Thursday, 31 May 2007

The best of gigs

It’s been a good year for album releases; Porcupine Tree’s Fear Of a Blank Planet; Rush’s Snakes and Arrows; Tangerine Dream’s Madcap’s Flaming Duty, Manic Street Preachers’ Send Away The Tigers; Chris Cornell’s Carry On.

(I can’t include the new Marillion album, sadly. That’s another story Needless to say, it doesn’t rate inclusion with the list above. However, I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming gig in June).

I’ve been spoilt by a good run of live gigs, too. The stand out was Chris Cornell, at the London Astoria.

With MySpace I have tried to keep track of not so well known artists. I discovered Buffalo 77’s CD and recommend it.

With dial-up, I never had much incentive to check out bands and their output. The player just took to long to load the songs then they’d stop and start, to much frustration. So, when I got Broadband it was a mission to listen to music and decide if I should retain the “friends” I had added. Buffalo 77 was the first to really capture my attention away from the big boys. The next was Jake Stigers.

Jake and the Velvet Roots playing at Chelmsford's The Bassment

Jake’s MySpace page is an eye catcher. It’s not too cluttered and has plenty of tunes to help work out an opinion of his music. When I saw that he was to play Chelmsford’s very own club, The Bassment, as part of the Alter States music nights I was very interested. Jake Stigers and The Velvet Roots seemed too big to be playing in a small venue like The Bassment, so I wanted to witness them play. (They had played once before, in October 2006, unknown to me).

I gathered a few friends, who were interested and arranged the night out. On the night, I urged our small crowd to get to The Bassment by 9pm. (The only reason any of us would drag our feet is that the beer isn’t all that in the venue and the nearby White Horse serves a good drop of Real Ale.)

I was surprised to see the place virtually empty when we got downstairs. Yes, it is like a basement. I apologised, saying that I expected it to be full. Now, there were two factors against this gig. One was the Liverpool Vs AC Milan football match which was a big deal for English football (not in the end, as it turned out. Who knew?). The second factor was a delay with trains from London. Chelmsford is a big commuter town and many rely on the rail system to get home at a reasonable hour.

We met Ian (“Changing the world, one gig at a time!”) from Alter States; a very approachable guy and passionate about live music. He coaxed us away from the bar and to some tables set out cabaret style in the main room. (This set up is unusual to say the least). We sat and enjoyed Bill’s set. His Americana music is not normally something I would go out of my way to listen to. But, it was very good and I bought his CD later. (recommended). I liked the way Jake and the Velvet Roots helped out on tracks, giving them an extra dimension that wasn’t needed but provided an interesting slant on Bill’s songs.

A short break, (the chance for more Strongbow), and Jake Stigers and the Velvet Roots took to the stage. They began with the single “Ride With You”. What a stormer! The show began as it would end, with a pulse pounding performance.

Picture the scene; we’re in a converted wine cellar, sitting at one of 5 tables, with approx 30 people including staff. We’ve got one of the best live acts I’ve seen playing just to us. It was an experience I will not forget. These guys didn’t show any signs of disappointment at the low turn out; no, instead they put 110% into their performance. They turned all the amps up to eleven!

Bill helped out with the performance, playing a guitar or a mandolin. The drummer, at one stage graciously handed drumming duties to Jake, who put in a great singer/drummer performance.
During an interval, I made sure that I got some CDs. I had a chat with some of the band who took time to talk to us. We were made to feel like old friends. Jake said that he recognised me from his MySpace. I was a bit sceptical as he has over 18000 contacts but met it with the spirit that the comment was given.

The second set was phenomenal! Some tracks were given extended instrumental sessions. How I wished for a bootleg! I took a few snaps. My camera played up but I got in a few that are in my photo album on this site.

I must single out Nunzio. Not taking anything away from any of the others, who were all awesome, Nunzio’s guitarwork had me spellbound in its variations. I’ve seen some masters at work and he can put himself up there with them. He was better that the guitarist with Chris Cornell, the week before.

After the exciting finale, we took another opportunity to chat to the band and promised we would attend the 17th June gig, back at the Bassment. And we will be there!

What a night! It was like watching a group of friends play. They made us feel like we knew them and I hope we gave enough support to honour that.

Check out Jake’s reviews (more on his site );

"If you ever needed someone to really rip it up and win over a crowd - if your life depended on it - Jake and The Velvet Roots would be the boys”
- Roadworks Music Club
“His songs chime with such a clear and literate brilliance”
- UK Sunday Express
“Stigers plays rock without apologies, seamless songs with undeniably catchy choruses.”Time Out New York
“His songs are beyond catchy, and he mixes many elements into them, crafting a large body of work that ranges from pure power-pop to Rolling Stones-like blues-rock."

“A well crafted and soulful album, a superior effort full of radio friendly tracks. Stigers voice is pleasant and striking
- Classic Rock Society magazine.
I have to say that, although I recognised the surname, I didn’t actually know that Jake was the younger brother of Curtis until after the gig. There is no cash in here, Jake can carry his own.