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The 15th October saw humble Yorkshireman James Owen Fender come to the end of his mini UK tour in sunny Brighton to the receptive ears of the Hope’s weekend crowd.
He wasn’t the night’s only attraction though, a quality line up of openers paved the way for his intimate headline spot. Atlantics started everything off. A suitably fitting name with their sound sitting somewhere between the heart and charm of recent Californian indie sensations Young The Giant, and the equally upbeat Liverpudlian Zutons. Their performance was scatter gunned with playful questions for the audience, as well as their staple big riffs and bigger vocals. No more apparent than during their boisterous new single ‘Don’t Lose Your Mind’.
With barely time to catch your breath, pop punksters Bullit took the stage. Their set lacked the Atlantic’s gusto, but made up for it in length and guitar solos. Of which their were many. Quirky 80s throwback ‘Cheetah’ helped pick things up and get people bopping, but any momentum potentially carried dissipated after an awkward request for a crowd sing along, never a good idea when a room’s still filling out, and everyone’s waiting to buy a pint from the rather busy bartender. Mistake realised, out came fan favourite ‘Crazy’ to redeem themselves. With Bullit’s set thankfully ending on a high, and with egos fully rebuffed, they bade their thanks before hopping off stage in lieu of the, by then, rather enticing bar.
The main opening slot was held by Foreign Office. As they took the stage it was difficult to gauge their potential stage presence, their awkward appearance however was quickly dismissed whilst they delivered a tight and cohesive set. Said set consisted mainly of tracks from their - now released - EP ‘Alaska’. A free musical offering that in their words gives you ‘no excuse not to go and download it’. The live sound however reflects a different side to them. With synth, tropical drums and effect pedals reigning supreme, the audience were held witness to a smorgasbord of tones and sounds that can be created with only a few guitars and a keyboard. In amongst the electro infused quirks was a solid grounding of funky bass and catchy guitar riffs that kept the audience captivated throughout.
James Owen Fender, who had been enjoying the gig from the comfort of the back of the Hope, swiftly took the stage. His performance was as intimate as were the stories he told. Much like a Zebra’s stripes, it was difficult to discern between whether each track was interspersed by conversation, or conversation by song. This unparalleled intimacy is probably one of the reasons he’s picked up such a following for his tour, as well as backing from music afficonado’s Rob Da Bank and punk paradigm Feargal Sharky. He jumped between tales of shoebox flats, crappy jobs and insensitive grandparents to the youthful rage of the raucous ‘Central In The Southside’. His brutal honesty and relaxed nature automatically hushed the crowd, leaving everybody hanging on his next word. It’s that sort of stage presence, alongside his ever present northern wit, that has brought him so much respect within the industry. The evening ended with the bands sincere thanks, and a dig at the quality of Brighton’s Fish & Chips, followed by a passionate delivery of ‘Everyday’, a cynical look at commerce, materialism and the media, wrapped up in a loose packaging of overdrive, hollering and fun that just about sums up the potential and talent of such a competent young artist.
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Date: Tuesday 25th October 2011