An ever-intriguing mass of land by the seaside that continues to populate the scene with some of its more notable and talented musicians/freaks, Brighton was the inspiration for the fourth Raphael-rockfeedback club-night - an opportunity to celebrate the culture and diversity of one of the UK's thriving, foremost cities.
... And how finer an opportunity for talent-done-good - chief-songwriter of The Electric Soft Parade, Tom White - to perform a rare, intimate show just for da fanz, man, whilst playing alongside hotly-tipped and space-age minded fellow locals, The Tenderfoot? What with mates (Rough Trade-signed Brighton-ites British Sea Power) in attendance, for one scarce evening, the all-too-common coldness of the capital was awash with the breeze of not-so-distant shores, and the warmth of unsheltered sunshine.
So it's those feet of tender men that open proceedings, shuffling on-stage and peering towards the audience with a frightfully charming demeanour. Their music follows a similar line: brandished parcels of carefully-executed, albeit short, insights into a wistful, compelling earnestness of life's sacred moments, backed by searing keyboards, jangling guitars, a firm and rigid rhythm-section, and frontman Darren's distinctly endearing croon. Evocative of so little of the acts that they may claim define them, and instead so charismatically understated, the 'composition' is treated as king, and structure means all - where the overall mass of sound swirls melodically, or grinds aloofly, but never once rears itself inaccessible.
Darren soon proves himself efficient as the deadpan lead, too. 'This song has no title,' he brashly proclaims, his audience sniggering back at the unabashed directness, whilst an eventual announcement that this is their final London show ever (of course, they're lying), is greeted with tearful apprehension; how could they starve us of such a product? With bellows for one last track, the quintet ease into recent single and the most starkly awe-inspiring of the bunch - a wondrous 'Still Holding My Stomach In', enough further prove to the gathering attended of the quintet's wide-reaching scope and unassuming ambition... Huh; as if more evidence was needed. But just our pleasure we get to treasure them for one additional, memorable and graceful moment.
Before much time passes, the stage is cleared for all but a sole acoustic guitar leaning against the previously-attended drumkit. Creeping on to the platform and adjusting his sound-arrangements for the ensuing 45-minute set, Tom White isn't messing about tonight. Opening with a choice-cover of indie-lords Grand Drive, and aside from a further rendition of Clearlake's trip-rock single 'Almost The Same', White spends the occasion debuting material from The Electric Soft Parade's hotly-anticipated, upcoming second album. As expectant for such an act, the tracks range quite majestically, dealing in far more complex arrangements, yet no less tuneful-inclination, and segueing into unanticipated chord-variations that Tom admits a couple of times to having 'not learnt properly yet', at which point a different piece is veered into.
'Am I sounding angelic enough,' he enquires a couple of tunes in, perhaps naively inciting hecklers, whilst offering responses to any audience-jibes with an admirably cool, relaxed manner. Indeed, after numerous interference from mobile-phone usage with the PA-system, he becomes slightly more flustered. 'Jesus, whose phone is that?!' A voice bellows back across the room. 'Try looking at yours.' A moment of terror fills Tom's face, and he glances towards to the attendees guiltily as he files away his ringing telecommunication-device in an elegant swoop.
Top-30 single 'Silent To The Dark' is provided a refined, blissful run-through mid-set - received rapturously - and a few more meanders into new-record territory display a nigh-on flamenco-guitar panache, White tapping his boot's heels against the hollow performance-space, simultaneously to-ing and fro-ing with the six-string. The applause amounts further, and an idea instils in his mind. 'Shall I play 'Empty At The End' with just drums and vocals?' The response is predictable. And he ushers his way fourth to the back of the stage to man the kit. 'But you've gotta sing the bass-line for this to work.' So we do - and the reaction is ecstatic, cymbals clashed and vocals still as gently engrossing as before. It peaks in a final 'Red Balloon For Me', a minimalist debut-album highlight, whose ending is extended, and one which Tom seems not willing to let go. But when he does, the applause floods back in, and a smile covers his face, the intimate encounter not one easy to forget.
Then it all goes a bit strange. DJ Mean Machine steps up to the decks, spinning tunes of the worryingly outlandish variety, skilfully swerving instrumentals commonly heard on adverts in between Edwin Starr and Har Mar Superstar. People dance casually, yet the emergence of Andrew WK's shocking 'Party Hard' prompts a worrying surge of move-bustin', whilst a punk-rock version of 'You're The One That I Want' is the most disturbing karaoke event of the night.
In a deep corner of the room, rockfeedback manages to round up the Brighton Massive (©) for a final, commemorative shot of the night - one evening memorable and testament enough to celebrate the unique abilities of one town's youthful vision and inspiration. With a bit of luck, the future will bode just as well as the present gift currently being shared from such a post-code; tonight certainly proved that the cornerstones are firm-in-place for such a potential to occur.
Tom White Photo-Credit: Mervyn
Some artistic interpretations of the night's imagery:
Image-Credit: Jason Atomic