Friday, 4 January 2013

869 GAZ BROOKFIELD, Darren Martin, Swindon The Victoria, Thursday 3 January 2013

So we start the 2013 gigging year just as we ended the 2012 one; with a Gaz Brookfield gig at The Vic! This was a last minute one for everyone, with Gaz himself admitting he’d only been contacted by the Vic management earlier that week, but wasn’t going to turn down a paying gig in January. Who can blame him? This was also due to be an unusual gig, insofar as it was going to be in the bar itself, rather than the normal back room Vic venue. Let’s see how this plays out!

So I drove up the hill and hit the venue about 8.30, running into a chatty Gaz and chewing the cud with him about various topics, including the video for “Be The Bigger Man” which finally sees the light of day tomorrow (4th January) and which features a short clip of me and my kids! Stopped talking in deference to support act Darren Martin, a tall, languid and laconic blond bloke who kicked off with a cute C86 soundalike innocently strumalong track, then delved into some more varied and thoughtful acoustic singer-songwriter stuff. Fiddling with a problematic battery pack on his guitar, he nevertheless showed a songwriting maturity beyond his years and played an interesting set.

Had a chat with new dad (again!) Alan Marshall while Gaz set up in the raised window area serving as the “stage”, along with his band member Chris, sitting in on bass and occasional percussion box tonight, and backing up Gaz’ usual acoustic guitar bashing and general folk/ punk hooliganism. I hopped on a barstool for a good view and because my knee hurt! Gaz opened with “Hell Or High Water”, his “road trip from hell” number and one I’d lamented him not playing that often, so that was nice! “4 Chords And The Truth” was a warm, affirming follow-up, suiting the bar location, which gave the gig an intimate, cosy and homely feel for the couple of dozen punters dotted around. After a Billy Bragg-esque “It Doesn’t Matter Who You Vote For”, we were onto the first of four new songs, with Gaz making a justifiable excuse for his copious notes with, “music stands aren’t cool, but neither is getting the words wrong!” However, this newie, a slow-burn, melancholic lament with a great hook, “I can’t stand being around drunk people when I’m sober,” was delivered perfectly and set a high bar for the new numbers.

A jolly “SN1” (“always fun to play in Swindon”) and a touching “Frank And Sam”, featuring some dextrous guitar percussion from Gaz and intertwining bass from Chris, followed, then another muted number in “Glass Half Empty” (“I don’t write many love songs as I’m a bitter and miserable sod!” announced Gaz before this one!). Up to this point Gaz hadn’t really cut loose with a passion and vitriol, but another newie in “Let Your Anger Go”, a Dashboard Confessional like number full of bubbling, raw angst (“an angry song about not getting angry!”) finally saw the shackles off, and a “defamatory” version of “Diet Of Banality” kept the commitment level high.

Another couple of excellent, whip-crack fast new numbers, including one encapsulating his recent experiences supporting The Levellers and allegedly written in his van the morning after a gig and a stiff drinkie night (!), preceded the as-ever brilliant “Be The Bigger Man”, all vim, venom and righteous fury, and my set highlight. “Thin” cleared the air, before the bar all seemed to join in for “Under The Table”, a sway-along climax to an excellent hour, before encore “The West Country Song” provided another bar-room singalong and saw the gig proper close with a rousing cheer.

Hit the road at 11 following congrats to Gaz and compliments in particular on the new numbers. 2013 is currently shaping up as the year when a number of my “live” acts either hit double figures (The Men They Couldn’t Hang, due in March) or higher (James, The Bunnymen and Stiff Little Fingers are all due to hit their “teens” in gigs for me this year); at this rate it won’t be long before Gaz joins them in double figures. And it’ll be well deserved!

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