Monday, January 30, 2012


Tonight’s gig was not a planned outing. Meeting an old friend for a drink turned into seeing a sold out gig thanks to a kindly promoter who secured me the only returned ticket. The fact it was sold out appeared at first to be down to the local support for Butcher The Bar. The five piece led by Joel Nicholson play a mellow Americana-tinged folk-pop, gentle strums and plaintive grooves with soft, mild-mannered vocals. Touches of clarinet, miniature xylophone, some fantastic drumming and a song based on a William Blake poem all sound more interesting than it was. Very pleasant on the ear but I found it all a bit too mild-mannered and forgettable on first encounter.

Lead guitar was played by Matt from Walton Hesse who to me are a much more interesting proposition. Which shows how much I know. Butcher the Bar have just finished a European jaunt supporting Death Cab For Cutie and Walton Hesse remain unsigned and without an official release. A damn shame.

The start to the set by French four-piece Fránçois and the Atlas Mountains was delayed by the rigging up of the copious amounts of kit. The five-piece were dressed in outfits lost somewhere between beach casual and prison scrubs. As another lost moment passes chasing faulty leads, things do not look promising. Following the gentle palate-teasing opening of ‘Azrou Tune’ however things swiftly pick up. The band - two drummers, two banks of keyboards and Monsieur F. Marry on vocals and guitar (although several instrument changes occur) - deliver waves of shimmering polyrhythmic joy in their “songs of the seaside and the desert” accompanied by a vast array of exotic percussion.

As the set progresses programmed beats are added into the mix, locking the band into hypnotic and steadily more intense grooves. For ‘La Vie Dure’ Fránçois goes walk about in the crowd, at other times the (shifting) frontline of players indulge in synchronised arm lifts and dance moves. It is both heavily choreographed but also loose-limbed and spontaneous, Fránçois at times adopting an intense Ian Curtis stare, at others swaying with double-jointed robotic abandon. The slinky Gallic grooves, with hints of North and West African rhythms, were subtle but deeply infectious.

After a seven song set the band dispense with the ritual of walking off stage and returning to play a three song encore. Still entrancing it didn't match the rapture of the second half of the main set but I’m converted. Vive la République.

The Set List:

Azrou Tune
Les Plus Beaux
Edge of Town
City Kiss
La Vie Dure
Way To Forget
Slow Love
Do You Want To Dance
Be Water
Buried Treasures

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