Tyneside is fortunate to have a range of different music venues from the cavernous arena, through Sage and the City Hall to the pubs and clubs across the city. It seems to me that this has enabled local music venues and bands to thrive and grow in recent years so we now have a healthy live music scene. So it is with Bar Loco, a small funky venue close to St James’ Park that hosts live music several times through the week to enthusiastic punters.
Tonight we have a double bill with two trio’s, The Young Tamlyn, three young ‘uns who are a folk band with some interesting original songs and quirky covers playing their final gig, and their support band, Odds ‘n’ Ends a bunch of old-timers who play occasional gigs across Tyneside and Teeside playing a mix of original material penned by their talented song writer Steve Watson and some choice Bob Dylan covers.
The evening kicks off just after 8pm as Odds ‘n’ Ends jump into one of Steve’s original songs a cracking ‘Business as Usual’ which has Jesus returning and performing ‘occasional miracles’. It’s a cracking start with guitarist Mike Kirkup flicking out some interesting lead lines. They follow that with a nice arrangement of Dylan’s ‘Love Minus Zero (No Limit)’ with Mike on vocals and Steve on wailing Dylanesque harmonica. That’s followed by another Steve Watson song ‘Babylon’ that crackles along nicely with Mike dropping in a cheeky little blast of the ‘Layla’ riff. Mike’s rockabilly style guitar takes us through another Watson original ‘You’re Gonna Need Someone When I’m Gone’ with a great vocal from Steve and a fine harmonica solo. They end their short but funky set with a couple more Dylan songs ‘Knockin’ on Heavens Door’ (perhaps, as Kirkup tells us, not the most appropriate song for a 60th birthday party that they did on a recent gig) with the three players sharing vocals and middle man Ged Keillty holding the rhythm guitar down and delivering a nice vocal. Finally we get a rockin’ ‘All Along The Watchtower” that mixes Dylan’s original acoustic take and Hendrix’s electric cover with some fine lead guitar from Mike. Watch out for future gigs by these guys.
After a short break The Young Tamlyn, Dom Johnson (banjo, concertina, guitar and vocals), Josh Gellett (guitar, vocals) and Aidan Finden (mandolin, vocals), take the stage and launch into an unnamed instrumental drawing applause from the small but enthusiastic crowd. They follow that with a lovely cover of ‘Angel Band’ a Stanley Brothers song famously sung by Emmylou Harris at Johnny Cash’s funeral. Unusually the band often draw their covers from film soundtracks and they deliver a terrific version of ‘Rise’ from the film ‘In the Wild’ penned by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder. Aidan tells us that they recently played this at his mum’s wedding…aww…
Josh delivers a lovely original tune titled ‘A Balance of Porridge’ it’s a strange song with a quirky and original lyric beautifully delivered. The band are all accomplished musicians and it’s great to hear young musicians playing original folk songs in a way that you perhaps wouldn’t expect. That approach is typified by their next tune ‘Monster Under the Bed’ a dark tale of fear, dysfunctional families, ‘little Johnny full of dread’ and violence written by Dom and Josh. That’s smartly followed by Dom’s sea-shanty ‘Dead Man’s Feast’ during which twelve people are killed off and a neat little concertina refrain snakes through the song and the sounds of the sea are invoked by the concertina (you have to be there). The penultimate song in the first set is a Serbian song taught to the lads in Belgium by a Hungarian guy – eclectic or what? They close on a rousing cover of Billy Bragg’s ‘New England’ with great harmonies that would have had Billy green with envy.
The second set continues in much the same way drawing in eclectic covers and fine and interesting original songs. We kick off with ‘Down to the River to Pray’, another tune from the soundtrack of ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ and it’s a great cover with cracking harmonies and great playing from the band. Later we get ‘City of Refuge’ an excellent tune by Abigail Washburn sung by Dom with some cracking banjo playing. That’s immediately followed by ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ that Aidan describes as a ‘Gospel song we learned today – as all the best songs should be’. Then there’s a rearranged cover of The Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood’ a song that’s been covered to death but the lads breathe new life into it with their banjo and mandolin laced version. Aidan relates the take of the band playing the next tune,’Bedlam’, with 70 musicians at a European festival last summer that sounds like fun and draws laughter as Aidan asks us to try and picture the 70 musicians on stage with an excitable female vocalist. Dom and Josh deliver a lovely take of the Avett Brothers sad and poignant ‘Tear Down the House.’ Dom tells us that the Avett Brothers were one on the inspirations for him to take up the banjo. Things are starting to wind down and Josh gives us a lovely solo rendition of his song ‘Six Impossible Things Before Bedtime’ inspired by ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that, he tells us, was written from a small child’s point of view, it’s a great song too. They end the second set with a superb re-arranged version of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning 1959’, a song of motor-bikes and death sung with great passion and some humour by Dom with able vocal support from Josh and Aidan. They are drawn back for a one song encore ‘A Lady,’ a tremendous little song penned by Josh.
The three lads are smiling broadly as the crowd whoops and cheers. This is their last gig as they are all heading off in separate directions in the coming weeks but if they ever do come back together in the future make a point of getting out and and supporting young musicians and live music.
Reviewer: Greg Johnson
Photographer: Helen Pearson