And as before, a Frank Turner show is followed in pretty short order by… a Gaz Brookfield show! Rach and I had a lengthy and in-depth conversation about Frank and Gaz’ evident similarities on the way back from Saturday’s show, my conclusion being that considering their remarkably similar backgrounds (members of former punk bands – who, despite their best efforts and hard graft, never cracked it – turned solo folk-influenced performers) and usual subject matter (staying true to their punk protest roots whilst also drawing from their own life experiences), it’s pretty much a given that there would be musical and thematic similarities. Gaz even acknowledges this fact on his song “Frank And Sam”; however for me Gaz deftly walks that fine line between influence and plagiarism, his own individuality and voice shining through. I’ve certainly got room for both of ‘em in my life, record collection and gig itinerary, me!
This also being a full band show, there was another incentive (if one be needed) to attend this gig. So I trundled up the hill early doors under foreboding skies, hitting the venue for a chat with “Songs Of Praise” promoters Dave and Ed, fellow veteran gig-goer Stuart Langsbury, and a few words with Gaz himself, minding the merch stand, before opener Luke DeSciscio at 9. A raffish tousled gypsy-looking young chap with a tremulous, haunting voice, straddling the octaves between soprano and often atonal falsetto, his songs were minimal guitar embellishments for his talented vocal gymnastics and softly spoken, often trance-like delivery, as he weaved an eerie, melancholic atmosphere, which I enjoyed despite the lack of real hooky tuneage.
By complete contrast, Lonely Tourist, next up, was all about the tunes and the banter. Oh, the banter; “I’ll try to make this a referendum-free zone,” announced the expat Scot, “let’s face it, if [the vote is] yes, well it’s not you, it’s us, and if it’s no, then things will have to change!” The erstwhile Mr. Tierney’s short snappy banter was intermixed with short snappy tunes delivered at a hectic, rollicking pace, quipping along as he went (“a mad shagger for President! That’s the kind of country I’d like to live in!” and “what’s with the dry ice, is Kate Bush on next or what?”). “I Am A Fly”, which (deliberately?) appropriated the hook from Wire’s “I Am The Fly”, and the excellently received “The Ballad Of Paul Tierney” about his journeyman footballer namesake, were highlights of another entertaining set from the Bristol domiciled Scot who, as Ed remarked afterwards, “we might have to deport tomorrow!”
Things cracked on apace, and barely 10 minutes later Gaz and his 5-piece band were hooked up onstage and ready to rock, in front of a thankfully full and enthusiastic house. They were in no mood to fuck about; straight into the ramshackle rollercoaster ride of the double salvo of “Limelight” and “Land Pirate’s Life”, the crowd already rocking and singing along, and Gaz feeding off their/our enthusiasm. This was a damn hot one, the packed house really cranking up the heat, Gaz remarking on both this and the amazing Thursday night turnout on a number of occasions. A couple of numbers in, the differences between Gaz and Frank Turner were becoming evident; Gaz drawing more from the folkier aspect of his sound, particularly in a full band setting, with Ben Wain a focal point throughout with some virtuoso and frantic violin sawing (Gaz remarking early doors, “I don’t know about you but I could listen to [Ben] all night!”). After a huge ovation for the opening line in “Towns”, “I grew up in Swindon…!”, a cacophonous opening guitar squall and pounding drumbeat led into a tremendous “Black Dog Day”, delivered with scary, wide-eyed conviction and startling venom by Gaz, articulating the gravity of the subject matter perfectly and even giving the energetic singer reason to pause for breath at its’ conclusion. A savage “Be The Bigger Man” followed, equally dramatic and fiercely delivered. Gaz was totally in the zone for this mid-set double, no mistake!
We needed a sway-along “Under The Table” to lighten and diffuse the mood, then a solo interlude showcasing a new number “I Can’t Drink Cider Anymore” highlighting Gaz’ recent pancreas and diabetes problems, which I could empathise with. A half-spoken, confessional “Tell It To The Beer” evoked a melancholy mood, but Gaz and the band roared back to round off a startlingly quick hour set with singalong versions of “The West Country Song” and a ragged set closer “Diet Of Banality”, before staying on (“is there any point in us walking off then coming back on again? No? Then we won’t bother…”) for encore “Thin”, another rousing singalong to close out another tremendous set from this earnest, punk/ folk influenced hard-working balladeer and his fine band.
Said my goodbyes and left, driving home under sheet lightning-lit skies, to ease my aching limbs into bed (I’d been rocking out throughout from my front row, stage left spot). Aching knees the next morning, but Gaz was definitely worth it!