The cold wind was driving the rain like bullets of ice as I made my way along Western Road to the basement of the Mad Hatter Cafe and descended into The Rabbit Hole. None of this inclement weather seemed to deter the people crammed into this small space. It was only 8:15 and it was already packed with people. Two projectors splashed images across the low ceiling, the walls, the audience, and later the bands.
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst up was Ham Legion, complex twisting music, driven along by Nick Howiantz’s bass lines and Mikey Parsons’ drumming, backed up with Sam Clarke’s guitar work. They seemed to be always demanding your attention – never quite letting you settle into complacency about the music that was going on up on the stage. Time changes, light and shade, twists and turns their music is at times brash and strident and at others quiet and almost whispered.
They are currently working on their first album and, if their recorded output comes anywhere near the live performance it is likely to be a very interesting listen. The only drawback to their set was one not of their making. The P.A. speakers were masked by the crush of the audience making a lot of the vocals inaudible. Even so it was a confident outing for this young band.
In between Ham Legion’s set we were treated to a singular show by a Waters Sister. Looking like a superhero in a jumpsuit she performed a slow motion mime at the front of the stage. It was hard to see the whole of the action from anywhere other than the front couple of rows but I have seen them before at other gigs and they are mesmerising.
Arch Garrison were next up. Craig Fortnum (from the North Sea Radio Orchestra) sings and plays acoustic guitar whilst James Larcombe (who also plays in the duo Stars in Battledress with his brother Richard as well as being part of William D. Drake’s band and also part of the aforementioned North Sea Orchestra) plays keyboards. They play a quiet, almost baroque style of English music.
Intricate guitar lines weave around the keyboards and the delicate vocals. They won over the chatterers as their set progressed, until practically the whole audience were listening and paying attention. Again the P.A. did not do justice to the fragility of the songs but, in that space, it was never going to be an easy task getting that right.
[pullquote_left]Their sound reaches back to touch fingers with Early Pink Floyd, not the whimsical Syd Barrett songs but the pounding, subterranean improvisation of songs Like Astronomy Dominé and Saucerful of Secrets whilst waving to Hawkwind, early Soft Machine as they pass and mixing all that with a strong dose of their own secret, manically magic, ingredients.[/pullquote_left]
And then Zofff! Bic Hayes on Guitar, Chris Anderson (Crayola Lectern) on bass, Damo Waters (Clowwns, The Electric Soft Parade, Crayola Lectern and many more) on Drums, Alistair Strachan on trumpet and synth effects with Richard Gorbutt on homemade electronis were also joined for the night by Craig Fortnum from Arch Garrison.
This was a powerful performance from a band that seems to go from strength to strength over each gig.
Their sound reaches back to touch fingers with Early Pink Floyd, not the whimsical Syd Barrett songs but the pounding, subterranean improvisation of songs Like Astronomy Dominé and Saucerful of Secrets whilst waving to Hawkwind, early Soft Machine as they pass and mixing all that with a strong dose of their own secret, manically magic, ingredients.
Driving and insistent they captured the mood of the audience and herded it along before them.
The whole atmosphere of a Club Stramonium night reminds me of the heady days of the late sixties at venues like UFO and Middle Earth and the audience seems drawn from all ages and styles.
I headed back out into the cold, dark, wet and windy Brighton night with a warm glow and my heart still throbbing to the beats……
Photo Credits: Andrea Shamlou