Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Starlets (and others) play Henry's Cellar Bar

This review marks something of a first, since two of the three bands covered earn it a shameless plugs tag (meaning that a friend of mine plays with them each of them).

I've written about The Starlets a couple of times before. I first heard them in a gig last July, I also mentioned their Japanese tour last autumn. At the end of that piece I lamented the lack of plans for UK gigs and it's only very recently that they've got round to playing any. Friday marked their first Edinburgh appearance since last summer and is one of a series surrounding the launch of their new album Out Into the Days from Here. Unlike the last time I heard them, both support acts are worth mentioning and, actually, all three of them complimented each other nicely.



First up was Famous Dave Dixon, and the only act I don't know anyone involved in (who Starlets front man Biff Smith described to me beforehand as imagine Bob Dylan but from Aberdeen and with ginger hair). He played a brief set, accompanying himself on an amplified acoustic guitar. He has a nice voice and is decent guitarist to boot.

Dave was followed by Lipsync for a Lullaby, whose lead singer and guitarist Atzi plays cello with us in the Stockbridge and New Town Community Orchestra. I've heard Lipsync a couple of times now, and find them a rather difficult band to describe. They are a slightly unusual setup, with viola joining guitars and drums, but one which works very well. Their songs tend to start out quiet beauty and then get almost overpoweringly loud (sometimes a little too loud for my taste). I'm not really able to say much more than that because they have a very unusual effect on me. As well as writing reviews and the like here, I also do a fair bit of creative writing. I find Lipsync's music transports me and often helps me unlock various bits of writer's block I might be having. As such, I find myself jotting down notes about that rather than the music itself. I hope this is taken as a compliment - it's certainly meant that way and it's why I like hearing them. There's not much music that does that for me and I find that I can't really just listen without it having that effect. Unfortunately, it's of little help as a review.

After this the The Starlets took to the stage (my friend Caroline Evens, also the leader of our orchestra, plays violin with them). The first thing that struck me was not something I really noticed the last time I heard them: Biff Smith is a very engaging front man, not least in so far as his amusing commentary regarding his wayward microphone stand was concerned.

Friday found the band on fine form. As I've mentioned before, they have a sound that particularly appeals to me, due to their mix of guitars, drums, trumpet, violin and, on this occasion, cello as well. Perhaps unusually, given they've only just had the UK launch of their new album, the set was mostly not their newer songs. I'm slightly glad of this. I haven't yet got round to giving the new album a proper review (I downloaded it from emusic a week or so ago) and while there's a lot of good stuff on it, I don't like it quite so much as the last two efforts. I think that is because the balance is slightly less in favour of the more dreamy songs which I really like. However, two of numbers Like Novocaine and Running out of Saturday were both excellent. These were nicely joined by some of my favourite songs from the older albums such as Rocking in a Shy Way and Surely Tomorrow You'll Feel Blue.

For a couple of songs, including the Western inspired Crazy Horse (which, despite sounding like it in name only, made me think of the Bad Horse chorus from Joss Whedon's genius musical Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog) they were joined on stage by Famous Dave Dixon.



They finished nicely with a purely musical, foot tapping, or rather stomping, number inspired by a weekend of drinking in Poland. It was an inspired choice as it removed any demand for encore, since it's the kind of song you shouldn't try to followup on (we're not generally fans of encores here). That said, I could happily have listened to sets twice as long from each band.

All in all, a good night of music.

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