So, there we were, another Monday night gig at the Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre in the heart of the city, it had been quite quiet on the live scene for a couple of weeks, I guess bands were cooling down after the hectic festival season prior to preparing themselves for a few weeks on the road, peddling their latest tuneful offerings. This was certainly the case for Teeside's Cattle & Cane who had released their debut album 'Home' in September to great reviews up and down the country, more about these guys later.
Being a Monday night, the venue wasn't enforcing a strict 'one in one out' policy obn the door but it was good to see a healthy throng of fans lining up to enter the auditorium when the doors finally opened.
Opening up proceedings were a band from London called TORS who have links with Exeter (two of the members originate from there). I was unsure what to expect as this young and vibrant looking 5 piece took to the stage, the keyboard player and guitarist were donning hats akin to the style that James Bay has permanently welded to his noggin whilst the bass player was sporting a fine Country & Western looking black shirt complete with boot lace tie, I will add that none of them were wearing cowboy boots.....
They launched into their set with gusto, their vocal harmonies bringing back memories of early Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons coupled with their delightful blend of indie folk captivated the audience. Their new material sounded epic, somewhat 'fuller' than their other songs, you could almost hear tinges of Coldplay seeping out of their arrangements, the stadium sized choruses being held back by the fact that their fanbase has not yet reached optimum levels but when it does....BOOM, these guys are going to be all across the music press. I'd love to see them play a larger stage at an outdoor festival next summer as I think they'd go down a storm.
Highlights for me were certainly the nerw tracks that they had only played a few times before, 'Rabbit Hole' with its opening keys and pounding bass drum, 'Used To Be So Kind' really reminded me of a country styled version of something that Chris Martin et al may have put out had they swung that way.
I chatted briefly to the keyboard player (who stole my bottle of water...) after the show and he said that they were looking forward to playing again with C&C at The Islington pub in London the night after the Exeter show, I wished him luck and said how much I enjoyed their performance, he smiled and gave me a copy of their EP which I will be reviewing in more detail later on....
After a short break and a rearrange on-stage, the lights dipped and on walked the main act. Hailing from Teeside (oop North) and made up of 4 siblings (3 brothers and a sister), they reminded me of a more 'rugged' version of The Corrs, rather than 3 glamourous sisters making up 75% of the band, we had 3 strapping, bearded brothers (Joseph, Fran & Vin Hammill), clearly not nearly as appealing as The 'Beautiful' Corrs but with the addition of sister Helen, the balance was restored nicely, finishing off the set was (the outsider) Tom Chapman on drums.
From the get go, it was apparant that these guys could sing, their tight vocal harmonies bringing back memories of seeing The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons in their kindergarten days. This was the first time they had ever been so far South as Exeter and in between songs, they asked the audience what there was to do in the city, shouts of 'nothing' and 'go to the pub' were offered much to their amusement.
They introduced a track as one that the ill fated News of the World made 'Track of the Week' just prior to closing down so I hope that my review doesn't cause me to have to close my site, fingers crossed I haven't crossed any lines or delivered any 'low blows'.... They did add "God help any other papers who choose to review us" prior to bursting into an evil cackle.
They sung of a friend they lost in a car accident years ago, Joseph's tender vocals, expert finger picking and the fact that the track was played completely acoustically provided a proper spellbinding moment, you know the ones, where could hear a pin drop, well, it was one of them and it was amazing! Joseph later introduced the band and mentioned the 6th member (John) who is something of an unsung hero, spending most of his time behind the mixing desk and generally making everything happen, he and Joseph had been sharing a bed until the arrival of John's girlfriend, putting an end to those shenanigans once and for all!
All in all, it was a great show, it was a shame that the auditorium wasn't fuller as they deserved to be heard by a lot more people, I guess in a way, it was a treat to see them in such an intimate environment as the way they are going right now, there won't be many more chances to do this. Looking at their tour dates, nearly half had completely sold out so Exeter, think yourself lucky that you've seen such a coveted act before they start having to play much larger arenas to satisfy the audiences.
Their debut album 'Home' is available now from all good record stores (should there be any left) failing that, I'm sure you can pick up a copy from their website or online retailers such as Amazon and the like.
Words by Steve Muscutt
Photography by Julian Baird