Monday, 30 July 2012

853 GAZ BROOKFIELD, Swindon Rolleston, Sunday 29 July 2012

Another gig in “The ‘Don”, and yet another new venue, namely The Rolleston pub, perched invitingly atop my 1980’s and 90’s “spiritual home”, Level 3 nightclub, and consequently scene of many a drinky evening in preparation of bopping down at Lev, but never of a gig before. Until this, the return to the Shire for Swindon native Gaz Brookfield, the forthright and articulate singer-songwriter who impressively turned my head in support of The Psychedelic Furs at the Fleece earlier this month. Since then, I’d sent off a contribution for his video project for his “Be The Bigger Man” number, soliciting a nice e-mail response from the man, so was looking forward to catching up and seeing him play again!

Took a drive up after the kids went to bed, parking up and wandering into the very quiet early doors pub about ¼ to 8, meeting up with Gaz at the bar and having a nice chat with a very personable and open chap, before he set up in the raised area by the front entrance, and I plonked myself on a barstool for his first set at 8.

Gaz has been compared to the likes of Frank Turner (who I confess I’m largely unfamiliar with) and Sam Duckworth of Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly (star of gig 721 and a band whose first album I thoroughly enjoyed), and tagged with a “Nu-Folk troubadour” label. I dunno, if “Nu-Folk” means bashing the living Bejeezus out of a road-weary acoustic and baring your soul, voice and opinions in a witty, well-considered and enjoyably articulate way, then I’m all for it. Particularly when this is coupled with self-effacing honesty (Gaz concluded an early Loudon Wainwright cover by admitting he, “totally fucked up that last bit, but that’s OK, it’s folk music – you’re allowed to!”) and neck-vein bulging effort. Another cover (“anyone remember a [early 2000’s melodic hardcore] band called Movielife? No? Just me? OK, this is a song that I wrote…!”)revealed Gaz’ pop-punk roots, and his own “Tell It To The Beer” was a touching, aptly named tears-in-the-beers ballad of male camaraderie on a journey through the lower rungs of rock’n’roll. Arousing “Thin” got the crowd singing along with the, “It’s not oh-ver,” hook to round off set one very nicely thank you, by which time I’d been joined by DJ Darren Dust.

After a pause in proceedings and another brief chat with the man whilst he flogged a few CDs, Gaz kicked off set two with a slightly taken aback, “where did you all come from?” at the larger numbers now in attendance! However the increased crowd and attention served to spur Gaz to step up the performance and intensity levels a notch. Indeed, this was the angrier set of the two, Gaz commenting about the crowd “just [having] come out for a quiet Sunday night and there’s this bloke shouting at you,” with “Death Bed” a bilious, galloping anti-religion rant recalling The Men They Couldn’t Hang, setting the tone. Billy Bragg’s “Waiting For The Great Leap Forward” followed, and then the anti manufactured pop rant of “Diet Of Banality” was venomous yet very funny at the same time. In full flow by now, Gaz then delivered a searing rendition of “Be The Bigger Man”, an angry, passionate and perfectly delivered version of his best number, soliciting a large roar of approval. A slightly inappropriate run-through of “It Must Be Love” followed, before we were back on the metaphorical soapbox with a fine, pointed “It Doesn’t Matter Who You Vote For, The Bastards Always Win”.

Closer “The West Country Song” was a fitting finale, the whole pub by now seemingly singing along and totally engaged in Gaz’ performance, the man totally on form and on fire. A splendid way to spend a Sunday evening, in the company of a talented, articulate and committed wordsmith surely destined for a wider audience than tonight’s. Hit the road after a lengthy chat with Mr. Dust and farewells from Mr. Brookfield. He’s supporting Miles Hunt at the Vic in September – that’ll be a good one!

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