Fri 22nd February 2008, The Fox and Firkin, Lewisham.
The event is the launch of JD and the Longfellows‘ second album Happy Hour Again, a suitably entitled venture from the booze-fuelled folk-rock party band.
Stuart O’ Connor plays the role of main support tonight but comes dangerously close to upstaging the headlining act. He has been playing solo for about two and a half years, having been the frontman for avant-garde prog-indie band My Pet Junkie for about eight years. Armed with his acoustic guitar and legged with a loop pedal he starts to play.
The result is a breathtaking mix of styles. His guitar playing sounds at points jazzy, at times country and occasionally funky but layered with interesting vocal melodies, sometimes gentle and delicate yet sometimes more desperate and frustrated. The more jaw-dropping moments happen when he starts beating his guitar percussively, loops the result and plays along to the imaginary drum kit he has just created, layering filtered guitar sounds over the top which, if you close your eyes, sounds as if he were there with a drum machine and a synthesizer. It is impressive to see him make such noises sound so musical without any hint of tasteless gratuity.
Citing such influences as John Martin, Thelonius Monk and Ani Defranco along with The Mars Volta and Smashing Pumpkins, as well as declaring In A Bar Under The Sea by Deus as a landmark album, it is easier to understand how he can create such variety in his music.
Stuart’s albums, Autonomous Debut and The Distance From Here, are available at several independent record stores around the country or at his gigs. For more information see www.myspace.com/stuartoconnor or www.latebusrecords.com.
For the benefit of those who have never seen or heard JD and the Longfellows, imagine a band with the drive and energy of Gogol Bordello and the songwriting skill of The Pogues, fronted by a man frustrated by repeatedly being told he looks like Duncan Goodhew.
The man in question, Josh “Longfellow” Davis, formerly of Macavity’s Cat, is one of the lead singers and guitarist. His storytelling is unparalleled, with songs ranging from subjects such as weddings gone wrong, affairs gone wrong, holidays gone wrong and nights out gone wrong. Most of his whimsical tales also have a consistent theme based around drinking, with audience members happy to empathise and landlords and venue managers across the country eagerly awaiting their return.
Featuring a host of other talented musicians whose pseudonyms end in the suffix “fellow”, their live show makes one reluctant to stand still whilst watching, with an abundance of hoeing-down being performed by most observers. Each member has their chance to make their voice heard as five-part vocal harmonies come and go, with Clare “Shortfellow” Portman and Karma Clay “Fellow” both taking on lead vocal duties.
There are also the obligatory slow-dance numbers to give the audience a chance to get their breath back or go to the bar for one of the drinks that they have so subliminally been suggesting to them. Although lacking the same sort of pace by no means does it lack energy, proving they are equally adept at performing their more laid back songs live.
A perfect band to play your friend’s wedding or your enemy’s funeral and a brewer’s dream come true, JD and the Longfellows’ new album Happy Hour Again is available from any of their many impending gigs along with their first album Confessions. Both are also available to buy online from www.jdandthelongfellows.com or www.myspace.com/jdandthelongfellows, where you an also find out all sorts of other interesting things about them.
The Fox and Firkin, 316 Lewisham High Street, London. SE13 6JZ.
Boasting an excellent PA system and lighting rig, The Fox has been home to some amazing gigs over the years. With seemingly no restriction to the types of acts that play there one would have to try very hard to have a bad time therein.
The Fox is home to a bi-yearly festival, imaginatively entitled Foxfest where acoustic acts play on one stage alternating with louder bands at the other end. Although due to the popularity of the event it can be hard to get from one side of the venue to the other the atmosphere remains great. Other occasional all-dayers are put on too, with loud and quiet shows put on every week.
Despite being part of a massive chain of pubs The Fox has its own unique atmosphere, mostly due to the sheer volume of live acts that they have. It also features a heated, sheltered beer garden for all your external beer and smoking needs. Listings of upcoming gigs are available on www.myspace.com/thefoxlewisham.