Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Carousels & Limousines/Bite The Buffalo/The Bohemian Embassy/Morning Smoke - Live At Moles, Bath: June 10th 2013

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Some things never change and thankfully Moles is one of them. OK, it may of had a fresh lick of paint, but the floor is still reliably sticky and your phone, blissfully, looses signal as you head down the stairs. I'm here tonight for the album launch for Carousels & Limousines. This is a four-band bill and as it turns out there maybe something quite exciting that's been hiding and growing in the dark corners of Bath's clubs and pubs. In Moles tonight there is fervent talk of a buzz, something building in Bath in the last year or so. It's not a city known for its musical heritage, Van Morrison is a resident and Peter Gabriel's 'Real World' studios are a stone's throw away but the larger, less genteel city of Bristol a few miles away has so far overshadowed Bath's recent musical output, but on tonight's showing, Bath is rising to Bristol's recent challenge. The current luminaries of the Bath "scene" are The Family Rain (who are in the crowd tonight), Kill It Kid and The Heavy. On the surface these bands have little in common, scratch a little deeper, and what you do find is a passion for making rich, raw, passionate guitar-led music. And likewise tonight, these bands all have quite separate sounds from each other, but they all have a drive to make good, if not great music that is free of commercial constraints and pressures.

Openers tonight are Morning Smoke. These are a band very much in their infancy, with currently only a handful of shows under their skinny belts. Then Morning Smoke create a post-punk sound that belies there newness and provide excellent songs with touches of Joy Division and MBV skyscraping sounds, which embed into you and soon have you entranced. Singer Max McNulty briefly acknowledges the crowd, choosing instead the strength of the songs to speak for him. On this showing Morning Smoke are ones to watch and catch when they are near you. Next up The Bohemian Embassy update the Levellers' grebo sound and let you dance along in a hoedown skank that's always best enjoyed with your arms wrapped around your best mate next to you. Live they are fun and engaging, I imagine that they bring the good times everywhere they play.

Bite The Buffalo are the final support, and once their set is finished, for which you would of happily paid to see alone, you are left worrying slightly if the headliners can match up to Bite The Buffalo. Bite The Buffalo are a sibling duo of a drummer and guitarist. There is a rather splendid beard in the mix, and they play raw, earthy, yet irresistible blues-based rock. So far, yes, so Black Keys. But then if Bite The Buffalo surfaced ten years ago, it would of been to the sound of a thousand White Stripes comparisons, in as much as Bite The Buffalo use the same cornerstones of blues and early rock, with flashes of psychedelia. They play with such fervor and commitment that they are outstanding, and declaims any lazy comparisons. Closer to the loose grooves of the beautiful Deap Vally and Two Gallants. These songs gloriously pound you with their unstoppable groove. Akin to early Kings Of Leon, always giving you a hook to happily draw you in. It turns out that they are playing in my city in a few weeks. I will not miss them, you shouldn't either.

And so to tonight's headliners. Carousels & Limousines. If they had any misgivings following Bite The Buffalo, they certainly didn't show it. On a performance like tonight, you would hope that this will be an increasingly rare show for them, as the stage at Moles is not only physically too small for the expanded four-piece (live a third guitarist and keys player enriches them), but the sound they make is built for much bigger spaces. Lead singer Sam Gotley offstage is a warm, mellow guy, but it transpires that he is tonight's secret weapon. Gotley posses a strong, vibrant voice, he also exudes a rare star quality. That's not to say he's all Bono shiny-shoe-stomping through the crowd, rather his is in possession of a natural charisma, as if his DNA was altered to make the stage his natural habitat. Similarly to the late Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, Gotley imbibes the songs with a vulnerability and charm and raises a toast when needed. This is not to detract from the other members, and in bassist Finn McNulty, Gotley has found his perfect sparring partner. These two act as a natural focus on stage, but then if the songs weren't so good,they wouldn't be here at all.

This gig was always going to have the celebratory edge and its a homecoming to boot, and from the off, Carousels & Limousines were not going to let us down tonight. 'One And Only' roars past and debut single '17's' is an early highlight, showcasing their perfectly-crafted anthems. '17's'' chorus is made for a crowd to sing back, as is the stadium-tinged 'I'll Run'. Then the band show their true potential with a simply epic version of 'Greasy Hands'. Live it climaxes in some ragged glory sparring between the band, but is held within it's structure by Gotley. The band are wearing slightly with them being deemed as having an "American" sound, and I would not particularly disagree on hearing the album. But live, and with a coup de grĂ¢ce that 'Greasy Hands' is, Carousels & Limousines show themselves to have the potential to be heirs apparent of British rock. Not your Def Leppards, but The Faces, The Who, Free through to Stereophonics and Primal Scream. The two new tracks slide effortlessly into the set, and the band lead us through 'Country Soul' and another highlight of the set 'Maria'. Then the band bow out in true style with an inspired version of 'Sympathy For The Devil'. Ushered in on a 'Screamdelica' beat, both the band and crowd simply get lost in the moment as it all ends with Gotley thanking us as the stage is invaded. Here's to next time.

Bristol.... your turn.

Carousels & Limousines' website

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