PJ Bond – Star And Garter, Manchester 14/07/15

Although I’m a fan of a wide range of music, with my tastes varying from acoustic-electronic all the way to indecipherable noise, these days it’s rare I actually attend a show that doesn’t feature a cacophony of noise onstage, so attending a show with four acoustic acts was an unusual treat – and it may have been the first time ever at a gig where a musician asked for their instrument to be turned DOWN rather than up! Vibes-wise, there was a great atmosphere in the room from start to finish, with the crowd responding well to every performer and each musician had a size-able crowd, which was great to witness. You could really tell that everyone cared a lot about the music being performed and it was a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of.

Opening up proceedings at Star And Garter was local act Sammy Battle, who was an entertaining performer with a lot of passion to be heard in his soulful voice. Interacting well with the crowd, including joking back with a heckler before declaring that he was “usually a really nice guy”, it was fun to see involvement – even if it did take a while for him to convince the rest of the crowd to join in singing with him at one point in the performance! Peppering his set with a vast amount of anecdotes (including one about sharks where he swam back to shore from Alcatraz prison) it really made the set all the more entertaining – hopefully this won’t be the last time I see this promising musician live.

Up next was Heart Of Oak, and although his songs didn’t quite pack the same punch as Sammy’s at times, there was no faulting the way he gave his performance 100% at all times and his voice had a great deal of power to it, with him able to stand a good few steps back from the microphone and still be able to project his voice at the same volume. With a set consisting of both “happy” and “sad”-sounding songs, there was a nice amount of variety – even if he, who described himself as a “wiggler” onstage, was forced to remain in one spot for the duration of his performance due to a strange sound problem that only reared its head when he stood in a specific place!

Following Heart Of Oak was the stunning Lion And The Wolf and he gave a performance that would be remembered for all the right reasons. It was an emotional performance that really resonated within you – each song had a very specific and meaningful story behind them, and it was an absolute pleasure to hear about the events that shaped the tracks, and it almost felt like we as a crowd were part of an exclusive club getting a glimpse into his life and thought processes, so it was a real treat to be a part of. His passion really shone through in his performance, particularly when he explained how he’d quit his job in order to make music and tour full-time, with his father being one of the driving forces behind his decision, and it was just touching to hear. Headliner PJ Bond even joined him onstage to perform additional vocals for the penultimate song, which was a lot of fun to witness – the two musicians responded well to one another and it made for a rewarding watch.

Closing proceedings was PJ Bond, an American musician who opened his set by telling the crowd that if anyone wanted to hear anything from his back catalogue, then he’d be happy to play it, and this relaxed and easy attitude between crowd and performer lasted through the whole set. PJ Bond was a born performer and although at times he perhaps wasn’t as forthcoming as some of the other musicians, it didn’t affect the performance – and as the set progressed, he was even joined onstage by Thomas (aka The Lion And The Wolf) before calling all three performers up onstage to round things up!

As a whole, this was a truly magical show – and if any of these performers are playing a show near you, I simply implore you to attend!

Additional bands on the lineup in Cardiff: Bicycle Thieves and Pipedream.

About Natalie Humphries 1798 Articles
Soundscape's editor, who is particularly fond of doom, black metal and folk (but will give anything a chance). Likes to travel to see bands abroad when she can. Contact: nathumphries@soundscapemagazine.com or @acidnat on twitter.

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