- 16 Oct 17
Maybe it‘s because I personally first discovered Johnny Flynn at this time of year, or perhaps it’s down to the subject matter of a lot of his music, but it feels really fitting to be seeing him in the harvest months.
However, if I thought I was in for a night of pure folky goodness, I was quickly made aware this would not be the case when I walked in to the first support act. If I had to make one, my synopsis of the night would be ‘diverse’.
Holly Holden and her band are really a sight to behold. Each one of them has donned extremely shiny sequin jackets and Holly is wearing a very pretty decorative headpiece. Their sound is a sort of fusion of reggae, Caribbean type vibes mixed with some soulful vocals from Holden – think 2008 Imelda May meets UB40. They play an inoffensive set to a settling crowd coming in from the rain – a summery showing which was far from the Autumnal set up I was expecting.
The second support act, Cosmo Sheldrake, is a one man experience. He uses a loop pedal and vocal effects to immense effect – often pounding his chest for enhancement. He incorporates some fascinating, almost African style chanting and beats, with some super obscure natural samples and found sounds – one of his songs featured recordings of the sun’s pulsations which had been recorded by scientists over a number of months. It’s not just science he’s interested in – he has built a song around William Blake’s poem ‘The Fly’. His voice is reminiscent of those of Alt-J, Glass Animals, or The Black Keys – quite monotonous at times but climbing to falsettos every so often. An enticing and enchanting set from someone we’ll be keeping an eye on – if not least to see where he goes with his organic tea towel game, which he announces will be on sale after the gig.
Then, after a quick turnaround, we are graced with the presence of folk maestros Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit. Opening on ‘Raising the Dead’ from their most recent album, Sillion, with some charming backing chorals from the band. Personally, I like when a band perform a nice mix of older and new material, and so when they go straight into ‘Lost and Found’ from 2010’s Been Listening I’m even more excited for what I’m about to see.
And I’m not disappointed – aside from a widely encompassing set list, this is a band made up of exquisite musicians. The stage is covered in different instruments – a double bass, trumpet, flute to name a few – which were all swapped and moved on a regular basis throughout the night. Johnny himself would go from plucking his guitar strings to blasting out on a trumpet in the blink of an eye. And, as an extra bonus, members of both of the support bands came to join the main act on a number of songs. Cosmo grabbed a double bass and Holly played keys and provided backing vocals on ‘Wandering Aengus’ – a second nod in the night to another fine poet, this time our own W.B. Yeats.
Some of their most recent offerings have an almost Celtic feel, not least on ‘The Night My Piano Upped and Died’. This is perhaps in tribute to the ancestry of his surname – which he highlighted at the beginning by asking if there was any Flynn’s in the house and quipped that it was probably all of us. He said he’d never met any other Flynn’s, but nodded at his fellow band member and sister Lillie Flynn and excluded her.
A very engaging performance from a band of well-seasoned musicians. ‘The Water’ I feel I must give an honourable mention to – a favourite song of mine. ‘Howl’ is another old favourite I particularly enjoyed, but some newer offerings such as ‘Barleycorn’ were just as pleasing, with its rhythmic beat and full band harmonies. Delighted these guys are back after a few albumless years - always a pleasure.