Guillemots - Roadhouse, Manchester
This was one of the many label showcase gigs taking place in Manchester as part of its annual In The City event. The Guillemots recently released their I Saw Such Thiings In My Sleep EP and can count as fans Radio 1's Jo Whiley, Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq. They showed enough talent in this small basement venue to suggest that they can go a lot further.
The support included The Immediate, a four-piece band who have supported The Magic Numbers at their Irish gigs and have a single out soon. Tonight, they struggled to win over the audience after a poor start, their vocal harmonies needing more rehearsal. Throughout the gig they regularly change instruments. According to their website they have a "penchant" for this as a way of refusing to be confined by traditional band roles. Fair enough. This could be seen as a sign of musical versatility or a sign that the band are not sure who is best at which instrument. The final line-up where the original drummer had become the singer was probably the strongest so perhaps they should stick with that for a whole gig.
Next, Bearsuit had one thing which the Immediate lacked; a sense of fun. They were frequent performers on the late john Peel's show. they have an unusual line-up including two keyboard players and occasional flute and trumpet. The lead singer's vocals were difficult to hear clearly, even when talking beween songs, but their songs featured a lot of complicated vocal arrangements involving whoops and screams. They left the audience feeling better than they were 40 minutes earlier.
Guillemots are a four-piece band: singer/keyboardist Fyfe Hutchins, percussionist Rican Caol, upright bassist Aristazabal Hawkes and guitarist MC Lord Magrao. On stage they look an odd bunch. The drummer was wearing a priestly robe and pork-pie hat; the guitarist was too shy to face the audience and was wrestling with his guitar like New Order's Peter Hook. Hutchins had his keyboards askew on to the audience, it works for Chris Martin, and demonstrated charm and wit between songs. Before a slow song he asked the audience not to talk but to imagine his pain. He go his wish for the audience to pay attention. Indeed the most memorable part was a solo performance with a battery operated Casio mini keyboard and no amplification. It takes a great deal of confidence to stand before a crowd to perform so nakedly (just think of the X-factor) and he did it superbly.
The recent single sounds rather like Dexy's Midnight Runners but in a live setting the band do not sound like that. They are polished musicians and have an experimental jazz/electronica influence mixed with bluesy singer. At times their music can be desribed as "challenging" but they have other songs with radio appeal, notably Who Left The Lights On Baby?
They are due to appear with Tom Vek later this month and then are going to support Rufus Wainwright as he tours the UK in November and December. This will expose Guillemots to an audience who will appreciate their unique sound.