The Arts

Off the Cuff

When it comes to going out and seeing live music we are spoiled for choice in Brighton, and here in West Hill we are even more privileged given our proximity to two of the more lively and happening venues in our city, The Green Door Store in Trafalgar Arches and The Prince Albert in Trafalgar Street. For those of you who don’t know TGDS, it is a bar, nightclub and live music venue. It has a basic, punky feel; intimate, with low lighting and stripped back décor – a capacity of around 150 in the performance room (behind the curtain). It serves reasonably priced drinks at the bar, with a super selection of bottled ales (including many local brews); a place which accommodates both the gig/club goers and punters who just want to enjoy the bar. Fast becoming a hip stop on the national music scene, artists visiting this year have included legends The Monochrome Set and Vic Goddard’s Subway Sect, plus more recent hipsters such as The Travelling Band.

Charlotte Church

Charlotte Church at TGDS

In August 2 TGDS surprisingly hosted the former Voice of an Angel singer Charlotte Church, who is fast re-inventing herself as a pyrotechnic, rock chic. She performed songs from her new album The Rise and you can see some of the actual performance on YouTube (where various videos have been posted). There is absolutely no doubting the strength and technical ability of her vocals, and she really looked the part too. For me, her new sound is a cocktail of The Rock Follies and Pauline Murray’s Penetration, mixed with a bit of early Radiohead, with an added dash of Catatonia. TGDS benefits from involvement with a wide variety of live music promoters and budding club impresarios, resulting in something musical on offer for all tastes. Check out their website for full listings –

Whereas TGDS is hidden away a bit and might justify the introduction above, The Prince Albert requires no such write up. Linguistic master, brand guru, pub complainer and legendary West Hill music aficionado Alastair Herbert, kindly posted the following review of a top night at the PA on 16 August, where Downing Street Years, Wildflowers and Sons of Noel did their very best to impress.

Here’s a word of advice for any support band. Never, ever, refer to the headline act. “Who’s looking forward to seeing…(a band much better than us)”? The instant underdog. When you’re on stage it’s your audience. And you know what? You might be the best thing there. But if you don’t think so why should anyone else? That sort of confidence is essential if you’re playing dirty, filthy rock ‘n’ roll music. Like Downing Street Years. In yer face music works better when it’s backed by in yer face attitude. They’re a two-piece. A girl standing drumming and a boy standing strumming. You can probably think of several others with this format. It’s a difficult one to make your own. But guitar filth is a good place to start playing. Get it right and you can always add things later. And Downing Street Years do it well. They added extra with the imaginative use of their vocal mix. The contrast between sweet voices and brash instruments worked well.

The Wildflowers

The Wildflowers

Wildflowers are new to Brighton and still finding their way around, but they’ve found a really good, beat-based, pop format. It was infectious, like all good pop music is. Mandolin and keyboards added the necessary depth without which this stuff could be superficial. The vocalist has a powerful voice. And when they dropped in a country number the immediate thought was ‘here’s the new Dolly Parton’. Really. There are much worse things to be. Wildflowers have the potential to reach out to that type of audience. And that’s very big indeed. News is, they’ve been offered a monthly residency at the Albert. It’s not every day someone impresses that much. See them soon.

Sons of Noel and Adrian had so many people in the band they filled the stage. I counted nine, but may have missed a couple. That’s pretty standard for Willkommen acts. It’s about togetherness. You may have seen the great show Willkommen Collective put on at Foxtrot in Stanmer House in 2009, when Laura Marling headlined and every stage was graced by a cellist. Sons have a gentle, thoughtful sound. They take you drifting down a river in late summer. The cello and clarinet are often melancholy in their tone, triggering deeper thoughts. With so many talented instrumentalists they’re blended into a swirl of mood music. This is trance, but with the digital taken out and the soul put back in.

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David Cuff

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