Friday, 4 March 2011

Tom Williams and the Boat @ The Old Queen's Head

See? We told you these guys were ones to watch. Since we last informed you of Tom Williams and the Boat, things have rather picked up over in their camp. They’ve been confirmed for festivals galore, had plaudits from all the right people (and Badly Drawn Boy), and finally got round to releasing their debut album, ‘Too Slow’, which as they rightly point out is “a really, really big deal”.

Tonight’s gig at the elegantly peeling Old Queen’s Head is respectably full; one sign of a band building momentum on a day-by-day basis. Even as it’s taking place the numbers begin to swell, and as accomplished as they are, it’s not for the support acts. While the Radiohead-bothering math rock of Look, Stranger! and the jangly Kings of Leon-esque A Life In Film are both excellent, both admit that Tom Williams and the Boat are the alumni from tonight’s line-up who are going to become greats, and there is a sense of expectation building from the start.

As the band take to the stage, it’s clear that Tom Williams is their beating heart. The others look to him for direction, and like all good frontmen there is an aura around him. It’s hard to say what this is, but as his voice cracks and breaks over the Nick Cave-esque dark folk, he already has the poise of the greats. The band’s influences include Springsteen, and there are obviously a lot of debts being paid to the Boss in their chugging, kitchen-sink guitar lines. There’s also a bit of Dylan in there, as Williams blows at a harmonica, cradled in a Bob-style neck harness.

Things are constrained, but only because of lack of space. “Sorry we’re not rocking out,” says Tom. “There’s not even enough room to swing a cat up here. If you did it would probably lose its head or something.” They needn’t apologise though. There is something about being pent up that suits their sound. Its polite folk with broody post-rock feels like it’s about to explode and smash a glass over your head, and is constantly reigning itself in and then uncoiling itself. The fact the band is physically cramped means they play faster, louder, and more furiously than on record.

As they rattle through their set it becomes clear that there's a divide between dark and light within their music. This can be seen just by looking at the assembled band, who all seem as if they’ve stumbled in from different acts (which they pretty much have): violinist Geri Holton could be from a bare foot folk band, all softness and light, while the assembled guitarists and drummer look like the remnants of a '90s stoner rock outfit (except they’re far too young). These varying influences, crashing together are what make the band more than a run-of-the-mill indie-folk act, and is why they’re a group to get excited about.

Keep your peepers peeled, there’s more to come.

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