Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kairo and Hellfire Orchestra at The Ballroom

The Ballroom, Canterbury
19th June 2014

It was nice to be back in Canterbury, and a good chance to see a lot of friendly faces in one place. Jamie from Kairo has been taking the initiative of booking a series of gigs supporting bands from elsewhere, and (with the lack of local venues booking live music) these are rare occasions for a lot of friends to get together... the social aspect of that means that everyone's keen to catch up and so the music is backgrounded by a lot of chatter and not listened to with as much attention as it deserves, a real shame. But listening through, I was able to appreciate the fact that Kairo are no longer just Jamie's backing band. As a three-piece (Toby on bass, Josh on drums, Jamie singing and playing electric guitar) they've quite rapidly evolved a distinct group identity. The new songs they played were my favourites (as with other people I spoke to after). I hope they keep moving in the increasingly interesting direction that they have been of late.

Almost three weeks later, as I write this, things have taken an unexpected turn for Kairo: Josh is in New York, filling in on for Fred from Syd Arthur (sadly having to take some time off after more trouble with his ears) playing at Radio City Music Hall in front of 6000 Yes fans! Yes, Yes are touring North America this summer (a semi-classic lineup with Squire, Howe, White and Downes), and Syd Arthur got offered the support slot. They're not too keen on getting bracketed into some kind of revivalist prog-rock category, but they couldn't turn the opportunity down. And Yes are playing the whole of their albums Fragile and Close to the Edge on this tour, so it's the kind of thing I might even be tempted by (if I were nearby). So Adam from Jouis, based not so far away in Brighton, is going to fill in for Josh over the summer. It's great to see how these bands all help each other out, tending towards a gradual melding into one massive musical organism! Most of Zoo For You and 3/4 of The Boot Lagoon have now fused into the London-based but Canterbury-centric collective Bison Bonasus, and they're getting some serious attention on the basis of one intriguing single and a couple of gigs in London. Likewise, Arlet and Cocos Lovers are intending to play some kind of joint set at Smugglers Festival this summer, the two band merging in and out of each other with a continually evolving onstage lineup.

Hellfire Orchestra (Phil and Billy from Cocos, plus Jollife on drums, backing (another) Jamie on acoustic guitar and vocals) were wonderfully raucous, as always. Unfortunately Jamie's properly poetic lyrics got lost in the mix, so only his atonal snarl (which totally suits the songs, when you can hear them properly) was audible. Still, they got us dancing. "Bastille Day" is being released as a single, I think, and they've reworked it with a kind of early 80s New Wave backing, very catchy.

Almost forgot... the evening began with a brief set from Meg Janaway, a singer-songwrite who I think's from Sandwich. She's started showing up on various Smugglers' event lineups, a friend of Toby from Lapis Lazuli. Great voice, interesting songs, very confident — we'll be hearing more from her, no doubt...


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