In his latest live music review, local music enthusiast and drummer Baz Brehaut was at PingQuay to review Grace Athena, The Erberts and Eloise Fabbri.
PingQuay was jam packed last weekend with an air of expectation. The Erberts and Eloise Fabbri were the main events in a line-up the crowd was anxious to see. Both bands were ably supported by Grace Athena.
The bar changes character in chameleon-like fashion, from a jazz café one moment to a 1960s cavern the next. Readers old enough to remember the Cellar Club would no doubt feel a sense of déjà vu if they dropped in.
With Callum Aiken on the sound desk, Grace Athena took to the stage.
Pictured: Grace Athena.
She sang a mix of her own material along with a few covers, including Neil Young's Harvest Moon - a deceptively ambitious tune as it relies on a very distinctive harmonic hook, but Grace's version worked well. She also played Sugar Man by South African artists Rodriguez.
I can’t pretend - I had to ‘Google’ Sugar Man. I'm glad I did. There’s always more music out there to be discovered.
At one point, Grace was competing with the bustle of a growing crowd that eventually settled to hear her play. It's always good to see solo artists perform their own material. It can’t be easy revealing yourself in the musical sense; artists must at times feel vulnerable. Grace’s thoughtful set was well received.
The Erberts opened with a blinder of a track: it was new wave-sounding, Ramones-esque, almost punk, but certainly a tune that could have come from a late 1970s new wave compilation tape.
Pictured: The Erberts (l to r): Dan Guibert, Kieran Smale, Tom Erskine and Joe Le Long.
The band is driven by Kieran Smale's drumming - his minimal, low-slung kit, his baggy sounding floor tom and his snare that can sound like a bag of spanners being dropped on broken glass or as tight as a hammer on an anvil when it suits.
The combination of Joe Le Long on bass and Kieran on drums ensures the band have the foundation to play a varied set with many influences. They are able to drift off at a tangent and return.
Dan Guilbert fronts the band on vocals. Looking a little (just a little) like Jarvis Cocker, he delivers quirky, ironic, cheeky, playful lyrics that bring to mind The Kinks, The Faces or even Squeeze. The band were clearly having fun.
Tom Erskine’s guitar playing and at times liberal use of his wah-wah pedal hint at where the band would want to take things if time allowed. Imagine if The Specials were raised by The Allman Brothers and then raised on Sark - that’s the sound and feel I get from The Erberts.
The Erberts set list sounds like a window on their world - and therefore on yours too. Tracks such as Half Past Dead, the singalong Down Drinking At The Bar and Graveyard were belted out to a crowd now huddled around the ‘stage’.
As the applause died away, a quick change of set up was needed before Eloise Fabbri came on. The changeover was made a little easier as both Kieran and Joe play in Eloise’s outfit. For clarity, I did approach Eloise and ask what her band were called. I’m told they are Eloise Fabbri & Her Big Bad Washing Machines.
Pictured: Eloise Fabbri and Joe Le Long.
I’ve seen Eloise sing with Le Jazz Accord at PingQuay and on backing vocals for The Nightmares at the Dog House, but this was essentially her thing. Eloise was joined by Nick Coleman on guitar, Kieran on drums and Joe on bass. The chemistry between the drummer and bass player once again ensured things were kept tight.
I should imagine Eloise tires of comparisons with her vocal style and that of Amy Winehouse, but superficially that comparison can be made. The more I listened, the more I could hear traces of Beth Gibbons of Portishead, and when Eloise drops in a bit of a freestyle lyric you can hear Lisa Lopez of TLC. That said, Eloise has a unique, distinctive voice and sound all of her own.
The band produce a warm, velvet tide of music - at times soulful, certainly funky and most definitely danceable. The deep, Hammond-like tones of the keyboard and the guitar breaks from Nick give a more expansive sound - the guitar at times sounding like a second or third voice.
The appreciative crowd demanded an encore and got one. The band played the track Pressure for a second time and yet still left the stage with the crowd wanting more.
Keep your eyes peeled for you never know when The Machines will be playing in a laundromat near you.