The Mill, Banbury 6 May 2012
The tickets were for 7.30 pm but the festivities began at noon with music in the bar. If there had been jugglers and fire eaters I wouldn’t have been surprised.
First up on the official stage were local indie-rockers Highway Alaska whose bass player, Bailey, was unaccountably dressed as a penguin. Geography is clearly not his strong point. I’ve heard louder bands although rarely in such a confined space but the sound man quickly got on top of them. They could be a name to watch.
Next up were the excellent Something Nasty In The Woodshed, folk-rock with bagpipes and a Viking war horn – well, a plastic funnel and a length of tube. They are huge fun but excellent musicians, too, particularly Pete their funky bass-player and Bazza the piper. These guys deserve to be much better known.
Uprising is Leatherat’s best album to date. Traditional and neo-traditional tunes are fused with passionate, perceptive songs: ‘Whole Town Red’, ‘Call To Arms’, ‘A Better Way’ and the loudest love song ever in the shape of the funky ‘Set My Soul On Fire’ and there are moments of genuine subtlety. Don’t get the idea they’ve gone soft, though – this band still runs on cider!
They have taken to using the album’s opening instrumental track as slow-burning intro music at gigs. The usual routine is that Jeremy Carroll creeps on stage in a cloud of smoke and begins a bass figure then picked up by Jim Bennion’s guitar. Jono Watts appears and the fiddle joins in followed by Pete Bailey on mandolin. Finally Hugh Edwards takes his seat and it all kicks off. They didn’t go for the full drama this time partly because Jez was worried about his hand which he’d cut very badly two days earlier. A blood substitute was on standby but Jeremy bravely soldiered on although Mick Bennion had his moment of glory later in the set, depping on ‘I Like A Smoke’.
There were also the logistics of accommodating the guest musicians beginning with the pipes of Barry Steele from Something Nasty. Everyone who played on the album was here except Chris Leslie who was at a Convention somewhere. I have to give a special mention to Gerry Green who played whistle and held her own which is no mean feat in this company.
The band opted to playing whole album in order and although several of the songs had been aired in previous months parts of the record hadn’t been played live before. They went at it with all guns blazing and if there were any dodgy moments you wouldn’t have spotted them in the noise and excitement. I’ll tell you how much fun it was: I swear I saw Gareth Turner grinning at one point but, oddly, photographic evidence doesn’t bear this out. They finished with their greatest hits: ‘Party Time (In Chavbury)’ of course, ‘Moments Like These’ and ‘Large One’ and how Pete remembers all the words of ‘The Ring’ let alone sings them at the end of a long set beats me. We staggered out at midnight but the party went on until the wee small hours and my hearing was back to normal by the following morning.
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