In response to the continued support the Oxfam Music Store in the centre of Southampton received after being burgled they decided to throw a four-band concert in The Cellar as a thank you.
The folk three-piece that is Tenderlore kicked off the proceedings at the Oxfam gig that held host to four class acts, each with their own method of aurally pleasing the audience. Composed of Rob Kitney, Hayley McDonnell, and Olly Lewis, Tenderlore are a folk trio self-described as being a collaboration between three solo artists. This definitely shows with each member of the group being incredibly competent in whatever it is they are doing at any point on stage. Whether this is weaving a beautiful vocal harmony, constructing elaborate dovetailed lyrics that counterpoint quaintly, or playing their guitars (or glockenspiels) adroitly. Each song played by the trio had its place and nicely displayed the various influences each artist has. These three cats deserve to go places and have an incredible amount of untapped potential to expand instrumentally. I certainly hope they do.
Bel Esprit took to the stage next and greeted us with a stark contrast in tone, and a slightly discernible amount of swagger to boot. Something about this band rubbed me the wrong way. Not to say that the instrumentalists were lacking in skill, they weren’t, the lead guitarist in particular impressed me a fair bit with innovative riffs and licks to string songs together. The vocalist could use some work though, either he had an off gig or he needs to try out some different vocal ranges, and stop trying to be Lou Reed. I say that because I’m not sure whether it was intentional but from the first song (excluding the cover of Best of Friends by Palma Violets) I immediately got the impression that the band seemed to be infatuated with the former Warhol superstar. This is no bad thing; the Velvet Underground is probably one of the most commonly listed alternative rock band influences ever, but any band worth listening to today will keep them at just that, an influence. To be influenced by an act and succeed critically is to draw from an experience and build a technique or style that is singular on top of it, not to emulate it. I felt that this act relied a little too heavily on their influences to form their songs, both lyrically and instrumentally. This is my only gripe however; they most certainly know how to get a crowd moving and the energy flowing.
Next up was Happy Accidents. This act took to the stage with an undeniable amount of energy, which is a shame; because the way the sound was mixed there was treble everywhere, bouncing off the walls and penetrating ears. The midranges and lows almost became nonexistent which drowned out a supremely inventive bassist and made many of the lyrics being sung indiscernible. On the other hand this made the act appear full of cathartic angst, as if they were blowing off steam on stage and the effect was that their energy increased from piece to piece. This lent itself well to the drummer who, as well as regaling us with brilliant sea slug facts, was by far the most vibrant part of the band. The patterns were intricate yet so forceful and enthused that you didn’t care; you just wanted to break loose like a Canadian schoolgirl listening to Plumtree in the nineties. I didn’t for I am not a Canadian… Or a schoolgirl for that matter. These guys did not disappoint and I hope they throw out an EP as soon as possible.
The Sea Slugs were impeccable; I don’t think I have one disquiet thing to say about them. The instrumentation was flawless, the dynamic range, the push and pull, the seemingly discordant but undoubted beauty of that one segment in ‘Egbe Mio’ that instantly got me moving. At this point I stopped taking notes, this was in part due to my uncontrollable movement but also due to the fact that I was certain I would remember everything about their set. Everything from the sax solo that extended into the audience, the delightful guitar work, that absolutely sexy keyboard riff that permeates ‘Anxiety Prone’, and the assiduous percussion. Nothing in the ensemble was unnecessary and no aspect of the various timbre present outstayed their welcome. The act even threw in a piece from afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti for good measure. All in all, the Sea Slugs rounded out the night perfectly, I sincerely want to see more of them.