Monday, April 18, 2011


Mark Christopher Grassick introduces himself plainly as “one-third of the band Deer Park”. On this showing one-third is pretty powerful. The bruised and battered Americana of the band’s 2009 debut and several new songs (some featuring on the limited tour EP on sale tonight) are all delivered with stark emotion on just acoustic guitar and harmonica.

Given the nature of these tales of grizzled reprobates, failed lovers and sinning drunkards I was expecting a downtrodden Charles Bukowski figure. What surprised me was how wide-eyed, youthful and in good health Grassick appeared. To finish his set, he was joined on stage by three quarters of Singing Adams to play a slowed down version of ‘1961’ (rehearsed for first time together in the sound-check apparently) and then a delightfully jangly version of Camper Van Beethoven’s ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’. From the pathos of failed relationships and bitter experiences to joyously uplifting covers in little under 30 minutes. Why Deer Park is not a bigger noise remains a mystery to me.

If Mark Grassick was fresh-faced and freshly pressed, the checked shirts of Singing Adams looked a little more crumpled, a little more careworn. The sign of a band coming to the end of a tour (“we’ve done twelve gigs in eight days”)? Or just the world-weariness that sometimes attaches itself to the songs of Steven Adams as with tonight’s bitter-sweet opener ‘The Old Days’? This poignant tale of the midlife hipster trying to mix it the “beautiful young people” drew a particularly high arched eyebrow from wry Mr Adams at this line (let’s just say most of tonight’s crowd were not in the first flush of youth). However for all its initial maudlin and mid-paced jangle, the final section of the song finished with an emphatic thump that shook off any signs of tiredness. And this was the same for rest of the evening with the songs from debut album “Everybody Friends Now” feeling as crisp and fresh as on record but given added punch: ‘Injured Party’ with (as requested) unrestrained whoops of joy from the audience and “our newest song” ‘Mint Tea’ were particularly intense and pacy.

The second half of the set saw the band settle into some easy-going showmanship too – getting those standing at the front to trade chants with the seated rear of the Music Room or putting on the giant mirror-ball and singing unrequited love song “Giving It All Away” to crowd member Megan (her sister was at the Leeds gigs the night before and put in the request). Then after final song (the glorious tribute to Norwegian songwriter ‘St Thomas’), Steven Adams and acoustic guitar went walkabout through the crowd to sing Pete Seeger’s ‘Passing Through’ with the band remaining on stage to provide harmonies and percussion from stage. Nothing exceptional or ground-breaking about these moments but they were done with such a casual but good-humoured bonhomie it created in instant sense of warm community and happiness.

Tonight was the third time I’ve seen Singing Adams and the first in which I didn’t even think about the Broken Family Band once. Did I say Singing Adams looked tired and at the end of their tour? Far from it. This felt like a band invigorated and a group who are only just starting to get up a real head of steam.

The Set List:

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