A rather hectic week for all at Boat HQ- it was the release of their sophomore album ‘Teenage Blood’ on Monday, a performance on Lauren Lavern’s BBC 6music show on the same day, Mary Ann Hobbs for XFM the next day, record of the day on Thursday on 6music again and two gigs- one in Camden on Tuesday and one in Kingston on Thursday. All this on the back of playing in a record shop in Marlborough-Wiltshire(!) on Sunday as part of Record Store Day- Phew!
Being as I was one of the people who pledged for the album (if you STILL don’t know what this is about- go here.), I was invited to the Tuesday Camden ‘Album Launch Gig’. As there was going to be Tom Williams And The Boat official homemade Ale at the gig- the day was booked off work so I and gig buddy Claire, could get there nice and early.
We arrived shortly after 7.30, and as we were walking in-‘Sticksman’ Dave was just on his way out, a quick handshake and ‘hello’ from him, followed by a cheery ‘hello, mate, glad you could make it. Just off to get some food!’ from Able-Seaman Tom. This is part of the charm with this band- they recognise you, make you feel welcome and part of the Tom Williams Experience- it’s a very happy partnership- indeed, the average pledge on the site was £30- there’s a lot of love about…
On leaving Tom cried- ‘Get some Teenage Blood Beer!’- I don’t know who was more eager- he for food or me to taste some of this Homebrew! (rhetorical question, I know- I was thirsty!)
Beer purchased, and poured (much to the chagrin of the barman- ‘your meant to slug it out the bottle!’, now I’ve made my own beer, and bottle conditioned beers have a sediment formed by the yeast in the bottom, so I wouldn’t risk it.), and was pleased by the palate- perhaps not ‘lively’ enough- although, some punters beers were mushrooming out the top of their glasses- bad pourers? I can only guess, but it reminded me of some Norfolk Beers I’ve made. Anyway certainly quaffable, and three bottles later- I couldn’t get any more- SOLD OUT! Good show, and Retro Newcastle Brown it was for me here on in.
The advertised ‘night of Rock ‘n’Roll’ didn’t happen- but the bar were playing Jurassic 5, which pleased me loads. A guy sat at the bar proudly showing his official ‘Tom Williams And The Boat Album Launch T-Shirt’- this being the launch at Boat HQ for those that pledged for that particular luxury. T was signed by the band too- nice touch, and I don’t think it’ll ever get washed…
A chat at the merch stall was had with Tom’s brother,Chris ,who ran the stall (table), lovely bloke- I accepted his offer of a badge, as I had everything else (well, technically I didn’t yet own a proper physical copy of ‘Teenage Blood’ the Album- but it was ‘in the post’.), and had a lovely conversation about first loves, heartbreak and the general ‘dark’ feel of the album- it wasn’t maudlin, we were celebrating the emotion of the album.
The pub was now getting rather full. So, we encamped to a spot near the front, just off centre (actually by the main ‘bog’ highway), and just after 9.00 the band ambled on to the (rather low) stage, I wondered if they would all fit- and they did- just.)
Tom took a photo of the audience, and then they started in the only way this night could- by playing ‘Teenage Blood’, and apparently many bladders needed emptying!
I was very impressed by the sound in the pub, it was very ‘punchy, loud and crisp’, and the audience were lapping it up, as I thought they would, being as they were almost exclusively made up of hardcore Boat fans. I say almost, as halfway through the opening number, a rather happy young chap stood in front of me, and did a particular dance. Now, if you’ve seen Quadrophenia, you will know the bit when Jimmy pops his ciggy in the mouth of the wooden hanging sculpture and ‘jerks’ in to the room, nodding away, as ‘Rhythm Of The Rain’ is replaced by ‘My Generation’ -know it? If not, go and watch Quadrophenia. His nodding didn’t bother me too much- his arse in my crotch did though (he was a tall chap).
Anyhoo, next up was ‘My Bones’ and more foot stomping, sing-a-long a Tom. There was a real sense of companionship here- everyone had had the album for 6 weeks or so- Digikally, all but ‘Jimmy’ and his mates, but, even though they were obviously annoying a few folk- they were enjoying themselves, and some of his mates really appreciated the music- hopefully they are now converts.
The album was so familiar with everyone- I’ve been to plenty of gigs where the band play their new stuff, to quite mixed reactions, this was different. The party mood was notched up a few bars with the following brace of tunes from first album ‘Too Slow’- ‘Concentrate’ and ’90mph’, Geri ditched the violin for sax, and the singing and jostling about was in full swing. I’d seen the band twice before, and although they were great gigs, some of their more delicate tunes are beautiful, but can get lost live- especially with this country’s tendency to want to talk through quiet bits- I say- “Please, Shut Up!”, this time however, the new material coupled with the tracks picked off the first album, really gave the band a better all-round live impact- every song was strong, and commanded your attention.
The real ‘core’ of the album-‘Little Bit In Me’, ‘Neck Brace (Big Wave)’- Tom demonstrating parenthesis with his hands, ‘Like You’ and next single ‘Too Young’, came next. All delivered wonderfully, the band tend to record they’re stuff live, with no over dubs (Teenage Blood has 3 drum overdubs though- a fact you really wouldn’t believe when you hear it live- I don’t think I’ve ever seen skins hit so HARD as David Trevillion hits his- maybe the stress of being a teacher is taken out at this [on the] stage…), so it is no surprise that these songs are all delivered flawlessly. I’m really at home with these tracks, I have to make a concerted effort at the mo to vary my listening- they are THAT good. Buy this album, please people, you’ll feel much better for it.
The last third of the gig was made up of angst ridden, hell and back, power folk (?). The triumvirate began with the slow building noise fest, that is ‘Trouble With Truth’. Tom asked the a-massed Boat People, what they’re favourite track off the album was, and in between the cacophony of suggestions, someone must’ve said this tune (well I did, but I’m not that loud), as a finger was pointed, and a ‘I can help you with that!’ was exclaimed, and the track began. It starts slowly, and just builds with intensity- a great live track, and the audience are clearly loving it.
There then follows TWO epic tunes off the first album. First up- ‘See My Evil’, now, whether Tom couldn’t remember the first lines or not- it didn’t really matter, there was great audience participation in the ‘reminding’ of the lyrics and the band effortlessly responded to Tom’s ‘Forgetting’ of the words, to such a degree that it could have been staged- I really don’t know, such is the professionalism of the band. And then came, for me, the BIG FINISH- ‘Get Older’, often with bands I like, the first track I became accustomed to diminishes with relevance as I discover other tunes in their armoury. Not so with ‘Get Older’, I really will never tire with this track- and, indeed, it was all I could do not to ‘explode’ at the end- it’s a monster, and I’m sure in the future, there will be a good many friendly moshes to this tune.
The band do the, walking off, and walking back on encore shizz, that has become de rigeur with the live circuit, ‘What would you like us to play?’ asks Tom. I shout ‘Emily’, I don’t think I’m the only one, and this is where they end. A perfect end to a perfect album, becomes a perfect end to a perfect night.
Tom suggests people visit his ‘cute’ brother, give him a kiss and buy stuff- and the band leave to a fantastic ovation.
Just before leaving, I say goodbye to Chris, and ask whether he’s received any kisses? He replies ‘No’, and then puts his hand together and says ‘Please God, don’t let this be the first!’
I didn’t. But I did leave The Wheelbarrow with a spring in my step, after having witnessed a band I love so much, deliver such an accomplished and confident set. I now can only hope that the people of Brighton vote here, and have them play in our lovely city in the summertime.