Penelope Isles, Winter Garden, Hanya @ The Piper.

Saturday 01 February 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

I was contacted earlier in the year by Mark who I met at a Walthamstow Rock n Roll book club event last year. One of his friends has been looking at flats in St Leonards and has made an offer on a place not too far from mine. He wanted to know what I thought of the town, so I gave him a run down on St Leonards and mentioned The Piper had recently opened and had some quite good gigs.  A couple of weeks back mark got in contact to see if I wanted to go and see the band Penelope Isles at The Piper. I said yes, so tonight we did.

I offered Mark the flat’s spare room for the night, our first overnight visitor since my sister stayed in May. We left for dinner soon after Mark arrived at the flat, choosing to eat at The Royal; a recently refurbished, re-opened, turned into a London priced gastro-pub near Warrior Square station. The food is very very good, worth the price, and it is an enjoyable place to eat in too.

We arrived at The Piper about 9:00, time enough to catch the last couple of songs of the first band Hanya, they were OK. I didn’t hear enough of them to form a proper opinion. The pub was packed and I heard one of the organisers say that the 145 capacity venue was sold out. El and I found a spot at that back, we could still see OK, but it was slightly less crowded and the sound at the venue has always been good no matter where you stand.

I went closer to the front for a couple of songs of the second band, Winter Garden. They weren’t really my cup of tea, nothing wrong with them, they had a very good guitarist, but the songs didn’t really set me on fire. I did like some of the guitar and looped synth noodling between songs, there was a great gothy noodle of the intro to Neil Young’s ‘Hey hey my my’ that would have been a good cover, though it was just an in between song thing sadly.

I have listened to Penelope Isles debut LP ‘Until the tide creeps in’ a few times in the past couple of days. It is OK, a gentle dream pop LP, something to listen to and enjoy, though it didn’t catch my attention as immediately as the Hey Colossus LP (the last band I saw at The Piper) did. Though after seeing them live, performing most of those songs, a grittier production would have suited that record better in my very non-expert, but very biased opnion.

They have some very good songs, but the LP is a little too shiny for my taste. The track ‘Gnarbone’ was so much punchier live, a highlight of their set. The recorded version does not capture the possibilities the song offers; noise, feedback, looped pedal generated squeals, all the things I like from a live band. I have no desire to see a band doing their studio thing!

Noisy squealy feedback things during Gnarbone.

I very much enjoyed their set; they are a great live band. What set them apart from the other bands that performed tonight, apart from the songs; was stage presence, they really know what they are doing, and how to work the crowd. There was nothing they did that was massively different to the support acts, but what they did do, they did so much better.

El and I both went to the front for their set, standing to one side, against the wall. I had the GX800 camera with a fast lens, so it was great for low light. The lens is not very wide and as the place was packed it would not have been any use if I stood in front of the band, so I stayed were I was and just took photos from there.

Unusually for The Piper the light was really good, thanks to some visuals from Brighton’s Innerstrings. I have been to shows with their light system before, most recently a gig in Dalston, and it does make a massive difference. I hope they come back to The Piper

I suspect Penelope Isles will be big one day, so go see them while you have the chance to see them in a small room. Small rooms are always best.