Freaky fingers in Doncaster..
A welcome return to live music came courtesy of Darren Eastell and the Freaky Fingers EP launch in The Leopard, Doncaster this weekend just gone. Darren was a last minute replacement at Wistful Festival, and they made a great impression – certainly on Ella who treated us to the tickets! Gritty bluesy rock was my vague memory from Wistful, a bearded frontman in a truckers cap – what could possibly go wrong? We had the bonus of two support acts too – Laura Kelly and Framing Witches.
Becky and Pete were hosting the evening (and us, having fed us before driving into Donny!), and we met Herb at the venue too. It was certainly more packed than last time we ventured to The Leopard, soon enough we were amongst a very healthy crowd – including assorted members of Darren’s family. As well as entry to the gig the ticket also provided access to a free EP and a sticker too – stickers adorned most of the people in the room, often with a fair bit of encouragement from family members in attendance!
We sat and drank cider in the green room for a while whilst sound-checking was underway, before heading downstairs to the bar for general nattering and merriment. It was probably the freaky fingers element of the performance I was most excited about watching – as a fledgling cajon player listening to Liam’s soundcheck (which you’d think was a full drum kit if you weren’t able to see him) was at once inspiring and incredibly daunting!
But first up was Laura Kelly – armed with an array of loop pedals she builds an impressive wall of sound utilising voice, beatbox, guitar, ukulele (and even a voice changer at one point, which gave her rich booming manly tones she names ‘Trevor’). I’m always intrigued by people who can keep that many musical plates spinning – the first time I saw one in action was Dan Donnelly, and of course we have artists like Funke and the Two Tone Baby and Ellie Keegan who use them to great effect too.
It seems to be the ladies that use them to really build up vocal harmonies with – well – themselves, though – and Laura was no exception. She seemed to be having a few technical issues but this didn’t detract from the performance for me. Songs built up gradually leaving us to second-guess what they might turn into – it brings a new dimension to watching an act for me! The drawback I guess is that the build up / set up makes the songs a tad longer than normal so a short set limits you on song numbers.
An ecletic mic of cover versions – Avicii’s Wake Me Up opened, Trevor was introduced enabling not just solo harmonising but solo duetting as well for All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor. A swift genre change brought us to Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise (I actually managed to identify this one from the set up phase!), the apologetically announced her intention to do a Spice Girls song – Say You’ll Be There actually sounded pretty impressive, she finished up what seemed an all too short set with Eminem’s Lose Control.
Next up were three-piece Framing Witches – who deigned to reveal very few song names! They made a big rock-tastic noise though, although I couldn’t get out of my head how much singer and guitarist Richard looked like one of my mates called Dan. Ha! Of a thoroughly enjoyable set of nine or ten songs they revealed probably two song names – Forget London and Freak Freak Freak Me Out. Another was introduced as a ‘jaunty poppy number’ – it still sounded pretty rock and roll to me, and that’s certainly no bad thing!
At one point Herb had made the amusing observation that there were shades of a metal-infused Chas and Dave about them, I couldn’t quite make the connection myself (but then Herb has a musical ear that I don’t!) but by fluke or fate the following song did start referencing rabbits. So maybe there is something in it after all! Fresh energetic grungish, poppish, metalish tinged rock though with some blythe lyrical references were what stuck in my head as I listened, with my foot invariably tapping along.
Talk of loop pedals and other nonsense downstairs saw our socialising over-run slightly so we missed the opening to the main act’s set – oops – so by the time we were upstairs it was in full swing. Darren plays guitar and sings whilst he’s accompanied by two Liams – one on electric guitar and one with a super-charged cajon, armed with a pedal and some kind of jingly-side-tappy device (as you can see, I’m an expert on these matters!), and a cymbal stand sat beside him.
At times gritty, bluesy – usually played with a sense of fun, Darren Eastell and the Freaky Fingers are an engaging live act. Darren is charismatic and larger than life, percussionist Liam a hive of activity whilst guitarist Liam a virtuso – he certainly drew admiring comments from fellow guitarist Herb in the crowd. Bruce Jenner was early in the set, Why Do You Have To Be Such a Dick was perhaps harshly (who knows?) dedicated to his girlfriend… she didn’t seem to take too much offence though!
Gone from his first EP was a highlight, as were throwing in some covers – Anemone by Brian Jonestown Massacre and Velvet Underground’s Waiting for the Man were nice touches – although of course this was an EP launch, so tracks from there The Morning After (Ella’s favourite) and Liam’s Song were present and correct – it’s possible that the other two tracks on the CD Orange Skies and Same Old Faces might’ve appeared – if so they weren’t named or I wasn’t fully paying attention!
Cocaine Cowboys and Lady Who Shot Me fill up the remainder of the set list that I managed to identify (unusually for me I’ve not really written the set list in the order they were played for the most part, ha, so there!). A brief departure from the stage saw them called back for an encore from a fairly raucous crowd – they finished up with a cover of Oasis’s Married With Children – which I thought was pretty enjoyable, it’s not the kind of Oasis song you’d normally expect to be whipped out for a cheeky cover. If it was Wonderwall I might’ve had words!
Three cracking sets from acts that were either completely or at least quite new to me – if you want to check out some far superior photography of the evening, then head on over to the gallery Ella has set up on her Snotography page. You can pick up Darren’s first EP from his Bandcamp page – I think you’ll need to get in touch with ’em by Facebook to get hold of the new ‘un – you should, it’s a belter!