SHHH…APES! / JESS HALL / ROGUE JONES | LIVE REVIEW
Dempseys, Cardiff, Thurs 1 May
I often prefer to go to gigs without prior knowledge of the featured artists, hopefully giving me a crazed avidity to listen to their music on loop until my eardrums implode. Discovering the decidedly nutty Rogue Jones affected me in a somewhat different way. I was simultaneously confused, excited, happy, antsy, and slightly terrified… but altogether tickled by their whimsical charm.
Lead singer Bethan Mai Morgan is an interesting character to say the least. She flung herself around the stage, screamed like an angry jay bird and sung her heart out all the while playing just about every instrument she could get her hands on (including the omnichord). Calm and composed, the rest of the group were the rhythmic backbone and relatively levelheaded counterpart to her more liberated tomfoolery. Their first live performance in this guise was a welcome insight into their indie-pop aura.
Following this flurry of excitement came the curious melodies of Jess Hall. Coupled with percussionist and double bass player Noel Doak, the duo, adept in the use of loop pedals, drum machines and possibly other gadgetry, delved into contrasting spheres of trip-hop, contemporary folk, pop and jazz. The sound that they were channeling appeared to be the product of a considerable investment in very different strands of music, ultimately resulting in something fresh, if a little muddled at times.
The closing of the evening saw Dempseys’ upstairs room suddenly awash with the high fidelity and abyssal reverberations of Shhh…Apes! Their monstrous breed of alternative rock is a thrill in the broadest sense of the word. Thundering bass, a heavy, pulsing beat, clangy guitars, sleek, powerful brass all overlaid with haunting, graceful vocal harmonies. This band expertly exploits tension and release through their carefully textured arrangements.
Frontman and principal architect of the group Mark Foley dressed in his trademark grey suit awakened memories of Christopher Walken in Fatboy Slim’s Weapon Of Choice video, though perhaps not quite as agile. He was joined by the almost spectral visage of vocalist Lianne Francis projected against the wall: a supernatural avatar navigating the band through their set. They successfully illustrated that their live performance yields just as much impact as their EP and certainly rouses a hunger for more material from such an original group.
Road works and power cuts, which caused Shhh…Apes! to postpone their scheduled performance here in late March, were thankfully kept at bay; three electric performances well worth waiting for.
words CHARLIE PIERCEY