Words by Jay Dyer / Pic by Rob Hadley (Indie Images)
Wednesdays are not exactly prime nights for live music. Venues generally struggle to attract punters to their doors, punters whom have most likely hit the hump of the working week and long for the weekend. Surprisingly, however, as I arrive at the sun drenched Hare & Hounds I’m happy to see many people out to delve into some mid-week indulgence.
Entertainment for this evening comes in three forms: John J. Presley, Table Scraps and The Hungry Ghosts – which, from an initial perspective, looks like a bit of a mismatch. I head back up the winding stairs and into the Hare‘s smaller Venue 2. The room has been cut in half by a looming black curtain, I guess in order to condense the crowd, but alas we all huddle at the back – leaving enough space for a decent sized family car between ourselves and the stage.
The Hungry Ghosts take to the stage in their now customary fashion, seemingly appearing out of thin air. The band emerge without much fanfare, except front man Joe Joseph who looks like he got off his ship in Whitby and travelled down to Birmingham via a cowboy convention.
As the set commences, their impact become apparent. The marriage of the booming rhythm section and the screaming guitars is something to behold. It seems The Hungry Ghosts have spent a lot of time in the rehearsal room since the last time I saw them, ensuring they dial in their sound precisely on the brink of annihilation. The quiet to loud dynamics are wonderfully maintained with each movement proving both intricate and deadly. Then there is the swagger. During parts of the set they are touching on Nick Cave levels of swagger. ‘Super King King’ is a perfect example, with the strutting riff echoing around the room.
As Joe Joseph peruses the stage and beyond, the bass line creates a head bobbing, lip turning, effortlessly sexy beat. The Hungry Ghosts describe their sound as ‘slaughterhouse blues’. I agree. Just when you think you’re safe, you are riding the waves of chaos into impending doom. I love it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Next up on stage tonight are Table Scraps. The three piece bring a fast paced brand of punk rock which has understandably rewarded them with much respect and admiration within the Birmingham ‘scene’.
They started out life as a two-piece, but have since added a bass player which makes all the difference. Table Scraps’ sound is light and thick in all the right places and they really know how to write a catchy hook. Whether it is the gloomy, sludge filled ‘Bad Feeling’, or the thumping ‘Motorcycle’, the band know how to knock you about and leave you begging for more.
Guitarist, Scott Abbott, is seriously good; combining complex guitar lines with singing duties is no easy feat, yet he pulls it off with enough instinct to make it seem effortless. The crowd respond with a bit more energy than they did with The Hungry Ghosts, moving into the no-man’s land in front of the stage and having a few knocks about.
Table Scraps’ sound is forged through the intense driving bass lines and pounding drums battling the high end guitar lines and the accompanying gruff vocals. It takes you on a journey through the best parts of punk rock and reassures you that it’s just a heap of fun.
The room reaches its capacity for this evening and the headline act appears on stage to a cheer from the crowd; enter John J. Presley, flanked by his backing musicians. Their focus, the heavy musical influences of the southern states of the U.S. and the forming of blues escapism; tonight’s set is dripping in conventional blues guitar styles and played with such a tender touch that it must be admired.
However, as the performance goes on things start to grind on me; songs begin to merge, sounding identical to the one preceding it. There is very little change or movement in the music, which ultimately leads to myself and some of the other crowd members becoming restless.
And whilst I am a complete advocate for poetic versatility making a prominent return to song lyrics, John J. Presley is going in the wrong direction. His lyrics feel overly conceited, so much so that I can mouth the next line with such ease it’s unbelievable.
I enjoy listening to blues, and understand it has the problem of being restrictive upon experimentation. But unfortunately I find tonight’s set derivative of everything I have heard before; it is not breaking any ground, at all, seeming to settle and stagnate as the set wears on.
Back on the positives though, I do admire John J. Presley voice – it’s wonderfully thick and raspy, which is great for his own style. Also the music is technically played, precisely, and with a level of ability few people possess. I am just saddened to find myself sat at the back of the venue by the end of the set.
For more on John J Presley, visit www.johnjpresley.com
For more on Table Scraps, visit www.facebook.com/tablescrapshq
For more on The Hungry Ghosts, visit www.facebook.com/the.hungry.ghosts
For more from the Hare & Hounds (Kings Heath), visit www.hareandhoundskingsheath.co.uk