Tag Archives: Riverane

Violet Woods, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 7 November 2014

This was the launch party for the new album by Violet Woods, a Cambridge based five-piece led by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Xavier Watkins. The psychedelic tone was set by DJ Rich Hero, playing very obscure and ultra-cool vinyl singles from the late sixties and early seventies, accompanied by oil slide projections on the ceiling.

The opening act were Riverane, previously reviewed on this site as support to The Hot Lights and moving their sound on into darker territory since then, as the vocals of lead singer Gabriel Coulter twist around the continually varying musical moods.

Violet Woods hit the stage with an instrumental introduction, then straight into ‘Over The Ground’ from their self-titled album. It is a retro sound, lovingly recreating and extending the late sixties pop/rock/psychedelic vibe with some modern edges. On record it is mostly fairly smooth and relaxed but live there is no holding back, with added echo to the voices, over a powerful instrumental backing, such as when 12-string guitar and organ are thrashing away in the ending of ‘The Dancer’. To make a Cambridge early Pink Floyd connection, it is definitely more ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ than ‘Grantchester Meadows’…

Probably my favourite song, ‘Electric Fascination’ is based around an eerie descending 12-string figure, repeating and competing with distant vocals. The guitar wins in the end… The reassuring chord structure of ‘Here’ is a neat pop song, ‘Driftwood Royalty’ is an optimistic dreamy lyric. The epic ‘The River’ ends the set, going through changes before an exhausting instrumental onslaught. It was a great advert for a confident and impressive debut album.


The Hot Lights, The Corner House, Cambridge, 4 July 2014

Billed as ‘Cambridge Indie Heroes’, anyone expecting an evening of relentless introspective shoegazing would have been surprised at the exuberance and variety on offer. First on were Riverane, two guitars, bass and drums line-up. Vocalist /guitarist Gabriel Coulter has raw edges to his voice, suiting the sound well. The songs vary in unexpected ways, different sections, changes and instrumental passages show a will to experiment and keep the listener interested beyond the standard ‘Indie’ template. They are a young band with potential, listen to their soundcloud tracks.

The next act was the solo guitar and voice of Dickon McCarthy, an unassuming and unpretentious performer. His gentle and mellifluous vocal style, smoothly drifting over busy guitar work is something a bit different from the current crop of solo singer/guitarists. Having seen so many loops/triggered sounds/backing tracks etc recently it was intriguing to see a performer going back to basics, creating the rhythm and effects interweaved with the conventional accompaniment on a standard acoustic guitar. Again, have a listen to soundcloud…

Venus Grove are a competent four piece, playing catchy tunes drawing on the power-pop and punk heritage of the late 70s and early 80s. The lead singer Bob Nicholas had a style and delivery similar to Elvis Costello (and the glasses as well..) and the drummer created a punchy pace to the songs. The set built up well, again there was variety and having read that their influences were XTC, Beatles, Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix and others I think most of those boxes were ticked with style.

Top of the bill were The Hot Lights, they had a shaky start with a guitar string repair needed during a suspended opening song, but the audience were patient and responded well to the comeback ‘Keeping on Track’. With a relaxed and very charismatic front man and many supporters in the audience the rocking set rolled along with energy, their own material was strong and there was an interesting choice of two covers, ‘Luka’ the Suzanne Vega song (she was playing in Cambridge earlier this week), later covered by The Lemonheads, and the Nelly Furtado song ‘Turn off The Light’. Second guitar was sometimes substituted by keyboards for a different version of their Indie sound. I particularly enjoyed the songs towards the end of the set, ‘You Should Be With Me’ was a highlight. It was an engaging and enjoyable performance..

As a prelude to the Cambridge leg of the ‘Tour de France’, there was a free concert on Parker’s Piece featuring Billy Ocean and The Bay City Rollers, I think I made the right decision to seek out the alternative free show in The Corner House…