Tuesday, 19 April 2011

813 MILES HUNT & ERICA NOCKALLS, The Shudders, Swindon 12 Bar, Saturday 16 April 2011

Here’s Swindon coming up trumps on the gig front for once; the first of 3 (maybe 4?) local gigs in the next 6 weeks, and a first performance for Miles Hunt in Swindon! This consequently meant this was the first time, of the 18 or so I’ve seen him play in his various incarnations (Wonderstuff, Vent, solo or “Clubbing” it!), that we’ve been able to walk to the gig! Rachel booked this one as part of her birthday weekend celebrations, and we made more of an evening of it, setting off early and having a curry at the Lalbagh on the way!

Thus it was that we waddled the remainder of the journey there, stuffed with a lovely Jaipur, arriving at 8.30 and bumping into the Provs. Took a wander into the venue – which was oddly laid out with round tables around the perimeter, including a couple stage-front, giving it a weird wine bar appearance! – for The Shudders at 10 to 9. The boys had secured the much-vaunted support slot tonight and decided to debut their “acoustic” side. Perched on barstools, Tim, Danny and Liam gave a stripped-back performance of their understated, knockabout folky whimsy, with a few newer, more parched and slow-burn songs, which, unsurprisingly, recalled Sparklehorse! Their fine harmonies were much more prominent in this format, and some nice self-deprecating chat (“we’re just hoping you warm to us as people”) made for a fine set overall, despite a few nerves - Danny admitted afterwards that he was nervous performing as Miles was in the crowd, and he only relaxed when Miles disappeared backstage to prepare for his set!

The ample crowd then gathered around the stage-front tables, and gave Miles and Erica an enthusiastic welcome at 9.45 following a short tune-up. Visually they were an incongruous sight; Miles, tousled shoulder-length hair now restored, clad all in denim with a jaunty necktie, cutting a raffish dash evoking a Victorian travelling troubadour rogue; and Erica, pale and porcelain perfect, all Goth prom queen chic in billowing black. Musically, however, they dovetailed perfectly, Erica’s accomplished violin work intertwining splendidly with Miles’ trusty old acoustic throughout the set. The opening half-set was drawn from their recent duet CDs, plus work with a loose Shropshire-based musicians collective, punctuated by Miles’ witty and erudite tales of life both in the Shropshire landed gentry, and of his rock experiences. Proving the apples don’t fall too far from the tree, this new material didn’t stray too far from Miles’ previous modus operandi of flippant conversational lyrical content and easy, catchy, if slightly rootsier and folkier melody, proving you can take the boy out of the Stuffies, but…! An early highlight, ”The Cake”, was preceded by a fun story involving cakes, credit cards and straws, and the changing rock-tour usage of such (!), whilst “Welcome To The Cheap Seats”, the first Wonderstuff track of the night, followed Miles’ recalling his first, drunken, encounter with the late Kirsty MacColl.

Thereafter the set climaxed with a few well-chosen, primarily fiddle-based Wonderstuff numbers, with Miles, now very comfortable in his own skin in this format, taking requests and bantering with the vociferous crowd. A final “Here Comes Everyone”, my set highlight, rounded off a thoroughly entertaining 1¼ hours. I then grabbed an easy set-list (the only one on offer!) and got it signed, also sharing some old Gigolo Aunts stuff with an open and chatty Miles afterwards. A lift home with the Provs as well, to round off a successful and splendid evening!

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