This was my first visit to The Brunswick's Cellar Bar to see some live music. I half-remember finding myself down there after attending a gig upstairs and deciding to make a drunken night of it. The charm of this little bar was lost on me that night, but tonight I saw it with new eyes. It's a space that has a lot of potential, with the right team booking shows down there I could see it filling the void left by the closure of the Sanctuary Cafe (forgive me if this is too old a name for you to recall), as a basement venue that's well suited to show-casing stripped-back and acoustic performers. As I entered the room Mishkin Fitzgerald, from Birdeatsbaby, was already over halfway through her solo set. I got to hear the last of a set of new songs she was trying out, a mournful ballad called 'Box of Razorblades', before she was joined by bandmate Garry Mitchell on guitar for a couple of covers. This included a funny little ditty called 'Ivan' that they'd apparently been taught by some rednecks on their recent US tour. A 'Fuck you' has seldom elicited so many grins.
Next up on this mixed-bag of a drizzly night were a somewhat sheepish Seadog, suffering from a variety of viruses and sleepless nights the band performed ably nonetheless, continuing with charm even when an extra couple of songs were squeezed out of them. I've seen this new-ish line-up of Seadog a few times this year and have found there's a great quality to the ensemble, although they don't seem to have quite found their audience yet. Although snotty noses slightly dulled the edges of their vocal harmonies the material still shone through. Lead-singer Marc Benton decided to opt for an acoustic guitar tonight, instead of his usual electric, in consideration of the intimacy of the space. To my ears this really worked on some of the material, opening up space for the piano and accordion to fill. Next time you see Seadog on a bill I'd suggest checking them out, especially for fans of groups like Elliott Smith and Grandaddy, who they supported at the Concorde 2 earlier in the year. If you've not seen their video for new song 'As I Am', check it out, especially if you're partial to a bit of lindyhopping!
Topping the bill tonight were Chasing Deer, on their first trip down to Brighton from their adopted home of London. The enthusiastic young four-piece are coming from a background of busking and wedding shows but seem determined to break-out with their original material, happy to start off slogging it around smaller venues in order to initiate some ripples of support they can begin to build upon. Tonight was the first show with their new bass-player, who had apparently only been in the group for a week or so. The engine room of the group seems to be their animated drummer Adam and lead-singer Rob, the pair being on a mission to form and establish this band of theirs. As such, this does come across as a bit of a work in progress, but a focussed one with a lot of potential. Singer Rob has a deep, resonant, classic pop voice. It's the kind of croon that was commonplace on 60s pop ballads and, later, forming the centre piece of a lot of 80s and early 90s synth-pop. To my ears this forms a bit of a clash in their music, as you're not sure exactly sure which of those two routes they're going to go down, or if they're going to manage to reconcile them together. Their covers tonight – Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good' and The Beatles' arrangement of Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally', which they close on – suggest they might be more at home with the former.
Still, while the material is being fine-tuned what's unquestionable is their talent. A solid and inventive drummer, a skilful guitarist with quick fingers and, for a guy who’s only been with the group for a week, an impressively consistent bassist holding it all together. Besides the aforementioned vocals, frontman Rob plays the keyboards ably, and is a natural performer who knows how to work a room. It's not a great turn-out, with the poor weather and the band's limited history with Brighton contributing to their difficulties pulling in the punters, but the band's enthusiasm quickly became infectious and nobody leaves without a big smile on their face. These guys are certainly ones to keep and eye on and I'm pretty sure it won't be long before they grace our shores again. Keep your ears peeled for more Chasing Deer!