Another account rather than a proper review, and another thrilling evening I'm pleased to report. My new band Correspondent played their second ever gig (albeit a gig that felt like the first in a really dedicated music venue) at The Windmill, Brixton last night. The Windmill remains one of my favourite London pub venues - it's a place where the promoters and DJs seem to actually have knowledge of music, good taste, and common sense. It's one of the rare places where they manage to put together a diverse line-up of acts that doesn't feel uncomfortable or inappropriate.
Starting off tonight were Ironpaw, two young guys from Kansas who sadly promised a little more than they delivered. With ukelelees, and guitar-case percussion, they looked endearingly ramshackle. They had some pleasant, country-tinged chord sequences (although I did indeed realise, in the middle of Correpondent's performance as I predicted I would, that the song they blatantly plagiarised was the not entirely credible 'Julia' by Chris Rea, so not an indie or country track at all!). These sat somewhat uncomfortably with shouty, chanty vocals that seemed designed more for the football terrace than an intimate pub venue. Still, impressive that they travelled all this way to play a clutch of shows in London - and there may be enough quirkiness in their sound for them to build on.
I was up next with Correspondent, and this seemed an altogether more confident and professional performance than our debut. It also felt enjoyable and entertaining - whereas I felt the first airing of the same set of songs a few weeks ago might have come across as a little po-faced. Various people remarked that the difference between this band and Unit can be summed up in that lyrically, Jeremy Warmsley likes to write about girls, whereas Brendan from Unit likes to write about doing nothing (a little unfair, perhaps - he does occasionally engage with the outside world!) and musically, Unit are a bit all-over-the-shop, whereas Correspondent are more straight ahead indie. I certainly accept the latter point (especially as I don't think it was intended as a criticism). I had been concerned that Correspondent might have been a lot less original a prospect than we had hoped, but I now feel comfortable that we are performing good quality songs with energy and conviction, which is more than enough. Much like Unit, however, we need to improve our engagement with the audience - some proper song titles might be a good starting point! We should be doing some recording soon, so watch this space...
Up next were another American act, this time all the way from Salt Lake City came Will Sartain. I'm not sure if this was a solo singer-songwriter and band, or if that was the name of the band (remember the 1980s confusion over the band called Danny Wilson?) but I can be sure that they were really rather good. The first few songs had jaunty rhythms and quirky vocals that reminded me a little of Ben Folds Five, and they performed with remarkable gusto. Each song seemed to be a mini-epic, with intricate twisting structures and several compelling melodies. Towards the end, it all started to get a little samey - but with their slight hints of psychedelia, classic pop and American indie, these guys had melded together a disparate set of influences with real success.
The headline act were some really nice guys from Switzerland, with the most refreshingly un-arsey drummer I've ever met (he let me use his rather substantial collection of cymbals, including a colossal China which I very much enjoyed crashing during Correspondent's set). Sadly, it was all running a bit late and I needed to get home by this stage - they seemed a bit dark and proggy, with intriguing instrumentation, including electronics, but I can't really pass a useful judgement from the soundcheck and the first song.