By Steve McGillivray
May 26, 2012
I’ve only ever been to one gig in Dunfermline prior to this evening. That was to see an up and coming band, The Twilight Sad, play the opening of the revamped Jam Jar in town. Tonight I’m especially keen to see Jesus H Foxx who’s debut album is just about the best thing I’ve heard this year. After wandering in the wrong direction I eventually find the venue thanks to a helpful arcade employee. As I walk in I can hear live music but can’t see a stage, the room pretty much being just your average pub, but as I get further in I see the stage is downstairs.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of modern parenting, I miss the start of Gav Prentice. I do catch roughly two and a half songs and they’re enough to make me regret not being on time for the start of his set. All alone with his acoustic guitar and some electronic backing he does a pretty good job, with a strong voice and some deft guitar playing. There’s a modest crowd here, which fills up a little when Waiting on Jack take to the stage. Four young lads, they clearly have a lot of support and they set about winning over the neutrals with an energetic set. The only downside is that it’s all a bit bland and “chart-pop” sounding. There’s every chance that a person who grew up listening to The Jam isn’t the best judge of today’s youth music market, but I’m who you’ve got and they were just a tad forgettable. I kept waiting on a chorus of “what’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster?”. It really wouldn’t have surprised me. The audience did seem to enjoy it though, which is probably more important to them than my words on the matter. Still, “bland” and “uninspiring” are the words I have chosen for the occasion.
Main support for the evening, Jesus H Foxx literally invaded the stage prior to their set. I counted seven of them but there could have been twenty, so crowded the stage seemed. I’m pleased to see Owen Williams, a guy who I used to meet literally every day while I worked at an old job, is the band’s drummer. He’s also drummer with the excellent Edinburgh based The Pinapplechunks. Anyway, after a few minutes of catch up he’s up on stage and the band are underway. Now, I must confess that these guys are who I want to see the most tonight and I’m not let down. The laid back, almost jazz vibe comes across really well live. There are all manner of instruments getting used, with three guitars resulting in a rich layer of sound. As an aside, the sound in this venue is excellent. The best I’ve heard in a while. Kudos PJ Molloys. Anyway, I digress. Jesus H Foxx sound great. ‘Permanent Defeat’ sounds more raucous than its recorded brethren, while ‘So Much Water’ and ‘So The Wind Won’t…’, amongst others, sound fresh and interesting. Meanwhile, Owen’s drums are crisp and at times fierce and he still pulls one of the best drum faces I’ve seen. I did feel a little defensive at times. Three guys at the front of the stage spent most of the set laughing at Owen’s drum faces, clearly ignoring the fact he’s a great drummer. Even more so when a group of very drunk We Were Promised Jetpacks fans start shouting “get off!” and generally become very loud and obnoxious. Regardless of all that, it’s a great set from the band. The harmonies were heart wrenchingly beautiful, the trumpet was lovely, the synth and keyboards were excellent, the guitars were crisp and the rhythm section was great. In short they were fantastic. A pity this was lost on the drunk half of the audience.
After a brief interval, the main attraction are due on stage. By now the performance area is really busy and very warm. It’s not long before the four young lads that make up We Were Promised Jetpacks take to the stage to rapturous applause. Opener ‘Short Bursts’ pretty much sends the crowd wild. Booming drums seem to strike a primal spark in the audience over the first couple of songs and the venue is literally jumping. Soon the beer starts flying, a guy is hoisted onto his friends shoulders and the front of the crowd start jumping around. To an old git like me this is my idea of gig hell. I love a rocking gig, but I like to be safe when enjoying it. I also like to listen to the band and not shouted conversations of everyone around me, so with this in mind I retreat up the stairs a little. In much safer environs I can take things in without fear of a beer shower or someone landing on me. Not being that intimate with the band’s material I begin to fear they deal in the anthemic rock songs that drunken mobs shout along to, hands help raptly above their heads. Thankfully I’m wrong. When they slow things down and are more considered, there’s some great songs coming across. Sadly the mob want shouty anthems though, so these moments of lucidity are few. At this stage I must make a distinction. While I think these guys are very good at what they do and that they have the audience pretty much where they want them, it’s not personally something I’d seek out. I prefer the music of their label mates PAWS and The Twilight Sad. There’s more depth there for me. So while I can appreciate that the fare on offer is very good and technically excellent, personally I prefer something a little different. The baying mob love it though, and yell and scream their appreciation at the set’s close.
As I’m contemplating leaving I’m asked if I’m the guy that likes Duran Duran in the current BT ad campaign. It’s a particularly random question, and I deem it my cue to leave. I’ve seen three and a bit bands tonight and it’s fair to say it’s been a mixed bag. Jesus H Foxx are the clear winners for me (not that it’s a competition). Their brand of Orange Juice meets Belle & Sebastian with a hint of jazz and a dash of sophistication won out easily. They were great from start to finish and hopefully it won’t be long until they decide to launch their album with a live show. Fingers crossed. Top marks to the venue also. Looked like a pub on the way in, but the depths revealed surprising secrets. Least of all the great sound set-up. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for live music in Dunfermline and Fife.