Normally when BBC6 Music mainstay Mark Radcliffe endorses something I am inclined to agree, and so it was with davesnewbike. Radcliffe may have added a caveat teasing their unique choice of name though this would have done little to deflate the excitement of such high profile airplay. Still, the moniker sounds better on the radio than it looks in print, as my spellchecker can now testify. Formed in a Leith loft some eight years ago, the four piece fuse a range of genres around a strong narrative backbone.
Tonight I was to see them at one of their own curated ‘Stone Soup’ events which occur in another nearby attic, that of Leith Depot, every so often. These are an initiative of drummer Simon Jaquet who tonight also manages the mandolin. Guitarist Kris Jozajtis tells me the aim was to try and create an environment suited to their own niche; “a new band of old blokes playing original songs”. Though collaborative creations, these are largely penned by Tom Houston, the band’s creative focal point and front man with an affable but compelling stage presence.
They play two sets, largely showcasing material from their newly released second album The Tin Can and the Flood but open with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Girl from the North Country as their influences are worn on their sleeves. “Suzanne is taking you down to the water” leads us to the Shore (just a few hundred yards from the venue) rather than the Leonard Cohen’s river, but the parallel is obvious. None of which detracts from davesnewbike’s own identity as their compositions sound fresh and inventive to these old ears.
Such is the intended cabaret seating in the intimate venue, audience participation is not only expected but actively encouraged. From a chorus line of In My Face to some improvised additions to the lyrics of Black Box courtesy of our own prompted suggestions. Remember, remember it being bonfire night, Houston apologises, encouraging us to briefly illuminate our phone flashlights as a high-tech low-cost fireworks display of sorts.
The cooperation continues into the next act, ‘Magic Jim’ Campbell providing a non-musical interlude, for Stone Soup simmers like a melting pot of many mixed talents. (Can Campbell’s condensed set, justify another predictable soup simile?) After a slightly nervous start, his boundless enthusiasm shines through bringing “ooh” and “aah” in equal measure. Who needs fireworks after all? Close up card tricks are contrived to involve just about everyone in the room and props ranging from a well deployed projector table to a chunky Kit-Kat (the best kind) are well used. The finalé leaves our jaws agape before the music continues.
Tonight’s other support act, ‘bike stand’ if you will, are Sileagh McWhirter and Vicki Ridley. Billed as Posh and Scary Gussett respectively the duo formed at Edinburgh’s Adult Learning Project, 25 years later ago. These one-time ‘Children of the Revolution’ kick off with T-Rex and evolve through covers from the Cranberries, Kirsty McColl and Four Non Blondes. The harmonies are honed, though the occasional bum note is acknowledged with a self deprecating grimace from the talented Ms Ridley. Tonight introduced as fashion queens, and divas, look up ‘The Tartan Gussets’ if you dare!
davesnewbike return to the stage to finish the evening with a few sparklers of their own. Houston gives ‘the Scottish play’ a musical makeover in Lady Macbeth and Me and Jaquet’s laddie who has already taken our money on the door takes to the stage for some backing vocals and lo-fi clapping presumably not wanting to upstage his father’s beats.
Photo courtesy of Catherine Sargeant.
Stone Soup returns to Leith Depot on Saturday, 2nd December and more info on the band can be found here.