Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Fallen Leaves, of Arrowe Hill and The Legendary Coffin Dodgers At The "New" 12 Bar Club, Holloway Road, London

The Fallen Leaves at the 12 Bar Club - Photo by Paul Slattery
This was our first visit to the new 12 Bar Club on Holloway Road and it was quite remarkable to see how quickly Barnet Mark and the staff had got everything sorted since the closing of the original, legendary venue on Denmark Street. It seemed to be a pretty seamless transition with barely a break in the 12 Bar's gig listings and they have certainly got their hands on a great alternative venue. The new place is certainly much larger, in fact there are three floors and a restaurant on the premises, with lots of space and bars upstairs and down, now the old 12 Bar had many great points, but space certainly wasn't one of them! There's a balcony overlooking a decent sized stage and a large pulpit-like DJ booth to one side and with the arched windows and mirrors it does feel like you are gathering for a prayer meeting. The sound is also excellent, something that despite the rather ramshackle appearance, the old place did also take great pride in. All those old familiar 12 Bar decorations, paintings and posters have been moved in and put up already so that, despite still missing the original location, I did feel at home.

Barnet Mark at his new 12 Bar Club - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Tonight, The Fallen Leaves blow a fond farewell kiss to the 12 Bar with a one-off version of their "Minimum R'n'B" club night at the new venue before re-locating to the St. Moritz in Soho. Starting things off were The Legendary Coffin Dodgers, dressed in matching black waistcoats and shades, who warmed things up nicely with a set of catchy and raw Garage Rock tunes - part Hamburg-era Beatles and The Milkshakes with a hint of Mod sensibility thrown in for good measure. The set includes a couple of choice cover versions such as "Heartful of Soul" and "Some Other Guy" and some originals that stick in the head such as "Ferretina" and the boisterous "Mitcham Goons".

The Legendary Coffin Dodgers - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Of Arrowe Hill kick off with "Whatever That Means" from their excellent new release "A Conspiracy of Clocks" which is fast becoming one of our favourite albums of recent years. It's a perfectly plotted collection of concise and literate songs that pack so many melodies and twists and turns into numbers that barely reach the three minute mark. The vinyl release is a work of art too, beautifully packaged and including a CD version, poster and postcards, it really is well worth investing in. The second song "She's Gone Off The Rails" I'm not familiar with, but it highlights singer, song-writer and guitarist Adam Easterbrook's admiration of Guided By Voices with it's strident chords and crashing cymbals, it's really excellent. There's also a touch of Pete Townshend's songwriting and guitar-work in this one and like GBV's front-man Robert Pollard, a self-confessed Who fanatic, Adam has no qualms of putting out songs in whatever raw format he feels fit.

Of Arrowe Hill - Photo by Paul Slattery
Of Arrowe Hill - Photo by Paul Slattery
So, the album has some real Lo-Fi recordings that seem to be captured at the moment of the song's birth nestling alongside full studio produced tracks. Live the tracks are brought to life by the impressive rhythm section of ex-Aardvarks band mates Jason Hobart and Ian O'Sullivan and on "All Roads To Quinn's" they lock into a storming disco beat that makes you wish the band might break the rules and stretch the song into a Prog-like (for OAH that is...) four or five minutes say! There are many highlights in the short set, but it was another unfamiliar song that really hit me, "You Wish (It Was That Easy)" which was a laconic, melodic masterpiece. The influences are varied, from the Beatles to more recent Scouse songsmiths such as Shack to the Californian psychedelic legends Love and the aforementioned Guided By Voices, Of Arrowe Hill are difficult to categorize and are all the better for it. Set closer "Cursing The Seasons" from the Hexadelica album, is another highlight of a thoroughly enjoyable set and then unfortunately it's all over much too soon.

The Fallen Leaves - Photos by Paul Slattery
There's no denying it's a bit of a shame that The Fallen Leaves and the 12 Bar are ending their long and extremely productive relationship, but the lure of their spiritual home of Soho was too strong and the band have decided to  re-locate the "Minimum R'n'B" club nights to another legendary venue steeped in Rock 'n' Roll history, the St. Moritz Club on Wardour Street. I'm sure it won't be the last time the Leaves play the 12 Bar but for now, here tonight, there's a slight bitter-sweet feeling of regret of what happened to the much-loved and missed Denmark Street site mixed in with the positive feeling around the new 12 Bar on Holloway Road. The Fallen Leaves are slowly introducing more new songs into their set as they prepare for the release of their fourth album, and tracks like "Lavender Girl", "Motorcycle Girl", "Prodigal Son" and "Funny World" slot in perfectly alongside those familiar and much-loved classics such as "Trouble" and "Shining". The Leaves never fail to put on a stunning show and tonight is no exception, so let's hope the move to the St. Moritz is a good one and even more people get the chance to see this unique band in action.

The Fallen Leaves - Photos by Paul Slattery
Thanks to Paul Slattery for the Fallen Leaves and Of Arrowe Hill photographs. For more photos of the new 12 Bar and all three bands, then please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here, and click "Like" (if you are not already following) for access to the photo album.

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