Sparrow And The Workshop @ Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh – 24/05/11

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Sneaky Pete’s is such a lovely place for gigs (because of it’s beautifully cramped space and it’s musically nutritious atmosphere) and I couldn’t believe a band of Sparrow And The Workshop‘s caliber was playing there.

99.9% of people who pick up a guitar or regularly listen to music dream of being in a successful band. They LONG for that feeling of escapism and freedom from the regular mundanaties of the ‘Real World’, which creeps across our lives all too quickly at an alarming rate in your early-to-mid twenties. Before you know it you’re working in a job you hate and you play squash with your mate Ralph every Wednesday night.

Gigs like this one help bridge the sometimes vast gap between fan and musician – drummer Gregor Donaldson and guitarist Nick Packer chatted with entrants of the gig whilst singer Jill O’Sullivan worked the merch stand. Throughout the stella support slots by Haight Ashbury and The Stormy Seas the ‘Sparrows mingled with their crowd awaiting the main event. The result was the crashing down of the wall that blocks fans’ views of band members and they could now see them as actual human beings – this DIY approach showed that the trio are normal (yet incredibly talented) people, just like the rest of us. We forget all too often that musicians are just like you and I – but they had the balls to take the plunge into the unknown abyss of touring relentlessly whilst calling hotel rooms and their van ‘home’.

The beauty of Sparrow And The Workshop is that they have no real novelty or gimmick – they are simply three people who write and perform very good music. It is exactly how live music should be. After encountering sound problems during the first few songs the band just laughed it off and continued the gig with jokes and impromptu Freebird sing-alongs, which the packed audience responded to excellently. They’re the band that would emerge if Lissie, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey were placed in the hadron collider and pummeled together along with feelings of angst, paranoia and sheer ecstasy. Certain songs sound completely different (Black To Red / Devil Song) but the same basic essence of the group still exists throughout.

One of the most intriguing things about seeing the band live is how guitarist/bassist Nick Packer gets such a bloody good tone out of his guitar – several songs are performed without a bass yet the composition of the sound is still level perfect due to his chest-thumping technique. The stage floor is littered with effects pedals, yet the tonality feels natural and not artificial in the slightest. This goes hand-in-hand with Donaldson’s furious drumming and perfect harmonising vocals (anything but the dull ‘dum-dum-tap’ of some very beige percussionists) and O’Sullivan’s gorgeous North American warbling (I mean ‘warbling’ in the nicest possible way – a good way in fact!!!). The overall result is a staggering amount of depth achieved for a three-piece band. In fact, if they were a four-piece I think they would suffer because of it. During one song Packer plays bass with one hand and percussion with the other – now that’s just plain showing off!

After finishing to rapturous applause, it was clear that by the end of the gig Sparrow And The Workshop impressed hugely, and without doubt bolstered up the numbers of their host (‘Host’ is the collective term for Sparrows – so there you go! You’ve learned something). All this band needs is one big hit and they will hurtle into the mainstream…perhaps the excellent and commercial-radio perfection that is Snakes In The Grass (the first single from their new album ‘Spitting Daggers‘ – released on Monday) could very well be that song.

Sparrow And The Workshop are currently undertaking a nationwide tour. I implore you to go and see them! I went to see them again last night in Newcastle and they continued in fantastic fashion.

[rating: 5]

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.