This Is The Kit is the musical project led by singer-songwriter Kate Stables (vocals, guitar and banjo). The band performs in various configurations, usually involving the other core players Rozi Plain (bass and vocals), Neil Smith (guitar), Jamie Whitby-Coles (drums) and Jesse D Vernon (various instruments and vocals). This Is The Kit’s fourth album, 2017’s Moonshine Freeze, met with great critical acclaim and the band’s extensive Summer tour schedule included a televised performance at Glastonbury, which earned rave reviews. The schedule also included a prestigious gig at Leith Theatre on 13th August, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, and this grand old venue looked particularly resplendent for the occasion.
Support was provided by the marvellous Rozi Plain and, accompanied by a few of her This Is The Kit band-mates, she treated us to an excellent short set, majoring on the songs from her very fine recent album What A Boost and finishing with an epic and trippy cover of Sun Ra’s When There Is No Sun.
Suitably warmed up by Rozi Plain’s sparkling set, the audience roared in appreciation as This Is The Kit took to the stage, its core line-up augmented by a three-piece horn section, including local musician Chris Grieve guesting on trombone. In her own quiet, witty and charming way, Kate Stables commanded the stage from the word go and kept the audience enthralled throughout. Many of her beguiling songs began with her standing under a single spotlight playing gently on her semi acoustic guitar or banjo but she was equally at home leading the band through extended jams with some seriously funky rhythm guitar riffing.
There was so much to enjoy about this basket of delights…Kate Stables’ elegant and clearly-enunciated vocals soaring into the auditorium; her sublime vocal harmonies with Rozi Plain; the punchy riffs and fiery solos from the horn players; the criss-crossing rhythms produced by the guitars of Neil Smith, Jesse D Vernon and Kate Stables; the imperious lead guitar of Neil Smith; and the mesmerising pulses of Rozi Plain’s loping bass runs.
Kate Stables’ songs are things of great beauty and wonder and they really took flight in this live setting, often filling out into irresistible, extended grooves. The Moonshine Freeze album was, of course, well represented in the set list and the highlights included Bulletproof, with its yearning vocals and banjo picking; the glorious, shifting rhythms, harmonies and growling brass riffs on Hotter Colder, Moonshine Freeze and Empty No Teeth; the African influences in the majestic desert blues of By My Demon Eye; and the hypnotic tone poem Solid Grease, which featured a series of searing guitar breaks and ended in a crescendo of wailing feedback.
There were earlier songs too, and two from 2015’s Bashed Out album stood out in particular…spectral banjo and graceful vocals produced a spine-tingling effect in Spores All Settling; and Bashed Out was a delicious slow-burn, notable for some guitar from Neil Smith, which would grace many a Pink Floyd song. There were at least three new songs, including the emotionally-charged Started Again, which heralded the enticing prospect of a new This Is The Kit album in the not-too-distant future.
This was an exceptional gig, by any standards. This Is The Kit’s stock has been rising steadily since the release of Moonshine Freeze and they are now surely one of the UK’s most accessible and essential live bands.
Photo courtesy of Gaelle Beri.
For more on the Edinburgh International Festival programme click here.