Another milestone reached, and another gig year comes to a close, and to mark both occasions, I really couldn’t have picked a better host than prolific, hard-working punk/folk troubadour and recent “live” favourite of mine, Gaz Brookfield, for a new CD release party in his adopted hometown Bristol! Truth to tell, it was only the fact that the excellent Savages November Trinity show (gig 894) clashed with Gaz’ most recent show in the ‘don, which prompted me to get a ticket for this one. However, as this ultimately became a sell-out, plus with the announcement that Gaz was performing with a full band, I was anticipating a partisan “hometown” crowd hopefully feeding off Gaz’ passion, creating a superb, all inclusive atmosphere. So, despite a cold wafting around my head and reports of particularly stormy driving conditions, off I went!
The trip down wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared, however, despite some gusts, and I managed to park up in the first spot around the corner from the venue as well! So I popped in just after ¼ to 8, to see the last knockings of young motormouth opener Clayton Blizzard. One of Gaz’ recent tour companions (as were all of Gaz’ supports tonight; typical of the man that he should want to share his biggest audience with his fellow solo singer-songwriter contemporaries), Blizzard had a Chicago Cubs cap and a Benjamin Zephaniah-like rhythmic delivery, railing and raging against, well, pretty much everything really, but with a wit and humour which held the attention. And some rapier-like lines as well – “if the cod stocks are low, let them eat hake!” being my favourite.
Had a breather outside, bumping into old friend Steve Aldridge and chatting, thus missing most of Ellen Cox’s set, next up. What I heard I liked, though, in a more angsty vein, especially a fine final number “Sink Britain Sink”. Next up, in short order in front of the rapidly filling Fleece crowd, was curly mop-haired singer Joe McCorriston; from Morecambe, he had a Brookfield/ Turner-esque strident punk-folk delivery, with bags of enthusiasm which made up for some haphazard rough edges. After a cover of “Basket Case”, he took a photo of the audience – his biggest ever – for his mum! The place was uncomfortably full by now so I took another breather outside, hanging out with “Olly” and again missing most of Sean McGowan’s set. More provocative and Dashboard Confessional-like than the other supports, he ended his crowd-pleasing set with an acapella political rant. Provocative indeed!
So, 4 fine supports, but we were here for Gaz! I negotiated my way down to the front, stage left, for his entrance, again in short order at 10 to 10 after a short final set-up check. Already feeding off a rapturous reception, he led the band into galloping opener “Limelight”, the irony of this tale of support act hell not lost on the manically grinning Gaz. Newie “Land Pirate’s Life”, the lead-off track from new CD “In The Company Of Thieves”, the release of which we were here to celebrate, followed breathlessly behind, the excellent Ben Wain’s superb violin work adding an extra dimension to this tale of life on the road.
An intended early “SN1” was abandoned as Gaz had some guitar tuning problems, needing to borrow Ellen Cox’s for the remainder of the set. However, this didn’t put him off his stride, as he delivered a magnificent performance of energy, passion and commitment, his superbly observed tales of life’s pitfalls and highlights being enhanced by his fine band. Another newie, “Black Dog Day”, was brilliant, a dark and venomous number about facing one’s demons, then a raucously sung-along “Be The Bigger Man” was a mid-set highlight. In fact, most of tonight’s numbers were sung back raucously by this enthusiastic and tuned-in crowd, delivering the all-inclusive vibe I’d hoped for, and eliciting looks of pride and incredulity from Gaz throughout, a big stupid grin never far from his face.
“I can’t explain what’s happened tonight… so I won’t try,” Gaz announced before set closer “The West Country Song” shook the rafters of this venerable old venue with a mass singalong. Before the encores, Gaz remarked, “in a sense, this is my work Christmas do, so it’s only a matter of time before I photocopy my arse…” to introduce a savage, pointed “Diet Of Banality”, then a final subsequent “Thin” really raised the roof and provided the perfect punctuation to this utterly triumphant evening.
Hung out for brief congrats from an elated and predictably besieged Gaz, getting some stuff signed after a sweaty bearhug, before hitting the road for a stormy but safe journey home. If Gaz couldn’t explain what happened tonight, let me try; tonight, a marvellously talented but thus-far overlooked performer might, just might, have started to get the recognition due to him. And no-one deserves it more.