First impressions, as they say, are important. And you can certainly get a lot of first impressions from the instruments that a band leaves on stage before they even start playing. And the Loose Kites left only two things: a bass guitar and a cajón (an acoustic percussion box). This told me a few things:
- The set would involve an acoustic guitar
- The set would be quiet
- The cajón player would have a beard and wear a beanie
I was right on all counts but one. The set was not quiet.
The Loose Kites are an eight-piece- yes, you read that correctly- folk and rock band from Chester, and were one of the most energetic musical acts I’ve seen in a long time.
Their aim, they state, is to ‘infect the planet with love’. Personally I wasn’t too sold on that idea, but if their secondary aim is to, say, infect the planet with a lust for alcohol and foot-stomping, then they have absolutely succeeded. As Si, the vocalist states between the first and second songs- ‘That was a drinking song… this is a drinking song too!’
The Loose Kites emit a fantastically catchy sound with their roots deeply embedded in heart-warming folk music and not-so-subtle touches of ska and rock. If comparison were needed, I’d say they were somewhere between the Dropkick Murphys and Mumford & Sons as their influences allow them to deliver kick-ass folk rock while maintaining a certain soulfulness.
The ska element was delivered via a trumpet and sax, occasionally emphasised with off-beat acoustic guitar stabs which made it impossible not to nod along to. Another thing to be noted is that their live performance was absolutely tight. Timing was perfect, and all the members seemed to give the impression that they knew exactly what they were doing at all times, while managing to remain energetic. Bod, the bassist (who donned a flatcap, obviously) delivered fantastic driving bass lines and riffs which really pushed the songs forward while Si flailed his hands around, growling out the lyrics–‘ Oh we live too long I’m getting’ old, and getting’ on, rah bah bah bah…’
Ollie, the acoustic guitarist and backup vocalist, supplied pitch-perfect vocal harmonies along with a clear n’ crunchy acoustic tone which went well with the deep and reverberating low end of the percussion.
There was rarely a moment where an audience member wasn’t recording a video or taking a photo, as the spectacle of these eight guys’ energetic performance was an enjoyable show in itself. Si dons a black hat for the fourth song- Spaghetti Northwestern, which is soon tossed into the audience. A failed vocal duo at the end of the fifth song earns rapturous applause as Si and Ollie laugh it off. An audience member begins slapping a tambourine later in the set. By the seventh song, Si is red-faced, mimicking the instruments with his hands while the trumpet and bass punch in and out in a staccato build-up. At this point the band almost aches for a full drum kit, as the acoustic percussion box simply isn’t delivering enough power. Another slight downside is that the sax really wasn’t coming through enough at times, so much so that it seemed almost indistinguishable from the rest of the band. This was disappointing as the soulfulness of the sax would surely have added some interesting features. Ditto the viola.
As the Loose Kites played on and on into the night, some of the audience had filtered out, exhausted by all the dancing and drinking. The set was perhaps a little too long, and while this was obviously proof of the band’s impressive stamina and knowledge of the setlist, a break or supporting act would have helped. Regardless, I would certainly go and see the Loose Kites again. It was fun, wild and contagious and you would honestly be doing yourself a disservice by missing them if they’re in your area. But be warned: you’ll probably come home drunk.