Regardless of the long day I had spent at work – eleven hours of students and parents clawing for my attention – I was going to attend this week’s Sesh. LIFE were headlining, and if the long night killed me then, at the very least, I could say that I was able to love LIFE until I took my last breath. Their last gig of the year, I was worried that my scrambled brain would not do them justice, and so took on the role of fan rather than reviewer, merely acting on behalf of Browse’s Twitter page for updates.
Having dosed myself up with flu medicines, I had survived Parents Evening, and in less than an hour I had refreshed myself enough to hop into the taxi which would take me to The Polar Bear. This bar, with its small decorated beer garden and stages directly next to the men’s bogs, is becoming a favourite haunt of mine. I don’t visit regularly as such, but if given the option, I’ll meet friends or colleagues there for a drink and a chat.
A night of music will easily draw me out into the cold, and the thought of pleasant company makes the prospect all the more delightful. I was venturing out alone, knowing that I would be able to meet up with Paul Newbon, who has recently joined the Browse team and who I also met at a LIFE gig. Greeted by the smiling face of Dom Abbott, of Black Delta Movement, at the bar, I ordered my drink and had a quick chat. The bar was already quite busy, but I found Paul seated next to family members of Mez and Mick from LIFE. Thinking about it now, I realise how rude I was to have recognised them and not introduced myself – apologies mum and dad of LIFE; please blame it on my being terribly unwell and scatter-brained.
From behind his booth, Mak announced the first artist. Mike Wright, formerly of Bonnitts, took to the stage as just he and his guitar. Playing three melancholy songs, he captivated the scattered audience. Yes there was chatter, yes people still ordered their drinks, but in our booth we watched intently. Paul returned with a brief review: “That was jolly good.” (That’s why he does the snaps, and I do the writing.) He performed with the simplistic beauty of vocals and instrument, drawing those of us who listened intently in with every word.
Laurel Canyons remind of La Bête Blooms – not vocally, but with their style. A casual look but a powerful performance. Opening with an instrumental track, I wasn’t really sure whether I wanted them to bring the vocals in. It was so aggressively beautiful, that I feared vocals would distort the sound. Fortunately, just like Dan Mawer’s coarse melodies, Jake Cope’s vocals merely added to the aura created in the room. Performing songs from their EP ‘Now We’re Rebuilding’, they displayed a vocal and instrumental range of skills. At times the instruments took over, all four putting their energy into this, and then suddenly mellowing to allow Cope’s vocals to flow over the crowd.
From the EP, my favourite song is ‘Cry Hard, Cry Fast’. The up and down pattern of both instruments and vocals is very pleasing.
Their set ended with them all unplugging the instruments, and stepping down into the crowd. I merely needed to swivel on my stool, but stood to get a clear view. Cope still clutching his guitar, Paul Burdett, France Lahmar and Arv Teeroovengadum stood beside him, harmonising. A stunning sound, somewhat overshadowed by the chatter of those behind, but well worth standing for. I look forward to seeing more from them.
Grabbing another drink from the bar at the end of their set, I was greeted by Jon and Jordan from Coaves, who admitted they’d been discussing my recent article on the band. I’m not used to knowing anyone outside of the relatively inbred teacher circle, and I was humbled by their kind words. Yet again, I was overwhelmed with how lovely everyone is, as we chatted like good friends about their recent performance at the Scunthorpe Rock Open Finals and their upcoming single launch.
The Hubbards were up next. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them, but I went with high expectations. Reuben has a stunning, unique voice, and I enjoy the more uplifting sound that they have.
The crowd swelled, reaching the stage. I couldn’t see well without standing, so moved closer to the stage with the others, having also met up with our working reviewer Bob. They performed their most popular songs, and they performed very well. But their interaction with the audience didn’t match the energy of the other bands. The set was good, but I wasn’t blown away – which I have been before when seeing them live. There was a bit of banter, but just no electricity.
I’m seeing them again next week as they support Pigeon Detectives at a sold out gig at Fruit, and hope they’ve a bit more spark them.
Last, and certainly never least, was LIFE. I’d already shuffled my way to the front of the stage. Mak had said earlier in the evening that he wasn’t ashamed to admit that they were his favourites on the Hull music scene – I didn’t know we had so much in common. Again the crowd, having pushed themselves back in the interlude, flooded the space before the stage. I realised my mistake at having stepped forward early, positioning myself right next to a speaker and leaving a view of only Loz and Mez.
I’ve seen these guys enough times to know their set pretty well, but there was even more thrown into this last performance of the year. Mez was everywhere; into the audience, crawling onto Rich’s drum kit and, when he was on the stage, tipping himself into the crowd. Mick, also on form, was bouncing at every opportunity, a blur of shadows on the back wall to me. Suggesting that they slow things down a bit, Mez introduced their fastest song ‘Go Go Go’ and showed off his vocal talents with the super-speedy lyrics.
For the last song, he launched himself into the audience with more vitality than I’ve seen before. Circling the crowd, he gave his mum a little squeeze before finishing off back on stage with the other lads. It took them seconds to be off and out the door for the compulsory chat with Nineties Boy, but I imagine they appreciated the chill of the winter air after that set.
A night of intense highs, it really was a cracking line-up.
I ended the night with the song ‘Take Off With You’ and started the following day with my phone alarm playing Mick’s guitar solo from the very same song. I recalled the night so clearly, tiny segments growing into larger accounts; words forming on the tips of my fingers, desperate to be written down. LIFE always give me something to write about. And write it I did.
It’s a bit long, but I won’t apologise for that.
Thanks to everyone who kept me company and chatted with me on the night, and to The Polar Bear for hosting another fantastic evening of music. And special thanks to Paul, who also supplied the images used in this post.