Being an old fart and not knowing if it was a seated or standing event I wanted to get there early to get a good position. It turned out to be standing but there were a few seats in front of the mixing desk, just the place I like to be, as I feel it is as important review the sound engineer because as soon as an artist is on stage they are really at the mercy of one persons ears. I always like to include the support act in the review.
I had several invitations to other events I really wanted to attend on the 29th but only after I’d purchased my ticket for this, so to say my mood on arrival wasn’t good is an understatement! So when Toby Hay & Jim Ghedi took to the stage and announced ‘we’re gonna play some guitar music for you’ my initial thought was ‘Oh Joy!’ and my mood was not lifted by the plank spanking that followed.
They are clearly brilliant musicians but boring does not begin to describe their self indulgent virtuosity. It makes you wonder what possessed the promoter to couple an act lead by complex prog-acoustic rock instrumental music with a main act lead by traditional folk songs!
I first heard Stick In The Wheel played on London based Resonance FM it was their rendition of ‘Seven Gypsies’. I was immediately struck by the sound of Nicola Kearey’s unashamedly London brogue, a very refreshing sound in today’s Northern centric folk scene. Some time later a good friend gave me a copy of their 1st album ‘From Here’ and I began to love it. I decided to investigate this ‘London’ band a bit further being quite surprised I hadn’t stumbled across them in the many London Folk clubs I was attending at the time. When I discovered a very professionally shot video of them filmed in the Camden Green Note I thought ‘Oh! that’s why I haven’t stumbled over them! They are clearly part of that elitist middle class folk scene directly marketed to the Hipsters and trendy Shoreditch/Camden types’ – that pretend to be into the music and folk tradition but are really just interested in making money and scratching each others backs.
Any independent acts starting out need not apply to venues like the Green Note, as you won’t even be worthy of getting a reply. It’s very nice club and I have seen a couple of gigs there, but it’s a bit over gentrified and Hippyish as well as being overpriced. In the video Nicola comes across like a miserable cockney Liam Gallagher, full of attitude and wishing she was somewhere else. I couldn’t help thinking this didn’t work in a little venue or feel very genuine and so I kind of lost interest.
I was further put off a little by their release of the ‘Presents’ album that I felt was just a money spinner as they were presenting people that need no introduction so it seemed a bit of a compilation cop out. I had also listened to ‘Follow Them True’ which although I liked it, I was a little confused by the use of vocal effects on some of the tracks and it felt nowhere near as organic as their debut. They are clearly a well oiled business machine and that is what is required in the industry to survive today and get gigs at pretentious venues like The Green Note.
When I heard they were coming to Norwich Art Centre and some of my pals were going I thought I’d go and make a decision about them once and for all, so I got myself a ticket!
Yes a real ticket with the name of the band printed on it that I didn’t have to print myself and very reasonably priced at 11.50. Despite this I was almost certain that I was not going to enjoy them, and this was not helped by the band taking to the stage and Nicola sitting down behind what looked like a pile of suitcases and announcing ‘Don’t worry I’ll stand up in a minute’. They proceeded to perform a fantastically haunting song, I think it may have been ‘Hasp’ from their first album and my determination not to like them started to melt away a little.
By the time they played ‘The Blacksmith’ I was in their spell.
I’m not going to go into all the songs they played but as the show progressed I became more and more impressed by the sound they were making. Uncluttered, joyus harmonies and a use of clapping and hand rubbing the likes of which were just mesmerizing. The sound engineer really knew his onions and everyone was reaping the benefit.
Nicola’s persona morphed in my heart from a sulky miserable Liam Gallagher into a lovably dissatisfide and hilarious Jack Dee type.
Back in 2017 a review for one of my own performances read ‘You can’t help liking him even if you don’t want too’ and this was exactly how I felt about S.I.T.W.
There is still a part of me that wished I had stood in front of the stage all evening correcting both acts by shouting two words, Tune! & Song! Both acts got this simple rule arse about face.
Toby Hay & Jim Ghedi introduced their tunes as songs and then S.I.T.W introduced their songs as tunes! One of my major bugbears and I can’t explain why, I can forgive S.I.T.W but not T.H & J.G. If you are or wish to be a respected part of the folk scene, it’s not that difficult to remember is it? The calling a song a tune thing is more common I have say, especially among the young. I’ve even heard BBC DJs do it, which is not on when they’re supposed to educate and inform.
I have seen a lot of great gigs this year including some of my favorite bands and artists including Toots & The Maytells, The Public Image LTD, The Rumjacks, The Bible Code Sundays, The O’Reillys & The Paddy Hats, the Nobel Jacks, The Levellers and even Jilted John – who I’ve waited 40 years to see! But none of them managed to have the effect on me musically that this sparce sounding four piece had. This Stick In The Wheel gig was the best I’ve seen this year, and could probably be the best I will see in years to come.