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.

Hey Colossus Supported by Mullholland @ The Piper, St Leonards.

06 November 2019 – Hey Colossus with Mullholland @ The Piper

Hey Colossus are a bit of an odd beast; a sort of noise/droney/experimental/metal with a bit of pop, band. They are impossible to accurately describe, and each album is a little different to the previous. They are resolutely low-key. I had not heard of them in NZ, yet they have been around since the early noughties, releasing records and touring. They released a new LP, ‘Four Bibles’ in May, and it sits very high up on my album of the year list. I was pleasantly surprised that they were playing a gig in St Leonards, and for a paltry £5.50. OK it was a Wednesday, but now I have discovered I can work from a Hastings office a Wednesday is not as tricky as it could be.

After a busy day at work in London I had a fairly stressful drive down to the flat. It was as busy as you would expect for rush hour. I am not a big fan of driving in the dark, off the main highways the roads are crap and I don’t drive often enough now to be totally comfortable on the road. I am becoming one of those slow and overly cautious drivers I hated being stuck behind when I was in NZ. I am seeing the other side now.

Arriving at the flat not long before the gig started, I dumped the load of stuff I brought down, and headed to the pub almost immediately. Rushing  didn’t help the stress levels. I really like The Piper, it is a new pub, having opened since I have been in St Leonards. They have bands, most of which I like, the music in the pub is often really good, and they have a really good house red at a decent price. [*note; 3 weeks later, the good house red at a decent price seems to have ended.]

Hey Colossus were supported by Mullholland, a young instrumental duo from the Channel Islands, now living in Brighton, I am guessing there is not much of a music scene on Jersey. I thought they were brilliant, they have released a couple of albums, which I had listened to at work, but they were very much a live band. I took a few photos, and am looking forward to hearing the next, pending, record.

Hey Colossus are a six piece guitar, bass and drum band. A bit too big for the stage at The Piper, and too big for the 20mm lens on the GX800 (basically a 50mm lens on a normal camera). I could not fit all of them in a single shot. This is the first gig on a European tour, they are from London and the south west, so I guess this was on the way to the ferry to France. There had been no sound check, it was at times a total wall of noise, at others the sound was crisp and clean. Either way it was pretty damn good. The vocalist was standing directly under that hideous purple spot light, so I was forced to convert these to black and white.

When they hit the stage I am fairly sure they was more band members than audience, something I was pretty upset about, though it did fill out a little once the the music started. I know this is small town coastal England, Brexit country, small ‘c’ conservative, and yes Hey Colossus are never going to be Ed fucking Sheeran, but they deserved a much bigger crowd than this. They are innovative, noisy, talented, though to be fair I doubt they gave a shit. Small audiences are what they are used to I guess.

I was mesmerised by the vocalist, he does not look like his voice. Maybe it was the ‘tache.

I loved them. My ears less so, they were still humming well after I got to work on Thursday.

I posted  couple of photos on Instagram on Thursday night and Mullholland asked if they could use them, which was very nice. My photos on their Instagram feed get more likes than any photos on my feed!

Night Beats, supported by Strange Cages @ The Piper

September 03 2019 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

St Leonards is constantly changing, gentrifying, and in my mind improving. I know not everyone agrees that the gentrification of this, or any other area, is a good thing; but hey, I am a property owner and anything that increases the value of my investment is a good thing! I am a middle aged, middle class man who likes, and can mostly afford good coffee, nice wine, good beer and music. Therefore I am very supportive of the addition of places that provide those things to St Leonards, even if the price of a pint is a lot more expensive than others.

Since I have moved into my flat the only closed pub in the St Leonards has been renovated, reopened, renamed as The Piper and rebranded itself as a live music bar and venue. It is very much my kind of place.

I popped in their for a quiet pint last time I was down and ended up staying there for five drinks, it was the sort of place where I felt comfortable sitting alone with my laptop and writing. In that case one of the many blog posts I managed to write that week. They were also playing some of the best music I have heard in a pub – almost as if they had been referring to my Spotify playlists. I have been back since, but not staying that long again.

They started having bands play a few weeks ago, a couple of really good acts have played there, including Toy, one of my current favourites, so definitely a place to be excited about. Tonight they hosted Night Beats, an American psychedelic/garage rock three piece. Though this is my sort of music I had not heard of them before, so this was a very good reason to head to a new favourite ‘local’ and go see a band, or two.

Last week I bought myself a new camera, something to be covered in the next post, so I it along tonight. It is pretty low end, but I was hoping that as it is new technology it would have better low-light capabilities than my other cameras. I was pleasantly surprised.

I got to the venue about an hour after doors opening and was a bit gutted as to the very small number of people there, however by the time the support band, Strange Cages, came on the crowd had expanded enough for there to be a good atmosphere.

Strange Cages are from Brighton, I had checked out a couple of tracks on Youtube and didn’t like them, but will always check out a live band. They were much better than their Youtube clips gave them credit for, and subsequent listening on Spotify proved their youtube presence is bad. Their last track was a long jam, reminding me a lot of early Pink Floyd, but the synth was a bit too twiddly for me. They did however, have the best drummer I have seen in ages, extremely aggressive and very talented. Worth going to see them for him alone. Though naturally I have no photos of him, mainly the front man. As always

Strange Cages.

Night Beats are just starting a European tour, so I guess this is a bit of a warm up show for them, small venue in a small town. The place was full one they got on the low stage, though I had not left the room between sets so was close enough to take photos before the crowd made its way in front of me.

The lighting was terrible, as is always the case in small venues. Why do they insist on those awful red or blue lights?

I had fun, they are a good band, live they were a bit more 60s garage rock than full on psychedelic rock. A good night out.

Night Beats.