By Matthew Farrall with Trevor Absolom and Matthew Davies.
Last Saturday, the After Dark Club on London Street in Katesgrove hosted another live music night in league with the inspirational Musical Bear Records, with free entry if you turned up before 7.30. Three of the four bands were local and, once again, we were amazed at their quality and originality. The Reading music scene seems pretty vibrant and alive at the moment, not to mention cheap and accessible.
The first band, the intriguingly named BJ Bevy, started proceedings with a classy, smooth and bluesy soulful sound with a hint of 60s garage. The Byronic flamboyance of lead singer and guitarist James Burgon drives this soul train with his confident and clear delivery. The backing singer, although looking a tad nervy, did a great job with tuneful harmonies. Along with some great keyboard work, this made a lovely mature accomplished set which went down very well. There was a bit of audience participation in the form of a friend of the band playing a tune with a bottle which was something different. Their songs had some sensual wordplay as in “pour a little sugar on me”.
The lead singer looked delighted later when he received an extraordinarily large birthday cake in the shape of a guitar. It was another great moment on the night and fitting for a landmark thirtieth anniversary.
It seems unbelievable that Harroland formed only recently. They are a subversive, hard to categorise Reading indie-rock four-piece with singing siblings. Their melodic synthy sound with guitars, keyboards and drums has a slightly dark and haunting feel, but they aren’t overtly miserable either. Kate and Michael Kennedy’s vocals have a very distinctive, rather un-Reading mid-Atlantic twang making their song Never Back Down sound like some old defiant classic. The stand out line from their set was “could the drummer get a little less guitar!” The joys of anything can happen on the night you get with live music! Another great tune was Railroad with some really impressive lyrics and their last song was called Gravedigger which was a sombre but atmospheric note to end on.
They sound so professional and unique we couldn’t help agreeing with Reading’s live music Don, Steven Siddle, in saying that they are “the best new band in Reading”. They seem a very modest bunch, but they should expect success if they keep this up. Their songs are thoughtful and melodic, leaving behind a distinct lingering good memory and they really impressed the After Dark crowd.
Berkshire based three piece Doops have honed their sound to create a blistering combination of hard beats and space riffs. Only formed in late 2017, they have already supported up-and-coming acts such as Touts, King Nun and Kill Committee on the back of a DIY home demo tape. They are a very likeable, honest young band and went down very well live with their gritty vocals and tight, punky, psychedelic songs.
Although their garage, Clash style influences are there to be heard, they have carved out their own set that got the audience both moving and thrilled, and kept us all on our toes with some unexpected song endings. They are only on their fourth gig and trying out new songs, but they wouldn’t be out of place on any live music bill and get better and better.
The incredibly named Reading band The Final Clause of Tacitus made us suspicious we might have been about to get our ears bent. But their energy was contagious and we couldn’t have been more wrong or surprised. They absolutely rocked and ended the night on a high note or even shout! Channelling bands like Rage against the Machine, but with their own style of hard aggressive rock intertwined with moments of serenity and a heavy sprinkling of funk, we couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves. The lead singer had one foot on the scaffold, in the faces of the audience, who totally got them from minute one. Their guitarists didn’t let up the pace at any moment and they won over a largely indie audience with their energy and verve. A high energy, pumped up, aggressive, no holds barred, floor shaking, self-assured performance.
The smell of Lynx hung in the air as the lead singer reminisced about the sweaty walls from the After Dark of old. The set was closed with House of Pain‘s Jump Around and the audience was showered with confetti afterwards which made for a great finale.
The sound was very good indeed and I don’t know whether this is down to tech wizards, the venue itself, the quality of musicianship and vocals, or maybe all three. It is an absolutely great place for live music and the scaffolded stage gives plenty of scope for the sort of showing off that gets an audience buzzing. The running order of the bands was very well engineered as they all added a layer to the cake until the incredible Tacitus provided the energetic icing at the end.
We left the venue really excited and with spirits lifted in the way only a great night of live music can achieve. We had to calm down with a Summer Lightning and a game of bar billiards in redbrick Katesgrovian fine ale Burg, the Hop Leaf.
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.