I am always so wary of seeing an act twice, especially when it was such an amazing first performance. Andy Shauf was my stand out act at The Great Escape 2015, holding a typically rowdy audience in complete silence – there may have been more riveting performances, but musically, he reigned supreme. Ever since, I have been listening on repeat to the 2015 re-release of his album The Bearer Of Bad News which was meticulously written over four years and showcases Andy’s special talent for storytelling – it is a great album, but live, Andy Shauf’s music is really something else!
The evening began with Brighton band The Lunchtime Sardine Club, a project of Oliver Newton. Their indie folk sound is led by Oliver on Lead vocals and guitar, always starting softly and then building in layers of organ, bass and electric guitars, into climatic peaks before falling away in an instant. There were songs of real brilliance (‘Loewenstine’ particularly stuck in mind) – with Oliver’s great vocals and composition bringing a remarkable mood to the music – but at times there was almost too many ideas coming through which distracted you from its quality. Be sure to have a listen to their newest single release Dollars For Donuts to make up your own mind.
It was obvious from the start that there was a lot of love for Andy Shauf’s music, as they were met by impressive cheers as the band took their instruments. With half of the audience sitting on the floor of The Prince Albert, the upstairs venue felt more like a friend’s living room that conveniently had a stage. Andy’s songs have a grungy feel but they definitely don’t belong in that genre (imagine Nirvana playin in a library, whilst keeping to the library rules) – ranging from a Paul Simon-esque pop-rock sound with a playful folky edge, to songs that just rip through the listener’s emotions without remorse. Whereas Andy played nearly all the instruments on the most recent album, when playing with a band his songs take a new shape.. The music is minimal but unbelievably precise, and you could see the amount of effort they all put into the performance to ensure perfection – which it was. The concentration of the band’s volume control was immense, switching between the closest possible thing to silence (putting the lightest touches on their instruments with near whispering vocals) and bellowing moments of intensity. The way that Andy’s music can build and fall in an instant makes for a sonic roller-coaster, which climbs to bliss then falls to sorrow over and over again, but leaves the listener always wanting another go once it has finished.
Going through old songs as well as lots of new material, there was no track that stood out because each song was as impressive as the last. ‘Drink My Rivers’ took a completely new form which was extremely arresting. Crowd favourite ‘I’m Not Falling Asleep’ was played as if the track was near to falling asleep, being extremely downtempo and each note being played as late in the beat as musically possible. For the final song, in what I’m assuming is a new track, a repeating chorus of “Dance Dance to the radio / While the devil takes control” became so violent and loud that it was as if the devil was busting out of the band and their instruments, before abruptly disappearing with everything going back to its calm and gentle norm. Once the concert was over, the audience demanded another song (with chanting and foot stomping) making for an impromptu encore. They came back on stage to do a song they “haven’t played in a while”, treating the audience to the phenomenal nine minute epic ‘Wendell Walker’. From the performance Andy gave you can see that this song in particular hits an emotional note – understandable when you hear the songs subject matter which starts with the lyrics, “Wendell Walker was a friend of mine….” (you must listen here). WOW was the overall feeling throughout the night, Andy Shauf and his band is a must see.
Andy divulged that a new album is coming in Spring 2016, which is great news! Hear what he had to say in an interview we did with him recently prior to this show.