Saturday, 2 February 2008

UPSTART LAUNCH @ THE SUGARMILL: Spectrum Fires/Rachel Rimmer/MS Thomason/The Chapter/Coda/Laredo

review by Steve Dean

7.45pm and it was good to see a fair crowd ready and waiting when first act Spectrum Fires took to the stage at the Sugarmill on Wednesday evening to begin Upstart's Red Carpet Launch party. The band normally featuring a somewhat larger line-up, guitarist Tom Harley played and sung solo before being joined by Heather Carsile on violin and accompanying vocals. Playing his acoustic with fire and passion, Tom sings his songs of life like he means every word and Heather's plaintive violin and restrained vocals complemented the compositions very satisfactorily. Their first time out in this incarnation, they delivered much promise.

Rachel Rimmer, backed by Harry Davies on sax/flute and Mick Rimmer on guitar, but lacking her percussionist, looked great as she sung with her usual sultry dynamics. Bringing to mind celebrated divas such as Nina Simone and Sade, such vocal maturity is rare in one not too long out of her teens. I suspect she has a great career ahead of her. She has just released an EP, 'Look What the Kat's Brought In', which I must confess I have not had a chance to hear, but going by Wednesday evening's performance, I'm pretty confident it'll be very, very good.

Altering the mood of the event after Rachel's jazzy offerings, Singer/songwriter MS Thomason sung his melancholy songs of love and death with a certain dark panache. A competent guitarist, his songs are well-crafted and his unusual chord structures compliment the moody nature of his songs perfectly. A new song,'The Bastard Who Stole my Love', defines his style rather well. His CD, 'Under the Birch Tree', is available to order from his Myspace site. After what I heard last night, it will be well worth a listen.

Hip-Hop artists The Chapter, onstage for around 15 minutes, along with fellow Goon Squad member Kermeo, brought an air of knockabout hilarity to the proceedings as they bowled around the stage enthusiastically chanting their lyrics of the streets. One offering, a ditty concerning the catching of rabies from a girl met in Primark, had the audience singing along with gusto. Fun.

Having reviewed Coda a few weeks ago, they played pretty much the same set as at the Old Brown Jug, but it was nonetheless interesting to see them at this venue, the audience giving them a hearty reception as they played their ballsy instrumentals with style. Switching mood constantly as they build their powerful crescendos, they are always a pleasure to watch and listen to.

Headliners Laredo came on with a terrific energy. Playing with white-knuckled drive, they blasted the crowd with their punchy songs from the outset. Specialising in hard, feedback-squealing dirty rock, they exude a rare Hendrix-like raw sexuality, which, in this game, can only do them good. Vocalist/guitarist Rush, along with fellow-guitarist Kreg, bassist Alx (sic) and drummer Jose offered an unrelentingly exciting show, displaying a fine understanding of their chosen genre. Rock as it should be, in fact.

Upstart's Lotti and Jim laid on a great show at the Sugarmill. If this what we can expect from them, then I don't see how they can go too far wrong.

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