12 Bar Club, London
4th December 2013
The Fallen Leaves head an excellent line up at the 12 Bar Club – Neal Wright reports for Louder Than War.
Here’s another familiar haunt that cares about the live music scene. Wherever you position yourself, there’s an eye catching mosaic/mural tribute to music. There are framed posters, single covers (45’s to those with passion) and endless artefacts to enhance the experience.
At first glance the 12 Bar has a clumsy layout, like a dysfunctional home. A thinly shaped tabled and seated area greets you inside, which is bridged to the rest of the venue by an often bottle necked area surrounding the bar. Once past the bar, an oddly fashioned dark room is visible through an outline of a door. But don’t be distracted by the initial design, this place is a genuine jewel. On stage there is a fireplace, a central backdrop wall mottled with neon lights and florescent paint, and there’s a partially view-obscuring wooden ceiling beam which must have a sizable list of decapitated musicians to its name.
Tonight £6 gets you this ….
Unfortunately a few paying souls missed a heartening performance by The Lone Groover. This opening slot was a breeze for this one man army. He articulates and spits bullets in equal measures. Not content with a stationary delivery he weaves and slings his acoustic guitar across the compact stage. Some thoughtful humour along the way too, as the guitar is tuned, he refers to the Capo as a “bourgeois conceit”. The set list is an eloquent collection of pictures with words – The Business, Country Singer, Dreams Of Strummer (also dedicated to the recently deceased Junior Murvin) – about an apparition of Joe that appears before him, Rebel Without A Metaphor; How The West Was Lost; Talkin’ Demonstration Blues; Peace ‘n’ Luv ‘n’ Haight (a barbed swipe at the coalition); Talkin’ 21st Century Real Gone Blues and a clever interpretation of The Stranglers‘ (Get A) Grip.
To give you a flavour of The Groover’s stuff here are two intelligent lyrical extracts from How The West Was Lost:
“So the politics of left and right have embraced each other almost overnight”
“Now the hacks make fun of protest songs ‘cos the counterculture is almost dead and gone, and rock n roll is just artifice, what would Johnny Thunders make of this”
The guitar is an animated Tommy gun in this performer’s hands. Some of you really need to get there earlier next time.
Next on the bill are The Electric Eyes. They really belt those tunes out. Ridged and yet soulful, they appear gigantic on this 15 foot stage. The set is positive and confident. This band comfortably satisfies the crowd and it’s clear they have a good support here as the room begins to swell.
The Mynd Set are a sharp mid 60’s looking band from Stevenage, dressed in vintage style military jackets, which if the mutual mod haircuts weren’t a clear enough declaration, also suggests a late XTC appeal. The songs are classy 3 minute structured wonders, with Hammond sounding keyboards and Rickenbacker bass to supplement the staple raw material. The sound isn’t cutting edge by design but it is elegant and true to the intended genre. Kaleidoscope is a mod Hammond fanfare and Tick Tock has the Action/Small Faces comparison written all over it. Perhaps Gonna Show You The Door, with its catchy 3/4 time carousel middle 8 was their best tonight. Overall they cut a fine set. Positively fire and skill(ful)!
To my own slight embarrassment I’ve not seen the headliners before tonight. Billed as punk rock for gentlemen The Fallen Leaves are a charming affair. The chugging telecaster is prominent and purposeful throughout which has generated plenty of pub rock folklore comparisons already, ut it’s Rob Green’s vocal delivery which makes provides them with a distinctly unique sound. There’s a crooner’s edge to his voice with added punk cynicism (check out Girl In A Trance). The set list includes Trouble, Seven Years; When You’re Gone and Against The Grain. Passing By is a piercing knife that tears at your ears and alongside the beautifully arranged Did You See Her is very much the perfect pop harmony. The sound is both faultless and electric. Charisma is in abundance and shortly after, Rob is both charming and humble to receive a few words of praise off stage.
£6 is a steal. These are fairly regular events and what made the big difference this evening is that all four bands undoubtedly give a damn about their act. Although near capacity, there could’ve/should’ve been a bigger noise in central London tonight. Where were you?
All words by Neal Wright. More work by Neal can be found in his Louder Than War archive.