Sitting in the library desperately trying to concentrate on an essay that’s frying your brain, only to look out the window and realise that at four o’clock it’s nearly dark, is not the best of feelings. In one of my many moments of turning to social media relief, I stumbled across a tweet advertising a gig that night at The BikeShed Theatre, featuring the likes of All We Are and support act The Livework Unit. On a whim I clicked onto the event page, hosted by Assemble, a Devon based music promoter that had until that point managed to evade my notice. In listening to and watching a rather good music video by All We Are (which you can check out above), I decided unequivocally that I WOULD get some friends together and go the gig as a reward for “slogging” it out on the freezing bottom floor of the library for five or so hours.
Part of the attraction of seeing a band that you discover on the day of the gig is that you arrive with little expectation. I was also pleasantly surprised, being a BikeShed virgin, with the venue itself. An independent theatre-come-performance space, bikes literally adorned the walls, and most impressively there were board games that anyone could pick up and play (cue an intense game of scrabble). True to The BikeShed’s theatrical focus, most of the audience sat down for the entirety of the gig.
First on the small stage was Totnes musician Simon Hampshire’s project The Livework Unit, featuring members of Kent band Yndi Halda and Devon-based Matthew & Me. The first thing that I’d have to say about this band is that they use plenty of pedals. Lots of them. Taking cues from post-rock such as Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, the band demonstrated a mastery of dynamics and stunned the room into silence with fluid, interlocking guitar melodies that benefitted from the reverb, chorus and whatever else they were channelled through. Texture is the main element, and loop pedals helped build the layers, as well as the addition of female vocals. Worthy of note is Simon’s extremely expressive yet vulnerable voice, which came across particularly well on single ‘The Night’. Besides the energetic ‘A Ghost’, the majority of the songs were laid-back and intricate. Whilst not for everyone, the band was the perfect opener for a Sunday night gig.
Following on from The Livework Unit was psych-pop headliner All We Are. Recently praised by the Guardian for their extremely funky single ‘Utmost Good’ and fresh from supporting Everything Everything, the band took confidently to the stage and quite literally grooved their way into the hearts of the crowd. Featuring a standing drummer playing tight, machine-like beats and a guitarist who pulled out shakers and tambourines, the band play a lo-fi blend of slow funk, pop melodies and trashy disco. Vocally, things were in falsetto territory, like “the Bee Gees on diazepam” as the band put it. The songs seemed to improve organically as the set went on with the members really locking together, particularly the bass and drums. Against the odds, All We Are manage to bring old-school funk and R&B into the 21st century, using pedals that replicated crunchy organ sounds as well as vintage sounding drum set. In other words, they are a band that your dad would probably like that you don’t have to feel any shred of embarrassment about. Currently holed up in a studio in the Welsh countryside, All We Are’s nostalgic vibes were perfect for a lazy Sunday night and are really worth checking out. Being honest, I still haven’t finished that essay.
by Joe Stewart, Razz Music Correspondent