The Rude Mechanicals Band

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The Mechanicals Band at the Magic Lantern

Review

There are few finer feelings than being immersed in the finest music in an intimate setting so it not merely impacts on your hearing but defines your whole emotional environment. I experienced it on Friday with Hannah Woof & Izzie Derry & returned to the Magic Lantern yesterday for a similar experience with the Mechanicals Band (formerly the Rude Mechanicals). They may be less rude these days but that didn't stop the F Bomb being dropped in the latter part of the set's lyrics. But it was written by a poet so that's alright)

 

First up for a highly enthusiastic packed house in this wonderful new independent venue was a real treat: Lisa Franklin (who compèred the evening & often provides dramatic accompaniment to Mechanicals Band performances when space permits) had invited Caroline Horton (Olivier Award nominated performer, writer & theatre maker: check her out at https://carolinehorton.net/about/) to open the evening. Performing a most interesting & original mix of poetry, quasi-poetry, sung pieces & pieces which defy categorisation, Caroline really made the audience think & got the evening off to a flying start. Well worth catching her live solo act in my opinion.

What can one say about the main band? Five virtuoso musicians with international reputations performing the highest quality poetry set to music by Wes Finch (plus an instrumental written by Jools Street), it was a privilege to be present & like the best music, it was transcendental. Did it take me somewhere else? Did it greatly improve my state of mind? Yes it did: in bucket loads. Wes, (guitar & vocals), Jools (violin), John Parker (double bass, Ben Haines (drums & percussion) and Katrin Gilbert (viola and on occasions keyboards: not sure they could have fitted one in tonight) need no introduction & the interplay between them was of the highest order. I'd just also say that in addition to the five instruments & voice, there was a seventh vital ingredient: space. They use this beautifully & it really does enhance the pieces & add significantly to the dynamics. No piece featured every instrument throughout & several only featured two or three such as Jools' "Tongue Lose Thy Light" (a violin & viola duet) and the sublime "Sigh No More Ladies" (a Wes & John duet). Equally noticeable was the sense of joie de vivre in the band: they were enjoying playing together just as much as we were hearing them.

The early part of the set was drawn from current album "Exit Pursued by a Bear", and apart from the instrumental, was settings of Shakespearean lyrics plus John Masefield's "Cargoes". The latter part focused on their upcoming second album and began with three Phillip Larkin settings ("Long Lion Days": unpublished in his lifetime, "Horns of the Morning"  and "This Be the Verse": one of his best known poems & the one which starts with its reflection on what one's Mum & Dad allegedly do to you). Good that after celebrating Stratford lyricist William Shakespeare, Wes has moved onto another local (Coventry) one.

The final songs include a W B Yeats setting & "Recuerdo' by Edna St Vincent Millay and hence venture outside Warwickshire (no bad thing: we don't after all have a monopoly on good writing). The overall impressions include how Wes & the band make each piece sound like it was written as a song: obviously the better known poems were already known to me as such but the ones they introduce me to could easily have been presented to me in other contexts & I'd have taken them for songs. The settings vary from the classical, through folk, jazz for one piece by the jazz loving Larking to more Irish settings and shanties, yet the distinctive Mechanicals sound is evident throughout.

Can't wait for the new album nor to see them again.

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The Rude Mechanicals Band at Leamington Library

Leamington Spa Library is not your typical live music venue. But, for Wes Finch and his new creative project that is The Rude Mechanicals Band it is the ideal setting.

I last saw this band performing as a four piece to a delighted audience packed into the Treehouse bookshop in Kenilworth but now, with the addition of the livewire John Parker on double bass plus four talented young actors to add a new visual dimension, the greater space of the main library is just the perfect setting to see this extended troupe.

Based originally on a collection of songs written by Wes using lyrics by William Shakespeare, the set is now growing to include "Cargoes" using words I remember from my school days by John Masefield, along with instrumental compositions and traditional arrangements by the band's string section, Katrin Gilbert (viola) and Jools Street (violin).

Now, with their first CD "(Exit, Pursued by a Bear)" available and another already in the offing, this band looks ideally poised to take their live show to a wider audience, exploring interesting new settings and venues such as this.

The library gig was very well attended, with an enthusiastic mixture of literature lovers combined with devoted fans of Wes' songwriting, seated and treated to a glorious sound mix courtesy of Drew Coleman. Top quality sound is essential in a setting such as this which was obviously not designed for live music performance and Drew is the local genius responsible for recording, mixing and mastering much of the Wes Finch catalogue of music including the recent CD by this band.

To start the evening, Wes opened with a beautiful selection of his own songs, starting with a couple of newer ones, "Merry Dance" and "Pinch of Salt", accompanied by Leo Steeds on piano, followed by a couple of solo numbers; just Wes and his gently atmospheric electric guitar sound on "You Are Light" and "Just My Luck" (a particular new favourite of mine).

To complete the first set Wes was joined by Ben Haines on drums, John Parker on double bass and Jools Street on violin to perform "Southern Cross" and "Bowl of Stars" from the wonderful "Mayflower" album (also engineered by Drew) and finishing with "Jackie Stone" (another favourite from the "Awena" CD). "Is there an Awena in the audience?" quipped Wes with a twinkle… of course there was!

Following an interval, it was time for the main course; actors dressed beautifully for their part, extra space around the audience area cleared ready and the lights dimmed. No chat between songs from Wes this time, instead the actors presented short scenes and prose, often over gentle instrumentals, to link the songs.

With the addition of Katrin Gilbert on viola from the start of the second set, the string sound became much richer and more evocative; the Wes Finch voice crystal clear and savouring the classic lyrics he has put to his own distinctive (but mostly quite traditional sounding) music.

The band performed the entirety of the "(Exit, Pursued by a Bear)" CD with the addition of "Under The Greenwood Tree" which featured Katrin on piano and vocals.

The actors helped add an extra dimension to the whole performance, drifting in and out of the set adding colour and pageantry, even flirting with the audience for a final dance. This was a fun presentation of a new and adventurous project for Wes and the superb musicians he has gathered around him, totally suited to the library venue and a treat for those who witnessed it.

To find out more, visit www.rudemechanicalsband.co.uk and go catch them performing live.

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