22 May 2011, The Gate, Cardiff
Featuring Joe Coleman, The Gentle Good, Meilir and David Thomas Broughton.
I don’t know where the folk the audience were, but at least the glorious folk was there in spades.
For some reason the crowd stayed away from the Folk The Owl gig on Sunday, but despite this, and the sloshed, shambolic host, the evening session was enjoyable due to being blessed with four professional musical talents.
Lovely folkster youngster Joe Coleman, the first of the four bearded rising stars to stand in front of the statement wallpaper, sang a pretty pastoral set of songs accompanied by guitar and harmonica. Many were recognisable as favourites from his sets at Swansea’s ever-popular Skye folk night, and are on his new White Rabbit EP which launches at Skye on Thursday and includes the upbeat number ‘Closer now’ which I bloody love. Go along and wish this infectiously smiley happy man well.
The less said about the host’s performance (Robert Doherty) the better. So following that egocentric abuse of the eardrums, we were saved by a sublime set from Gareth Bonello aka The Gentle Good who is both gentle and good. Bonello plays a mixture of trad folk and his own compositions in Welsh and English and he does a mean line in 60s finger-picking guitar too. ‘This track is amazing’ gasps a blonde girl in the audience, clearly a fan. This happens more than once. She’s not wrong, Gareth plays damn well and captivates us all – brogues, beards and barnets were happily nodding along across the room. His long-awaited second album Tethered For The Storm came out on the Welsh label Gwymon a couple of months back and it is ace. I particularly love track one, ‘Aubade’, a song set at dawn about two lovers who are lying in bed, wishing that the sun wasn’t coming up to separate them. It shares its title with a Philip Larkin poem. I also enjoyed hearing ‘Llosgi Pontydd’ (Burning Bridges) again, a track he wrote when he was frustrated with a job and fantasising about quitting and burning bridges, something sure to resonate with most creative types/ most anyone. The Gentle Good has been compared to Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Nick Drake and John Martyn, but these days I think Gareth Bonello sounds exactly like himself, which is a (gentle) good thing. As his set drew to a close the audience yelled for more, but sadly time was against us…
In fact, due the the host’s bad time management, Meilir’s spectral set was reduced to “The Greatest Hits” rushing through beautiful tracks from his latest bilingual EP Cellar Songs on keyboard and thumb piano accompanied by quirky percussion that ranged from hitting gravel in a cat litter tray with feet or sticks to typing on a typewriter (magical). His sorrow-drenched voice bring to mind Thom Yorke’s solo stuff and though I’ve heard it often, ‘Less Wrong (Part 1)’ still gives me shivers. Frighteningly catchy ‘Fingertips’ is the EP’s best track with its curious refrain of ‘don’t be so strange’. No, Meilir, do and also continue to Bydd Wych.
Finally the genius that is David Thomas Broughton headlined and provided me with yet another reason to love Brainlove Records. If you let him, he’d have you believe he was ‘a perfect louse’ but let’s not indulge in such nonsense. The tidiest of the folksters – my friend described the look as ‘Swedish Folk’ – the London-based Yorkshireman started the spectral electro-folk set layering tracks with loops of beats, bleeps, pyrotechnic percussive interludes and sexy samples, and ended unplugged (that host mismanagement again) standing in the middle of the audience, unfazed, improvising and filling the missing volume by using the empty bottles on the tables as backing. Broughton has a vaudeville croon of a voice, is not afraid to experiment, displays offbeat brilliance, and uses words like ‘piffle’ in his lyrics, which should be applauded. A gem of a performance and absolutely recommended to the lot of you. As Joe Coleman predicted, he did ‘change our lives’ for the better. Buy his album Outbreeding, it is out today.