Parastatic at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on 2nd April 2015

IMG_5277 I arrived early for the gig and was greeted at the door by a man with a substantial greying beard. It was Parastatic’s frontman Neil Caffrey, who normally sports a clean shaven or at most a stubbly chin. I should have realised at this point that the night would be one of dramatic transformation.

The opener Charles Dexter-Ward is a talented chap but not really my cup of tea and a few around me were of the same mind. His programmed and processed music had a fair sized audience watching on in curiosity rather than in admiration. His short set was fairly self indulgent and there was no interaction with the crowd, no performance element.

Next up was Nano Kino which I was later to discover is a side project of Maximo Park guitarist Duncan Lloyd and features the hauntingly beautiful vocals of local lass Sarah Suri. The sound reminded me of 80’s indie darlings Lush – ‘cinematic bubblegum shoegaze pop’ © I really enjoyed their music and they have bags of potential but Suri’s nerves were very apparent and prevented her from engaging with the audience (a theme for the night emerging?) I’m not even sure that she truthfully engaged with the lyrics as she seemed somewhat detached. I gather that this was one of the bands first live outings and with more experience I’m sure Suri will blossom with confidence. The rest of the band strutted confidently and with killer tunes at their disposal it’s not hard to understand why they are beginning to attract the attention of music bloggers.

So, onto the headliners.

Three years ago I saw Parastatic at Cluny in Newcastle. They were then an all male three piece and I recall remarking to Neil Caffrey after that gig that I found their music enjoyable but was frustrated by their lack of performance. It was a bit like watching three guys jamming in a living room, with each occasionally nodding to the other and exchanging some words, seemingly about technical issues, but never once acknowledging the existence of their audience, let alone playing TO them. Given my thoughts on Charles-Dexter Ward and Nano Kino I was beginning to wonder if Parastatic were also going to serve up a rather introverted set.

I need not have been concerned. The transformation in this band since I last saw them is nothing short of miraculous. Suddenly there’s life, movement and a real sense of urgency and drive in the music. There seem to be several reasons for this change. Most notably Parastatic are now a three piece with a drummer, rather than a drum machine. This gives us something to watch, or to be more exact someone very watchable to watch because in new recruit Rachel Casey the band have an energetic and wildy enthusiastic drummer/vocalist whose performance on this night is nothing short of brilliant (albeit she later confided in me with one or two errors that I had not noticed). She also adds vocals on ‘I Am The One’ which goes down a storm with the now energised full house.

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Casey’s addition also seems to have energised original members Jon Garrard (guitar) and Neil Caffrey (guitar/keys/vocals) with Caffrey especially animated like I’ve never seen him before. At one stage near the end of the set he begins to hit the cymbals with his fist. I want him to hit merry hell out of them but he is typically restrained yet the fact that he did it at all is hugely symbolic of the greater confidence he feels in himself as a performer and it suits him well.

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I think there’s another reason for the change in Parastatic and that’s the quality of the music. The new album that this gig officially launched is a massive step forward for the band and rightfully it has received rave reviews including by me HERE. Emboldened by this Parastatic have grown in confidence and stature and have gone from being a good band to a great one. It’s time for everyone to take notice. Catch them live at their next local show.

Reviewer and Photographer: Russell Poad

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