Independent Venue Week 2015: Mark Morriss + Chris Helme + Rick Witter + Joe Johnson
Fri Jan 30
York’s most celebrated musical offspring plus a grumpy old git from down south came together Friday night to celebrate our outstanding independent music venues, and they really did not disappoint.
Starting the night with a couple of local heroes proved an inspired move. Two souls deeply intertwined with the city’s acoustic scene over the past decade, Unfinished Drawings and Boss Caine, kicked off proceedings with a pair of typically professional and impassioned sets.
Photographs by the awesome Marc McGarraghy
Find out more on the Yellow Mustang Photography website
Messrs Burras and Lucas showed why they fully deserved to be a part of the festivities, kicking off with Drawings’ understated rhythmic set, its chilled atmosphere strongly reminiscent of movie backing music, going down well with an audience just settling themselves in to “new Fibbers” as Rick Witter dubbed the now Toft Green-based venue.
And with Boss Caine you know exactly what you’re gonna get, a convincing performance of his compelling American-style yarns of lost loves, fear of death and “smoking in my backyard”.
Joining him on stage for a couple of tracks was vocalist Amy Greene, whose dreamy and light backing added an extra layer to the epic narratives, hinting that songs like Star-Crossed Lovers would be interesting to hear with lush arrangement behind them at some point.
What came next was hardly a surprise but no less grin-inducing; Rick Witter and Joe Johnson’s arrival brought such reverential, adoring cheers from the now-packed crowd that passers-by would be forgiven for thinking that Elvis and the Pope had just begun duetting on the Fibbers stage. It was unbelievable.
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Hilarious frontman Witter made the message of the night clear again with a resounding “it’s only a fiver, for f**ks sake!” before Shed 0.4 launched into the first track of their acoustic set Going For Gold.
A good 80 per cent of the audience knew every word and made this clear, their vocal power practically blowing Johnson off his stool. This continued throughout their unashamedly greatest hits set, only serving to confirm what we all knew already – the Sheds were more than equals of any other mid-Nineties British band.
It was clear to see Witter looking round the venue, taking everything in, during set closer Chasing Rainbows, soaking up the intense passion of the audience, whose participation levels increased with every tune the duo served up. Both played their part perfectly with equally tight guitar and vocal work.
Personal favourite of the night Chris Helme followed the unfollowable with an absolutely outstanding set of Seahorses and solo work.
The York-born Squire sidekick’s operatic voice was in sensational shape, indistinguishable with Thom Yorke at times, and coupled with his nimble guitar work on classics like The Boy In The Picture and closer Blinded By The Sun, which drew noticeable “aws” from an appreciative crowd, despite a slight mid-set lull with solo piece Summer Girl.
The headliner, somewhat disappointingly on a night celebrating local indie music and venues with a bill made up of York folk, was a southerner.
To make matters worse, one of Mark Morriss’s opening quips was a slightly snide jab at the “hen party capital of the world” that the city supposedly is, followed up with “you don’t wanna be out on a Saturday night here” which sort of went against the message of the whole show.
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But this disappointment didn’t last once he began playing. The anthemic Bluetonic was performed with his Davy Jones-esque vocals and toe-tapping guitar playing, which continued throughout an impressive showing.
The set included signature track Slight Return and, as part of a two-track encore for a hungry crowd, Consuela, or as it should be known now, “Consuela! CONNSUELLAAAA” which had been demanded at least 25 times by a loud, tall and extremely pissed gentleman behind me.
But, fittingly for a night promoting and lauding independent venues, the most impressive performer was the audience. From the patriotic woman in the “Nightly Bile Beans” T-shirt to the Bluetones devotees dancing at the front, everyone there seemed to revel in every note from the guitars and vocalists.
They joined in the hits and supported every performer with (almost) equal gusto, with special treatment reserved for the Sheds lads, of course.
As a celebration of York’s independent venues the night achieved everything it set out to and then some. It showed the importance of standalone clubs like Fibbers in terms of both sheer joy of attending, and the foundations of British music itself.
A brilliant night, and I for one don’t doubt that every single member of that audience will be returning to Fibbers or another York venue very, very soon.