John Douglas supported by Rebecca Mileham and The Sunbathers

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John Douglas supported by Rebecca Mileham and The Sunbathers

Review

The latest top class Sink or Swim promotion (look out for a lengthier appreciation of what Joe Colombi does in the magazine shortly) was John Douglas (of Trashcan Sinatras fame) at the Tin last night supported by ‘Hot Music Live Presents' featured artists The Sunbathers and Rebecca Mileham: an intriguing combination all of whom complemented each other perfectly & certainly went down with the full house of indie music fans.

Any gig which features a song as great yet obscure as Dolly Mixture's "How Come You're Such a  Hit with the Boys Jane?" (which didn't even come out during the lifespan of their career) on the music played before the bands came on was always destined to be a bit special (another piece of evidence of Joe's great taste).

"Hot Music Live" grants me something of a platform to extol the virtues of artists whose fame hasn't caught up with their  talent (there's not an awful lot of mileage in proselytising about ones you know well already) and like Clemency recently, The Sunbathers are somewhat hidden gems: that I seem to see them (in the too infrequent times I do see them) supporting former members of well known indie bands (The Chefs, Talullah Gosh, the Trashcan Sinatras) suggests that Julie & Paul's reputation extends into the realms of the great & the good.

This was a particularly interesting set though: different from any I'd previously heard from them. They've been writing a lot recently (there is the promise of another album to go with the single one they've released in their seventeen years) and the signature wistful songs about love, the seaside & summer have been joined by darker material (one about gaslighting leading to domestic abuse) and different emotions, such as how to support friends in profound emotional need. These offer new shades of delicacy & nuance into the Sunbathers' lyrical world (the wistfulness always embraced a much wider range of beach situated feelings beyond undiluted hedonism) and elevates their music still further.

I can't wait to hear the new tracks on record (though I gather they are not especially imminent) and once again I urge you to check them out.

Although I've run into Rebecca at both the Clemency gig & that of Lauren South and friends recently and although I've seen her perform live with Liam Vincent and the Odd  Foxes and we also featured her solo track "Rising Tide" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Eleven', this was my first chance to catch a solo live performance.

Much of that may be due to her Odd Foxes commitments (they're working on their next album and are in great live demand) so I'm glad that this opportunity was afforded me.

Drawing on both her solo EPs, ‘Underground' and ‘Rising Tide', the one exception was a new track (possibly to be called "Holloway" or "Holloways" or "Hollow Way") which caught my attention & those with whom I spoke afterwards: can't wait for her to record this very special song.

Generally, these songs are ones she feels are not suitable for the Odd Foxes and consequently they are not necessarily very similar in style to the band's exuberant folk punk rock. That said, I did detect a possibly unconscious shift through her set: the earlier songs were delivered in a vocal style closer to the "folk" one she uses on band ones, and this evolved during the course of her performance into something much closer to rock. Equally I'd only ever seen her play fiddle before, so it's good to report that she's just as good on keyboards and again her playing moved from quite classical stylings to that rock one.

Her songs, like the LVOF ones, are often political in some respects but tend more to the overtly personal: so much so that during her most illuminating explanations of where they came from, I winced slightly at remembering my own interpretations in the reviews & the gap between them & what Rebecca was telling us.

I'm not sure quite what I expected from headliner John Douglas, not being familiar with his solo body of work I'm afraid (I got the impression that I was in an opposite position to most of the audience who knew his songs extremely well without having my experience of those of the supporting artists). Obviously replicating the sound of his old band was both a big ask for someone with just an acoustic guitar and anyway why should he? This is a distinct career.

I wonder how much he reads Yeats? What struck me was the poetic lyricism of his reflections on life, characters he'd encountered & experiences with the natural world. If he's not into Yeats at least he's working along similar lines. The songs of experience and reflection were precisely what a good writer ought to evolve into having started with jangle pop delights (how different the music world might have been had the Trashcan Sinatras achieved the commercial success of say Coldplay).

He did everything with that one guitar & the result was really lush: not something you'd expect was possible with so few ingredients. His playing sat in that interesting intersection where folk & jazz meet: though thrillingly he managed to conjure the magical jangle up for excursions into his past such as "I'm Immortal".

Otherwise his set favoured his 2023 eponymous album with songs such as "Weightlifting", "Orange Crayons", "Maid O' The Loch", "The Sleeping Policeman", "I'm Not The Fella" and the Syd Barrett tribute "Oranges & Apples" all featured to general delight.

Like I said, an evening of immaculate quality & songs about grown-up feelings performed with nuance, skill & love. Three superb acts & another fine piece of Joe Colombi alchemy.

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