Green Bohemia Unsigned Acoustic Night - Manchester Green Room

Programming unsigned, unknown and untested acoustic nights can be a fraught affair. With little pedigree amongst them, you're left with MySpace and demo tracks to help you stagger the acts to build up to your headliners.

But few amateur-night gigs can have left the audience with the feeling of the bolt being prematurely shot as was the case at Whitworth Street's indie arts venue "The Green Room". With entry being free, some forgiveness is in order. But more should be expected from one of Manchester's most popular unsigned nights.

Apologies are extended to Satellites and the headliner Steve Brown, who are not mentioned in this review. They perhaps would have made a decent fist of it. However, the evening was to be undone after a promising beginning by a number of increasingly tepid and at times uncomfortable to watch supporting players (with minor highlights).

Perhaps the harm was inadvertently and innocently done by the opener Kamal Arafa. Viz., he is the highlight of the evening, and almost everything was downhill from this strong start.

A likable blend of classical strings and kitschy acoustic folk-rock, he is well suited to filling the small vaulted mezzanine venue. Along with viola/violinists Rachel and Juliet, well-travelled Mancunian Kamal delivers honest and hummable slices of low-key modern life. A confident stage presence owing a little to his drama studies in Glasgow keeps the growing audience alert and eager. Channelling Simon & Garfunkel doing Arctic Monkeys covers, the slightly sneering vocal is kept on the right side of arrogance by a talent, charm and confidence no one else this evening comes close to.

Kamal Arafa picture: Martin Gardiner

This imaginative but criminally short set from his 4th home-made album "The Morning March" is agreeably inclusive, and the mid-song banter gets everyone enjoying themselves. There's a minor knowing Richard Digance feel to "When It Comes to Money", and that adds to the variety. The slight repetition of "Summer Days" is forgotten thanks to a lovely string accompaniment and a melodic charm that the Everley Brothers would not have been ashamed of. Ostensibly, this sounds like a performer working at his own pace towards his own goals, doing his own thing. Good work.

Little do the audience know that after being given such a glimpse of excellent softly-delivered hearty tunes they are soon to be let down badly.

The first in a number of under achieving, uninspiring, apologetic and unimaginative turns to appear is, ladies and gentlemen,
Trev Williams.

If not yet in the Oxford English dictionary, the expression "meh" is exemplified by dear old Trev. To say nothing of the Oasis "Masterplan" cover. We've all been dumped, yeah it's not great, but listening to the sound of someone else getting the heave-ho isn't often enjoyable. And this was no "Blood On The Tracks". An unmemorable set in almost every way, at least final song "All The Demons Have Gone" takes a crack at being genuine and ballsy. Credit where it's due, this was good and super-catchy. Listenable, confident and not so self-indulgent. Get over the bird and get working on more of these.

Rod Thomas ably and thankfully operates the brakes on the evening's descent, even putting it into reverse. Bright and personable with an acoustic guitar, one of those repeat pedals KT Tunstall uses, and a Roland keyboard for tapping out the beats. Nice folky sad songs with an optimistic feel lift the audience from their malaise, and the Damon Gough tweeterings on new single "Your Love Is a Tease" has feet tapping and smiles beaming.

Rod Thomas

The low-key Welshman capitalises on a friendly audience by getting away with halting the sampling of handclaps on "Good Coat" one verse in. Taking the balls-up in his stride, Rod is soon back strumming out this upbeat slow driver. On "As If", he just about manages to avoid outright mawkishness by sheer melodic likability. Sort of like if the Bangles were from Gwent.

Deserving of a wider audience, the appreciative Green Bohemia crowd are relieved to have been entertained.

After a slight break to change bands, we're delighted to hear "The Beta Band" on the PA. Underrated, and quite difficult to like, it's again good to hear a band doing what they want to do and pushing some kind of boundary.

All that is brought to an abrupt end by the appearance of 3-piece Phre The Eon. Plowing an already deep enough furrow of earnest downbeat rock from the comfort of their folding chairs. The most entertaining element of their set is undoubtedly the side-lined drummer shouting comedy abuse at them from the audience. And they forgot to bring any songs.

On the verge of leaving the venue on the balance of diminishing returns, one last chance is extended to the excellently named
Rebecca Rothwell.

This country-rocking folker has a nice line in sub-Beautiful South kitchen sinkers. With accompaniment from the biggest keyboard in Europe, stuck forever on "Electric Grand Piano". Nothing controversial, just doing the business. But business is a little slow. At times overly self indulgent cod-bluesy Rebecca at least capped her set with a more rock-out believable tune, "Once Upon A Time". Like she was taking some kind of risk and had warmed up by the end, it was the highlight. A self-referential segue into Buffalo Springfield's "For What's It's Worth" was a not unexpected ending to her set.

Green Bohemia

Kamal Arafa
Trev Williams
Rod Thomas
Rod Thomas at iTunes

Phre The Eon
Rebecca Rothwell

Last updated: 30/05/2018 05:25:59

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