The Witchwood Ashton U Lyne 29/04/17
I am in Ashton –U-Lyne at an old stomping ground of mine, ‘The Witchwood’. As a child I attended the local high school, which would be another story altogether and not for the faint-hearted. Ashton is an old Market town on the outskirts of Manchester, and like many of these satellite towns there is a distinct difference in attitude. Ashton for a period of time was the centre of everything that wasn’t right in this area, that now has changed thankfully and as I get off the 219 bus I saunter with a smile as I reach the venue.
The evening starts with The Dollar Bombers, a country/folk duo who are blessed with wonderful vocals and charming songs. The ideal start to an evening for any occasion, a band that also seems confident in the world they inhabit, and I am sure could support many a main act at any size venue.
The Witchwood has a buzz about it as the next band, Control of the Going, come on stage. I have never seen the band before and was expecting great things from the psychedelic rock and rollers. However, it just didn’t happen for me, from being a psychedelic haze it just became a drone of the obvious. Although the band seemed to be a hit with a number of friends who had come to see them, the back of the room was more concerned with the price of beer and what was happening in the boxing event that was on the TV screens. However, there is potential in a number of their songs and there is a certain richness to the vocals that makes me think they can move forward. I hate to knock a young band but they have to up their game if they want to make an impact in the psych world, which at the moment is outstanding.
Next up on this busy night are the Last Race Home — a band described as having songs of hard drinking, love, gritty Northern realism, romanticism and heartbreak. The last time I saw this band they were fronted by a ‘very’ Mancunian vocalist, and although I enjoyed them there was something not quite right, so tonight would be my first chance to see the difference, and what a difference it was. The band now have a total sanguine factor about themselves, a band made for any summer festival you could mention, a genuine optimism that is contagious. With shared vocals and competent, confident musicians, The Last Race Home were a force to be reckoned with, and I am sure will please people up and down the country.
The lights went down and a smoky haze drifted across the stage and the main act for the evening, The Cornelius Crane came on stage. The band are a unique mix of Americana and northern folk that tends at times to drift into 70s prog. Yes totally up my street. I relax as the band go through their set; the strength of the band is not only their musical talents but the quality of their songs, songs that reach out to you and touch your very soul. This is a band I have seen on many occasions that to me set the standard of what a quality professional band should be like. But as I take in the music and the performance something doesn’t seem quite right— the songs are played well, and although the sound from the PA system was a tad ropey for the first few songs, something was missing. It was like watching a band who were coming off a 2 year tour and on their penultimate gig. Musically it was spot on, but the magic of watching a live band is that spark, that energy, which I am sad to report wasn’t there on this occasion. In the past when I have seen the Crane there is always genuine humour and banter on the stage— this wasn’t present and it showed. I hope this was a one off, as a band of this quality doesn’t come around that often. Overall I enjoyed the evening, perhaps there was one band too many on the event, but real value for money at a venue that has far too many tribute band posters adorning its walls.