Sons of Icarus Guildford
Shrine ’69 Sudbury
Ed Ache Colchester
Ed Ache, opening proceedings for the evening, presents a nice visual conundrum. What you see is an extreme dreadhead perched crosslegged on a barstool like a pixie on a toadstool, brandishing a ukulele. Don’t be deceived by his resemblance to something off a Gong album cover: he’s about to play some shouty sweary punk at you.
Sadly only two songs were ukulele numbers, before he switched to guitar, with which he’s evidently more comfortable, but he plays both pretty good. The material was about half and half funny and sincere: one that struck me in particular was ‘Living In A Fucked Up World’ about child on child violence, but they were all good songs; catchy tunes, witty lyrics, and entertaining arrangements. (He doesn’t look old enough to have written the one about making £12.50 a day in a factory though!)
In fact entertaining is the word for the whole performance: Ed has a very easy manner with the audience, and gets them involved right away. He’s a solid, rapid-fire strummer, with enough technique to keep it interesting musically: there were a couple of stumbles, which no-one would have noticed if it wasn’t for his impressive ability to pepper his songs with a running commentary on the quality of his guitar playing!
Given his unusual combination of appearance, material and performance style, Ed Ache is pretty unique, and he’s a consummate solo performer, so I strongly recommend you see him play if you get the chance.
Next up was Shrine ’69 on their first outing. They play a very retro brand of bluesy heavy rock, with a lot of southern swampiness in it, and some pleasing moments of stoner doom. The songs are long, spaced out, jam-like things, rich with thickly ladled, syrupy, saturated psychedelic guitar sounds. It’s not a noodly nod-fest though: they can really kick it, and despite the obvious doom influences, most of their riffery is of the mid-tempo hard rock boogie variety.
So they’re not exactly breaking fresh ground, but I don’t imagine that’s what they set out to do, and their material is far from generic: it is idiomatically aware, carefully arranged (for example in the relationship between the vocal melody and the guitar line), and sonically well crafted. The performances were solid and hard-grooving, with nicely locked-in bass and drums and some very tasty guitar work. The singer seemed a bit nervous, but he made an effort to interact with the crowd, and he’s got a good voice, with a bluesy-screamy Plant-ish approach.
Visually it’s the guitarist and bass player that keep the retro flame burning: they could both easily fit in on stage with the Allman Brothers in their heyday, and they know how to use their hair as well. All in all the band gave a committed, loud, musical and involving performance, with some great material performed to a high standard. This was an impressive debut for Shrine ’69, and I look forward to hearing more from them.
Sons Of Icarus have a classical reference in their name, Icarus, who… no wait, Icarus didn’t have any sons. He just drowned following an early aviation mishap. Well, whatever, it’s a pretty cool name.
What they do is rock. Full throttle, leaded-petrol, straight ahead, JD swilling, grinding hard rock. Their singer is an out-there performer, with the skinny, decadent swagger of a latter day Keith Richard, an accomplished technician with bags of power and expressivity, and no mean guitar player to boot, wringing some nice sounds out of his Bigsby-ed up Tele. The bloke standing next to him was a seriously good guitarist, as much for his sonic craftsmanship as for the licks he was slinging around. The bass player is a rock solid player, with some nicely expressive upper register excursions, and a lot of stagecraft (although I did wish he’d shut up with the slap and walking bass noodling between numbers). The drummer is tight and crisp, not prone to drawing attention to himself, but an excellent, powerful player.
So there’s nothing fancy, no frills, just a huge, heavy groove, some stratospheric melody, and a stage filling, attention grabbing, charismatic performance. Which is a perfect recipe for a good night out: the world is full of bands that want to invent something new, but lack the creativity to make it worth doing, or that are so desperate to be liked they have to play dull-as-ditchwater hipster approved indie-easy-listening, and it’s great to see a band that says ‘that old shit is the bollocks, let’s take it to the stage!’
The songs were catchy, well crafted excuses for monster riffery, and as a unit the band moved with the thunderous unity and precision of a monster truck display team. Sons Of Icarus hail from Guildford, but I hope we’ll see them this way again soon.