It’s a miserable windy night foreshadowing Autumn’s arrival, I’ve had a guff day at work, I’m bored, I’m tired, and my car keys are weighing heavily in my pocket as a stark reminder of the coke I’m drinking in place of the beer I badly want. I’m too early for the venue doors, the tail end of the pub quiz is rattling in my brain and I don’t like the hipster chic decor of Nice ‘N’ Sleazy’s.
Basically, I’m not in the mood for a gig tonight, especially a solo acoustic night which often can be hit and miss depending on who’s playing.
What keeps me here is the pedigree of two of tonight’s performers, Messrs Dave McPherson and Marc Halls, most likely better known by most for their respective bands InMe and Fei Comodo. I’ve covered both on the site extensively in the past and so despite my ambivalence for the autumnal evening I head downstairs shortly after the doors open and take up a nice position on a stool in the centre of the room. Curiously for a gig venue it’s not an open floor but littered with small tables and seating, its dodgy red lighting and pole placed centrally in front of the stage making it feel seedier than it’s probably meant to.
It’s not long before Rob Kilmurry takes his place on stage in the first of two support slots. The first minute of his opening salvo doesn’t exactly bring me out of my funk but all of a sudden he flips his acoustic on its back and begins to use it as percussion whilst periodically karate chopping the neck for “proper” guitar noise, all whilst belting out a powerful vocal; Now I’m interested. It’s a curious way to play a song but it’s a pretty cracking tune. He’s off to a good start and I’m warming quickly to it. After this he returns to a more traditional stance and plays a slew of catchy songs interspersed with bits of trickery. This might not be a waste of a night after all.
Next up is a mysterious chap introduced only as Benny. He’s pretty decent and despite having a few hitches with tuning here and there enjoys a few good tunes. His songs are purposely rougher and maybe folkier than Rob’s are, with hints of Billy Bragg; though that might be influenced in part by his scraggy appearance. It’s another enjoyable half hour in which he apologises for some songs seemingly have bits missing. “When I record there’s usually six of me”, he explains, pointing out his material committed for posterity is usually layered with different instruments. It’s all good though so that’s two for two and we haven’t reached a name off the poster yet.
One of the bonuses of an acoustic night is the short turnaround between acts as there’s not a lot of kit to clear before the next player is up. Marc Halls takes to the stage with an acoustic guitar and one of those “harmonica-on-a-dental-brace” things, and is assisted by two chums, one with an electric guitar and the other sitting on a box. It turns out to be a very musical box though, so it’s all good. Marc’s set is a mix of songs from his four albums/EPs all of which are instantly enjoyable, his voice is light and airy perfectly suited to his bluesy folk style sprinkled with occasional loud passionate bursts though never threatening the howls from his Fei Comodo days. He’s a talented musician combining guitar, harp, and whistling to great effect and I’m really quite enjoying myself by this point. Then all of a sudden things take a dramatic turn for yours truly.
“A few weeks ago someone tweeted me asking if I did any Fei Comodo songs on my solo tours. If you’re here make yourself known”. I am here. I do indeed make myself known, quite happy it’s dark because I’m easily embarrassed and fully aware the denizens of the room are now looking directly at me. “Well I’m going to disappoint you” he says and I briefly think, “you bastard” before he points out he’s not playing ‘A Man Left Behind’ as I’d requested and would like to do ‘Break the Ice’ instead. “Would I be happy with that?”, he asks. Abso-fookin’-loutely I would. It’s a blinder of a song and I feel like it’s being played just for lil ‘ol me. I’m a happy chappy, a far cry from the miserable git that was skirting close to passing up the night entirely.
Last but certainly not least is Dave McPherson himself. A timid fellow, he takes to the stage quietly, says a gentle hello and begins to play, quickly demonstrating his mastery of his chosen weapon. In his musical arsenal are a myriad of tricks, some as simple as speed, some more complex like percussive use of the guitar’s body, beautiful echoing chimes, and deft fretwork on the instrument’s neck, but the most enthralling of the apparatus he his equipped with is the sheer power of his voice. The force of his vocal is demonstrated as he steps back three or four feet from the mic when at full power yet still fills the room. I do so enjoy InMe but when Dave’s voice is so bare and isolated it truly is a joy to behold.
The set isn’t without some incident though. He spends a little bit too long between songs frequently fiddling with tuning, citing the new strings on his battle-worn guitar as the cause. He’s a cheeky chappy sort of fellow but the impatience of the few hecklers in the crowd seemed to sit heavy on him as some of the exchanges were a little tetchier than I’ve seen in the past. So much time is wasted in fact that one of the venue’s staff points out he’s not got enough time to complete the three or four songs left and so he only manages two more, the last one somewhat marred by frequent interruptions by a couple of noisy buggers who don’t know the lyrics to the otherwise excellent ‘Faster the Chase’.
Interruptions aside, Dave McPherson is an unrecognised genius. Where some guitarists can fill stadiums with people hanging on to their every note, Dave seems to be happier on the small circuit playing intimate little venues like this dingy basement.
I wish him all the success in the world but I’m sort of glad too, because when he finishes I get to say thanks and shake his hand and say “See you next month” when InMe return to the city for their 20th anniversary tour. I also enjoy a chat with Marc Halls and say hi to all the other guys; you don’t get to do that in the Hydro.
And so I set off toward the home I so desperately craved a few hours ago, happy after all that I’ve got a the car because it’s got a heater in it. They say that music soothes even the savage beast, turns out it also cheers up the grumpiest of buggers.
Photos supplied by Alan Gray at akgphotos.com and Iain Mitchell.