Feb. 22, 2013
If you are reading this review I can only presume we are like minded folk and really, really love music and discovering new artists to sit alongside the classics that make up our substantial record/CD/Mpeg/I-Tunes collections.
Not everyone feels the same way about music; certainly not the vast majority of radio presenters who churn out the same bland muzak to people that had Newcastle Arena, which is about 1,000 yards away from this basement venue, sold out for three consecutive nights with 3,000 people paying a minimum of £35 each to see Girls Aloud.
I, on the other hand, alongside about 70 others packed out a basement in a City Centre pub at £5 per head to see three of the most exciting acts I’ve ever seen.
First onstage was the diminutive and very pretty Meghann Clancy who plays piano and guitar as well as singing like an Angel with a mouthful of honey. Meghann’s friend Katie Hall sat alongside her and added cello to 30 minutes of delightful (commercial) Folk songs.
With Meghann’s soft tones and the cello accompaniment, a couple of their songs had a slightly ethereal feel to them; especially Bite the Bullet and Love You All Over. While the songs were all very heartfelt and passionate, when Meghann smiled the whole room lit up.
My favourite song of the short set, and the one that had me scurrying to the Merch table was Can’t Do Right, For Doing Wrong which had a lovely Americana feel to it and reminded me of early Tift Merritt and Laura Cantrell.
James Allan & Co are currently the ‘talk of the town’ and after downloading their recent EP I was quite excited about seeing them play live, but a touch nervous to see if they could convey their sound on stage. The Scots singer played the first three songs solo and to say I was impressed by his warm, husky voice would be something of an understatement and during Breaks My Heart I was nodding approval to my friend John who responded with a double thumbs-up.
James made me chuckle when he actually started heckling the audience for not joining in a chorus; and it was even funnier when it turned out to be his band who were proving shy.
It turns out that & Co are a recently assembled ensemble but you’d not have known it from the tightness of their playing and glorious harmonies that littered most songs.
This exciting young talent ended their spot with a song called (Mexican) Standoff that had me racking my brain for a description and all I could think of was that they have invented Celticana!
I’ve seen Kontiki Suite twice before and absolutely loved their debut album; so pretty much knew what to expect and I was neither surprised nor disappointed with their take on the Byrds psychedelic West Coast sounds circa Dr.Byrds and Mr. Hyde.
Seeing a band of this quality in a tiny venue like this is what I dream of and when they opened with Watching Over Me and followed it with Music Man I thought I’d died and gone to Music Heaven (which is what happens when you drink strong beer!).
All five members of the band were sporting thick, luxurious beards and had very earnest looking expressions all night but the sound they create is truly glorious and they turned 21st Century Newcastle into 1969 San Francisco for just over an our; but without the herbal cigarettes.
The band ended the night with their signature tune Magic Carpet Ride which was everything the title suggested and the ‘jam’ towards the end veered dangerously close to Grateful Dead territory but they managed to pull it back from the brink and left the crowd begging for more; but that was it.
There’s never many laughs at a Kontiki Suite gig but tonight everyone got the giggles when the keyboards went a bit wrong and it took the whole band shouting at him to get the Soundman’s attention; as he was too busy fiddling with his mobile phone!
Even before Kontiki Suite had played a note I knew that I’d had fantastic value for my £5 but by the time the headliners had finished it was clear that it just might have been the best £5 I’ve spent in a long time.
Gigs like this are available in a town near you every week; you just have to take a chance sometimes. What’s the worst that could happen? For £5 or $5 you will see at least one band worth following up and at best you get what we got – a brilliant night of refreshing and exciting music from a set of talented young musicians.