Another midweek gig at the Exeter Phoenix, I think after this show, it will have been 18 bands in 9 days, not bad going but it really has taken its toll on me, I have succumbed to the fact that I am no longer an 18 year old party animal and actually require at least 7 hours of sleep a night in order to function properly the next day! Enough of my ailments, I know, I should just ‘man up’ and ‘get some nuts’, I just thought I would share my hectic gig schedule with you in the faintest hope of some sympathy….no? I’ll move on!
I arrived at the venue and was surprised to see that it was pretty full already, the doors had yet to open so everyone had congregated around the bar area waiting for the evening’s entertainment to start. There were 3 acts on this evening, Chiyoda Ku, Mammal Hands and lastly, Gogo Penguin. I had heard of the opening act, never heard of the middle act and am well aware of Gogo Penguin having interviewed them a while back for our ‘Introducing’ section of the site
Chiyoda Ku is an Exeter based 3 piece consisting of Charlie Barnes, Toby Green and Callum Oak, they have shared stages with the likes of 65daysofstatic, Public Service Broadcasting and The Virginmarys amongst others and often enjoy playing outside of the Exeter area where they feel their music is more appreciated. They played a 6 song set including some very intricate pieces that set out on a nice melodic path before being hijacked by some real heavy vibes which just demonstrated their eclectic influences. ‘Someone Somewhere Knows What You’re Doing’ featured some brilliant percussion and bass work and a very technical hand clapping sequence midway through the track that would have had the audience completely flummoxed if they were asked to join in! A loop pedal was used in a later song that allowed Charlie to play over with what I think was an e-bow? Their penultimate track was very stop/start, not in a bad way, instead in a way that demonstrated their impeccable timing and communication whilst on stage. They ended up with a great track called ‘Stop Watching TV, You’re Being Conditioned’, which Charlie explained was written to warn people of the harm of watching trash TV talent shows and Top Gear (which gained a small cheer!).
This fine trio of young men from Exeter reminded me of MUSE in their early days (if they played more jazzy tracks), if you get chance to see them on their current tour, please make every effort to do so, they’re a breath of fresh air and you’ll be so glad you were there to take it all in!
Chiyoda Ku are on tour at the moment, dates/venues below;
March 26th – Maguire’s Pizza Bar – Liverpool
March 27th – JT Soar – Nottingham
March 28th – Dulcimer – Manchester
March 29th – The Scene – Lincoln
Find out all about the band at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ChiyodaKuBand
The next act on stage were another 3 piece called Mammal Hands, formed in 2012 whilst busking in Norwich, Jordan and Nick Smart (saxophones & Piano) joined forces with Jesse Barrett (drums) top make sweet music together. They draw influence from Steve Reich, Bonobo, Pharoah Sanders and The Cinematic Orchestra and fuse elements of North Indian and African music to produce some beautiful sounds. They evoke a range of moods from delicate and subtle to explosive and frantic, all encapsulated in an orderly approach.
I’ve seen a few jazzy 3 piece acts over the past few days and Mammal Hands output was along the more silkier of the spectrum, I found this to be very likeable, warm, soothing even but with occasional bursts of energy that jolted you and kept you in touch with their music. Jordan played some stunning sax parts and these really added to the drums and piano. Jesse really called upon his experiences of studying with tabla maestro Sirish Kumar and bought some very intricate time signatures and rhythmic patterns, not so widely heard in the Western world. All in all, an enjoyable performance from 3 guys who are well on their way to mastering their craft, catch them now as in a couple of years, they’re going to be hot property in the jazz world and I doubt they’ll still be playing smaller, more intimate venues.
These guys are touring from early April, dates and venues below;
April 8th – The Eagle Inn – Manchester
April 9th – Stanford Arms – Lowestoft
April 26th – Jazz East (The Fludyers) – Felixstowe
May 13th – The Lescar – Sheffield
May 17th – Arts Centre – Norwich
August 7th – Mugstock – Mugdock Country Park
Keep up to date with other happenings at the website mammalhands.com
So, onto the final act of the evening, the one that the near capacity crowd had come to see, the one and only Gogo Penguin....
I was furiously scribbling notes whilst they played and having read them back this evening, I seem to have written the same thing over and over, mainly about the sheer quality of the music, every element of their output was awesome, from the delicate piano to the soft, warm, roundedness of the double bass and the persistent rhythm of the drums, near perfection. I've always had a soft spot for jazz related music, be it traditional, fusion or experimental, these guys took things to a whole new level, think of electronica/jazz/drum n' bass and you're more on the right lines of what we were hearing!
Their tracks ranged from beautiful piano led melodies with subtle bass and drums in the background, to more grander offerings where the beat was more urgent and the bass more frantic, allowing the piano to blend beautifully. Bassist Nick Blacka was using a bow to play his bass as well as fingers, this gave the instrument a whole new outlook and provided some very haunting, softer notes during the quieter moments of their songs.
Rob Turner (drums) didn't even look to be breaking a sweat and some of the patterns he was laying down would have had me in hospital, he is such a talented performer, it looked like he was playing on auto pilot, the sounds just came from out of nowhere, truly mesmerising to watch.
Highlights of the evening for me (aside from them playing a couple of brand new tracks that are yet to be named) included 'Garden Dog Barbecue' featuring some of the fastest and maddest bass playing I have ever witnessed (on a double bass) and the beautifully laid back and mellow sounds of their final track 'Hopopono', something you could easily lie back to, close your eyes and just drift off....
Gogo Penguin are an amazing live act, you have to see it to believe that their live work is on par with their recorded material, which for an electronica/acoustic/jazz act, is very hard to achieve.
As expected, the guys are touring relentlessly throughout 2015, you can check venue and dates HERE If I were based in London, I would strongly recommend heading down to Camden to see them at the KOKO on June 12th....