag may stick yet... Have a listen to “Something for the Pain” here : www.youtube.com/watch?v=INRegBxSl8I

Bedford Falls who normally appear as a four piece also did an acoustic set with just Tom (vocals/acoustic guitar) and Pete (electric lead guitar). Despite claiming to be "shitting himself" to be playing with such a stripped-down line-up, Tom's vocal and banter between songs showed he is an endearing frontman. His comment that "Have you noticed since the smoking ban, you can smell how much these venues stink!" was on the money! With a strong vocal, like a less shouty James Dean Bradfield, the songs were catchy pop-punk akin to Buffalo Tom or Pavement. Ending on Dolly Parton's "Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You" we'll definitely be going to catch them again. Check their website www.bedfordfallsrock.co.uk or see how it went on the night:www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDRZ5tNeaW8


Mark Eitzel shuffled onto the stage in black suit, while shirt and black wooly hat, all of which looked as if he had lived (and slept!) in for the duration of the tour. With a grunted "hello" he launched into a selection of songs from his solo career. Understated and effortlessly, Mark's soulful and heart wrenching vocal cut through Clwb Ifor for over an hour. In nearly 20 years of going to gigs there I have never heard an audience so quiet and attentive....then the toilet door immediately behind him went "slam" and continued to do so all night! (Note to venue: SORT THAT BLOODY DOOR OUT!). As Mark got into playing and realising he had an appreciative audience calling for back catalogue songs, he put two tenners on his mike stand "that's for anyone who feels they don't get their moneys-worth". Needless to say, there were no takers as this was a highly impressive display of skill and passion that was worth twice what we'd paid to get in.

Telling anecdotes and stories behind the songs such as “St Michael My Pet Rat”, Mark had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Losing his rag at one point when a photographer took a flash photo in his face saying "Please don’t, I'm old and ugly" he later apologised claiming he was "just being another self-obsessed singer/songwriter asshole". For someone who nearly made it to the big time with American Music Club and still keeps the company of the likes of Peter Buck, it is criminal that he is not more well known or lauded. Heading off into the night carrying just his guitar and bag of CDs ready to get the train the next morning to Wolverhampton, Mark cut a rather sad figure. If there was any justice, there would have been a limo waiting at the stage door.... Have a listen to "All the lost souls welcome you to San Francisco" which Mark had the audience joining in on the chorus...www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl994q3LOG4.

Saturday 14th April

Guto Dafis
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.


Only recently heard about Guto. He is a regular on the Welsh folk scene in duo Toreth but tonight it was his latest solo show. Guto sold out the Chapter barroom such is his draw and we could see why. An engaging character telling the stories behind the songs he sings while playing one of his three different melodeons (like small accordions). Some songs in Welsh, others in English, we were particularly taken by the covers of Newport-born Jon Langford songs and those by his old band The Watermelons. Not being familiar with the folkier tunes didn’t stop the enjoyment such is the enthusiasm he puts into his act and the warmth felt by the crammed audience. Have a listen to his take on Langford’s Tubby Brothers here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE5iso-0mws or see Gutos MySpace page: www.myspace.com/gutodafis

Wednesday 11th April

Jimi Alexander and The Satelittes & Blind River Scare
Riverside Tavern, Newport.


Was it only last week we saw Blind River Scare down the road at Le Pub? Playing regularly has made gigs effortless for the band. Running through tracks from the studio session they recently recorded in West Wales such as Killing Time, Out of My Hands and The Way The Story Goes, Tim Brooke’s bass was definitely rumbling more than ever tonight.

Have a listen to the excellent Something For The Pain: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtKB4VAPzTQ

We saw Jimi Alexander back in January supporting Lone Pine at Barfly and thought they were interesting. Since then they seemed to have expanded their set and become much more confident in their approach. Jimi’s classic singer/songwriter material is well backed by The Satellites with the excellent female harmony and cello playing adding a nice edge to the bass, drums and acoustic lead guitar set up. With country leanings, at times edging towards Freakwater territory, Jimi Alexander & The Satellites have a bright future ahead. Check out I Thought You said You Loved me here :www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnkiTat1FqY


Tuesday 10th April

Lone Pine & Murder by Death
Barfly Cardiff


Lone Pine hadn’t played Cardiff for a few months so it was good to see them back on home turf. Shame that the predominantly “Rawk” crowd didn’t agree. It seems the sound of decent tunes in a country-stylee doesn’t go down to well with those who prefer to wear black. Dan and the boys held it together admirably in the face of adversion. The faster paced numbers seemed to go down better and bizarrely their instrumental jam getting the loudest applause. Have a look at Good for Nothin here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pybMYTHInjE

Have to confess to have never hearing anything by Murder by Death before tonight and I guess I may never do again. As impressive as their lead singers sideburns were he seemed a little young to be singing songs of whiskey death to a deafening wall of sound. The band include a female cello player but she could hardly be heard above the general racket. Although at times getting towards The Bad Seeds this stuff has been done a million times better by the likes of the Gun Club and The Swans years ago.....


Wednesday 4th April

Hot Burrito No 2 with Blind River Scare & Treecreeper
Le Pub, Newport.


We hadn't seen Blind River Scare for a while so it was a good to have them back in Newport. As tight as ever, the band are now an established 5 piece since Lisa joined on co-vocals last year adding a nice dynamic to the country-pop-rock. Killing Time, The Way the Story Goes, Something for The Pain, Wolfman Jack and the eponymous Blind River Scare all get an airing tonight. Check out a video of Wolf Man Jack here:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1gA4r77qMA

As quick as lightening Treecreeper hit the stage. Starting with first (and best) track off the album Debris. The song featured on the Rough Trade Counter Culture 2006 compilation CD of best tracks of last year (see Jan 07) from when the album was self released.

The band looked the alt.country part with check shirts and jeans and with Le Pub’s wood paneled walls decked out in confederate flags you could easily think you had stumbled into a bar in a dusty mid-West state of the US. Many of those who had not heard Treecreeper were amazed to find that they are in fact from Buckinghamshire as the vocal are so American! Sounding part Dinosaur Jr part Uncle Tupelo, brothers Will (vocals/guitar) and Greg (bass/vocals) kept saying what a great venue Le Pub was while playing the entire Grain album. If you shut your eyes you would have sworn it was Jay Farrah and Son Volt in the room! Have a look at a live video:www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBP0WVpPC18

With Paul from Diverse on the decks spinning Americana tracks by the likes of Jayhawks, Laura Cantral, Redlands between the bands this is fast becoming an enjoyable and friendly night for music fans in South Wales. The new no-smoking laws which came into force this week only added to the enjoyment for those of us who would rather die of liver failure than secondary lung cancer. Keep the first Wednesday each month free in your diary for the future.. The MySpace page for Hot Burrito is: www.myspace.com/hot_burrito  

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