Live Review: Communion band showcase featuring Catfish and the Bottlemen, Die Mason Die, Siblings and Jamie Parisio at London Notting Hill Arts Club – 3rd March 2013
If, like TGTF, one finds oneself at a loose end in London on the evening of the first Sunday of the month, then there’s only one place to be. Communion is a monthly new music showcase held at the subterranean sweatbox of the Notting Hill Arts Club, which has hosted many a band early in their meteoric rise to fame. All but one performer tonight were new to TGTF, which begs the question: which of them will continue to grace these pages, and which will vanish into the musical ether with nary a footnote in the history books?
By coincidence, fellow North-Easter and recent review sunject at Roundhouse Rising Amy Holford (@Holfyy) is playing tonight, although her set has been and gone before TGTF arrives. Despite suffering an unknown malaise, her first proper London set is apparently well-received, her down-to-Earth Geordie charm no doubt a refreshing change from the usual London aloofness. Jamie Parisio (@j_parisio) offers up a pastoral, country-tinged set of acoustic numbers which hovers dangerously close to the dreadful banality of the recent plastic-folk revival. ‘Tangles Never Tire’ from recent EP You Promised The Sea sets the tone – downtempo, layered harmony vocals, led by acoustic guitar, thumpy drums and Parisio’s gentle, breathy vocals. All very nice, but as these pages attest, your correspondent is increasingly bored by earnest singer-songwriters these days. There’s so many of them! Join the queue, Jamie.
Siblings (@siblingstweet) liven things up a bit. The four Derbyshire lads all line up in a democratic row, lead singer bashing a minimalist drumkit, four-part harmonies sweetly swelling over guitar and banjo. Their material consists of admirably upbeat, deceptively simple ditties such as recent single ‘Colours’ – a fluffy, uplifting meringue of a song, jolly banjo and falsetto harmonies skipping weightlessly from one triumphant refrain to the next. Soused in Simon and Garfunkel with a seasoning of Givers, such Carib-jangle optimism comes as a refreshing, feel-good blast: a coble of hope in a sea of faux, privileged despair.
Like dogs and their owners, can a similarity be discerned between the character of a band and that of their fans? If so, Die Mason Die (@DieMasonDie) are vain, drunken boors, obsessed with papping themselves in the piercing and unflattering light of a thousand cameraphones. Yes, TGTF finds itself trapped behind a group of who at first appear to be Die Mason Die’s biggest fans – they know the musicians’ names and whoop loudly at the end of every song, even stretching to an impromptu “Happy birthday to Stefan,” at one point. Yet when the music is playing they appear completely disinterested, ignorantly braying meaningless self-congratulatory platitudes at each other, to the detriment of anyone who has actually turned up – apparently somewhat unfashionably – to listen to some music.
Eventually TGTF is forced to push as far towards the front as is necessary for the PA to drown out the miscreants: surprisingly far forward, it turns out. Such distractions are a shame, because when the music is properly audible, it becomes apparent that Die Mason Die are a very competent band led by the startling voice of Samuel Mason, whose timbre falls somewhere between the growl of a female lioness whose cubs are being threatened by a pack of ravenous hyenas, and the roar of a nearby nuclear explosion. In other words, pretty powerful stuff. The songs themselves run the gamut between down tempo, reverb-heavy dirges and slightly more uptempo, reverb-heavy dirges, high on atmospherics and mystical musings. The band are good, but the star here is Mason himself: with that astonishing voice and world-weary temperament, one gets the impression that there are many good things to come from him.
After a nouvelle-cuisine undercard of mouthwatering but delicate morsels, to wrap up the night we have the counterpoint in Catfish and the Bottlemen (@TheBottlemen). There’s something of Spinal Tap about them – the superbly-named Van McCann shakes his mop-top as if to prove it’s not a toupée, all the guitars are white, the musicians dressed in black, and they rock out. Hard. The music is noisy, relentless and infused with a youthful jollity that makes their live show such a thrilling watch. There’s flashes of Libertines decadence and Alex Turner‘s provincial sneer, but Catfish and the Bottlemen’s true passion is clearly the rockier side of the road, so there’s a splash of early Strokes naïveté mixed in with a penchant for widescreen guitars which could be stolen from any number of stadium rock bands from the last decade or so.
They’ve got nearly everything covered – great frontman, distinctive look, exciting live show – the only thing that needs a bit of work is the songwriting. The songs can sound a little too similar, the arrangements a little too stop-start formulaic, to really make the most of the potential of the performers. The humdrum production and dated effects of The Beautiful Decay EP doesn’t do them any favours, either. But a track like ‘Tyrants’ prove that the band can deliver on their potential: it shifts through several gears, at each stage ticking the relevant box of emotion and instrumentation. Anyone pondering the future of British guitar music should add Catfish and the Bottlemen to the list.