Artist: Porchlight Smoker
Venue: The Square Tower
Date: 26th September 2014
Our historic old venue has seen some top notch artists over the last couple of years since Square Roots Promotions first started bringing the best in Americana, Roots and Folk music to our great City, and Porchlight Smoker proved to be right up there with the very best of ‘em, with a performance that fair fizzed and crackled with pure musical alchemy.
To describe this Brighton-based 4 piece as just a bluegrass band would be doing them a major disservice, as their own mash up of mainly American styles with a distinctly British under-current, is very much their own. Multi-instrumentalists, soaring four way harmonies, and a rail-road worn doghouse bass means that these boys are guaranteed to send you home with a smile on your face!
In full flow, the Steve Bell-penned “Mary Kennedy” is an irresistible force. Beautifully crafted vocals and lyrics vie with Scott Smith’s sublime lap steel for prime spot, but marginally lose out to those stunning four part harmonies on the chorus. Yes, it was one of those “moments”!
Guitarist and mandolin player Fred Gregory’s own Welcome To The Family” (this one’s about two murders, a suicide and a drug bust!) contrasted nicely with another of his self-written numbers “Dig Down Deeper” (about diggin’ for gold in Portslade!), and serves to emphasise the depth of the well from which these boys draw their muse. Each song is moulded and sculpted to near perfection – wherever the audience looks there is something creative happening, whether it’s Scott Warman’s unequivocal driving double bass keeping the band rollin’ on, or Fred Gregory’s trademark joyous harmony vocal giving the songs an added dimension.
Steve Bell’s poignantly apt “Flowers On The Sea” is another highlight amongst highlights, unfurling the story of a reluctant seaman on the HMS Hood which was ultimately destroyed and sunk by the Bismarck. An evocative vocal performance again to the fore.
This band certainly know how to get those toes tapping too. “Back To Babylon” sees banjo and double bass shifting through the musical gears for a climatic ending, while “Shady Grove” has the band at full throttle bathing the crowd once more in those lush voices.
Closing the show with a bluegrassed-up version of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” was somewhat inspired yet not at all irreverential or contrived. It certainly had the sell-out audience grooving and singing along in appreciation.
The long queue at the merchandise table was assuredly testament to the vitality, energy and latent musical talent that this band possess by the bucket load. This was backed up by the constant comment as people left the show after – “When will they be back?”. Not too long if we have our way!!
Photos By Liam and Donna Brown ©2014 all rights reserved
“Absolutely fabulous! One of the best shows I’ve ever been to. Simply brilliant!” (Viv Chatfield)
“Thoroughly enjoyed the gig. Thanks for a great evening!” (Dan Cooke)
“Corker of a show, excellent night. Loved it!” (Di Elle)
As a bonus for those who came…and indeed those that either couldn’t make the show, or who didn’t get their tickets before it sold out, here is a video filmed and edited by Lloyd Brown, of the band performing “Back To Babylon” on top of the Square Tower….enjoy!