Dear Brad, you rock!
I’ve been looking forward to Brad Dear‘s EP launch ever since it was announced – it’s been literally years I’ve been watching Brad but I think this is only the second time in that time I’ve seen him headline his own gig, and the first time he’s done so with the full line up of him, Andy, Chris and now of course Lizzie on fiddle. With Unknown Era unfortunately having to drop out, Spud was drafted in as a last minute support which frankly is a bonus in itself. As we normally would anyway we made sure we were there in time for proceedings beginning.
Plenty of folk were already in Bodega early doors too – Spud got himself sorted and on stage, kicking off with The Small Festival Scene, charting the awesome array of grassroots events that go off around the country (and how tricky it can be to get to play them!). Amusingly, being in a DHP venue, he went for Life Without DHP next – explaining to the crowd how difficult not being on the radar of the ubiquitous Nottingham-based promoter can be. Certainly raised a few chuckles in the crowd.
Getting into his stride next up was the inimitable I Can’t Get Penetration on Tinder – raising the stakes of chuckles to downright laughter! His love of fishing was up next for Wherever I May Roam (not a Metallica cover, I hasten to add!) before his love of, well, other things was paid tribute to with High Green. A proud Nottinghamian his homage to Robin Hood was next with The Legend of Nottingham has its own video(which which I never knew!), he finished up his set in the crowd with Sam on guitar for a raucous final track of Chocolate Biscuit. Ace set.
Pete Jackson was up next – I was excited to see him perform as it’s been bloody ages, I must confess at first his understated introduction of just wanting to play some covers was a bit disappointing, but his choice of songs soon put paid to that. A couple of times he said he wasn’t promoting a release or anything, he ought to have been really – anyone who hasn’t already should check out his album Two Birds as it’s fabulous (okay so it came out in June). He kicked off with a cover of Levellers’ No Change, and it was pretty mesmerising to be honest.
New Model Army’s Wired was up next – not an NMA song I’m familiar with, but it sounded great with just Pete’s voice and guitar. Another unfamiliar song was up next with Tom Kimmel’s Never Saw Blue Like That, a lovely sentimental track he’d dedicated to I think his cousin in the crowd. Back to the familiar he went for The Killers’ Jenny Was a Friend of Mine with some impressive traversing of his fret board to get to all the high bits. Back to Levellers and The Boatman got an airing, including the unofficial ‘spaceman’ verse.
Then happily for me he did throw a couple of his own songs in to the set to finish, Great North Road was first – telling the misadventures of a gentleman highwayman, interestingly the chorus (which I’d noted as ludicrously catchy back when I wrote about the album) proved to be just that, with people who’d never heard the song before singing along lustily around me. He finished up with Rotterdam dedicated to Brad Drury who was in the crowd. Really enjoyable set – I must make more effort to make sure I get to see Pete perform this year. Any festival organisers reading – take note!
And so Brad Dear and his band took to the stage for the main event – they launched into Circles and Roundabouts without much ado and then into Walls. The Bodega was pretty damn packed by this point, rather than join the melee at the front I stayed a bit back in the sound sweetspot – watching a bloody accomplished band do their thing whilst the crowd sang back, danced and played with a balloon which had unaccountably found its way into the venue, it certainly seemed to be providing plenty of amusement though!
Festival Bar Blues was next – such familiar songs, but still with an element of unfamiliarity with Lizzie’s fiddle and backing vocals adding that melody that Brad’s songs had been screaming out for without any of us realising (except Lizzie apparently, who told us between songs she’d basically invited herself into the band during Something to Smile About last year around a campfire!). The Only Road I Know had a false start with guitar tuning issues, we had some pretty appalling jokes from Lizzie to pass the time before Brad mercifully got his guitar started.
The predictable someone-on-Tim’s-shoulders happened during Save Our Souls (it was Angela, arf). Then it was on to They Say and new song Sail Away which sounded bloody ace, really rocky but softened by the overlaid fiddle – looking forward to getting to know that a little better! Leave It All Behind was next – I’d half planned a long rant about an utter arsehole of a bouncer at this point but, well, why let that spoil an otherwise excellent night? – Brad played Where Are We Now on his own with the rest of the band sitting it out.
But they were all back together for an encore of sorts – Bodega doesn’t really lend itself to leaving the stage and coming back, and coming up against a strict curfew as the place reopens as some godawful club night after, they went straight into Far Away and then Long Road Home. The inevitable Special Brew conga eventually joined onto itself like a giant Ouroboros snake which circled the dancefloor (before kinda becoming a traffic jam) and the gig was over all too soon with I’m Still Here.
An absolute triumph – with a myriad of choices of things to be doing tonight I’m so glad I went to support Brad and the band, having watched him perform for so long I can’t deny a bit of a swell of pride at watching how far he’s come. He’s always been a cracking songwriter and performer but by gradually honing his skills and surrounding himself with such superb musicians he’s really kicked things up to the next level, it promises to be a big year for them – dare I say, much like Pretty Babs, they have a sound that could even be commercially viable?