Tonight, the excellent Hare & Hounds venue plays host to one of its more stripped back nights – three solo artists who are very different, but at the same time, well-suited to this triple bill.
Local lad A Bull might just lay claim to having the most un-Googleable name in music right now, and he kicks things off in understated style, seated with an acoustic guitar and going through a set of songs that never outstay their welcome. His style draws from Elliott Smith and possibly Mark Kozelek, though the latter more for the guitar style than the vocals. A Bull has the appreciative audience onside and ready for the remainder of the show.
Lowpines tonight are represented by a solo set from Oli Deakin, whose wonderful slabs of melancholia are offset by a dry humour between songs. He reveals that he used to be paid to play covers in the nearby Bullring shopping centre. When inevitably asked what he used to play, after some thought he comes up with ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ by The Waterboys. “Maybe that’s where I went wrong”, he opines. Deakin uses his bank of effects pedals to send forth soundscapes that appear to be the work of a full band and turns in an excellent set which sits somewhere between John Grant and, well, not really The Waterboys. Perhaps early Mojave 3. His recent album In Silver Halides is well worth a punt on this evidence.
And so to Avi Buffalo, or more precisely Avi Zahner-Isenberg who effectively is Avi Buffalo. Any concern about how Avi would manage to recreate the often complex sounds of Avi Buffalo’s two albums are quickly dispelled as he uses the same bank of effects pedals in a remarkably precise and detailed manner, complimenting his extraordinary playing which has to be seen to be believed.
Avi Buffalo’s eponymous 2010 debut and its 2014 follow-up At Best Cuckold are both represented tonight, and complemented with a handful of well-chosen covers, the first of which is a wistful take on Sandy Denny‘s ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’. Avi is a very upbeat presence throughout, making tongue in cheek sales pitches for his merchandise stall and at one point telling a surreal and convoluted joke involving a snake and a lizard attempting to play a game of pool.
‘Can’t Be Too Responsible’ from the second album is delivered in a stunning version, while ‘Won’t Be Around No More’ from the same album has its chorus punctuated by a wall of distorted guitar that gives a tender song a real punch. Avi’s treatment of his songs is faithful to the recorded versions but he isn’t afraid to switch things around a little too, a pedal that renders his guitar as a pipe organ begins ‘Jessica’ while, earlier, a Latin feel is brought to the stage with a cover of Mexican star Tomás Méndez‘s lovely ‘Cucurrucucu Paloma’. The other cover of the evening is Dino Valente‘s ‘Something On Your Mind’, a track which could well have been an unreleased Avi Buffalo song, had Avi not pointed out that it was Valente’s song.
‘What’s In It For’ is one of the most life-affirming songs ever written and to see it performed in such an intimate setting is incredible, Avi’s voice effortlessly delivering this magical song. Highlight of ‘At Best Cuckold’, the wonderfully touching ‘Overwhelmed With Pride’ rounds off a special night with one of the most talented writers and performers of recent years.