The Horse
Live (Last Exit / Fran Lazarski / Dr Joel / Russell Edmonds Band)

Well you’d be hard pressed to arrange a more eclectic line up of bands for a Sunday night gig, but Community Action Events (who donate all the cash to local charities like Scratch and Hampshire Autistic Society) actually seem to know exactly what their doing when they put together acoustic grunge, soulful folk, light-hearted piano, shimmering indie and pop rock on one interesting bill.

The first band on, the one-week-old Last Exit, were an enigma in themselves. Playing tracks from the Lemonheads, Foo Fighters, and others, they replaced the almost-mandatory electric line up (and guitar pedal labelled ‘dirty, dirty fuzz’) with a bass player, guitar, vocal frontman, and a djembe wielding percussionist.

A further surprise followed on the heels of this line up as the songs were played with the same energy and vocal power that a full-on grunge band would use. The Billy Corgan vocal and creative skin-slapping did no harm and are likely contributors to the fact that the audience drew steadily closer to the stage.

Off stage though, an eerie social-warp occurred as people abandoned their tables to get closer, leaving jackets and handbags strewn across chairs like expensive ‘reserved’ signs. On any other day of the year, they would have been shoved to one side by the crowd of people that arrived after the migration, who stood eyeing the empty space with confused hesitation. Tonight, however, the ‘German towels’ were respected – even though no one returned to collect them until the very end.

This may well be due to the speed at which the change-over of acts was achieved. With the frantic percussion barely fading from our ears, Dark Poets vocalist Fran Lazarski was up and ready to go with a collection of plucked and strummed folk songs. The vocal was pure and brilliant and the guitar was used with a rare delicacy and tenderness.

Despite a brief nervous glance or two, there was certainly nothing in the set to indicate any lack of confidence was required. In fact, things were delivered with such unassuming modesty, you would have thought she’d never played in front of anyone before, except it was far too good!

Although it’s fair to say that events had been unfolding in an unpredictable manner, I was still unprepared for the bouncy up-beat piano tunes of Dr Joel. The music was a halfway house between the incidental disappearing clock of 1980s BBC schedules and Sir Paul McCartney and the vocal was quite a lot like Finlay Quaye, but the delivery was both entertaining and humorous.

Explaining that his set was Valentine-themed, Dr Joel slowly transformed the play-list from love to lust. The coming of age song ‘I am Human Viagra’, as you may well have guessed, fell in to the latter half of the set. Before Dr Joel finished up, the crowd had all roared along to the ravenous ‘Tiger Song’ and laughed along at the between-song patter.

With so many twists and turns to the night so far, when the Russell Edmonds Band took to the stage, I was fairly convinced that their outward indie appearance was about to be shattered by metal-detector led sonic experimentation or some other sudden wrench away from reality. However, what they had in store was interesting for another reason altogether. They were, putting it plainly, bloody good.

Indie, Powerpop, and Britpop were certainly influences here, with The Kinks popping a finger on the pulsing-fret of REBs sound. The vocal was deep and gravelly, the guitars were warm and toasty, and songs were top-notch. Tuneful solo’s, hooky melodies, and decent piano work were the order of the day and the only instrument I didn’t get along with was the tambourine. (Although, to be fair, I hate them unless they are used in extreme moderation like in The Beatles ‘Ticket to Ride’. Cowbells are worse and should be used with even more moderation; i.e. never.)

My favourite song in the set had the singer, a fair proportion of the crowd, and my good self crying ‘don’t forget me’, as the up-beat music took us to the top of a hill so high, we could see the sixties and the nineties at the same time. For those of you who thought tremolo was only used for The Smiths ‘How Soon Is Now’, the ending demonstrated a purpose with excellent impact.

REB ended with a real driving song with chunky guitars and a great vocal hook, which I hummed merrily as I tried to keep my footing on the ice-rink surface that was the gents toilet floor. Put simply if there was more music like this on the radio, there would be less road rage.

The last band on were the only band that didn’t shock, but this is only because of a moment of confusion on my part when the promoter announced that ‘the horse’ was up next. Wondering what kind of instrument a horse would play, I peered over the heads of the shorter-than-average crowd to see four blokes getting on stage. The mystery of The Horse was thus solved and the guitar, bass, drums, and saxophone line up, relegating itself to mildly interesting point (well, I had visions of a bongo-playing mule).

Their set started and ended with a slightly funky world-music sound that featured some show-stealing drumming, but the best part of the set was the bit in-between, which benefited from tighter musicianship and stronger songs. Sounding like a calmed down version of The Piranhas, the best of the bunch for The Horse was ‘Quicktip Roller’ with it’s syncopated saxophoney and quick-draw guitars.

The only way to sum up a night like this is to say that while there was little to unite these bands, the one thing they did have in common was the fact that they caught and held the attention of the crowd throughout the entire evening.

The next Community Action Events charity night is on 9th April at the Talking Heads, Southampton.

Written by Fenton on

Steve Fenton writes in our music, words, and culture categories. He was Editor in Chief for The Mag and covered live music for DV8 Magazine and Spill Magazine. He was often found in venues throughout the UK alongside ace-photographer, Mark Holloway. Steve is also a technical writer and programmer and writes gothic fiction. Steve studied Psychology at OSC, and Anarchy in the UK: A History of Punk from 1976-1978 at the University of Reading.

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