WOOZE + WELLY + LONNIE GUNN + OWNERS CLUB – THE HOPE & RUIN, BRIGHTON 30.11.23
Frequently, when there are four artists on a bill, I find that the first two are really a bit average, and it’s only the third band and the headliner that are really of any interest. Well, that is definitely not the case tonight at The Hope & Ruin. Indeed, promoters ‘Hidden Herd’ have put together a bill that boasts an embarrassment of riches from the very start.
Openers Owners Club trade in perky, lively indie with choppy, spiky guitars. Their second song is called ‘Double Diamond’. Surely they can’t possibly remember the beer?! From the start the band seem to be very accomplished and totally devoid of the slightest hint of nerves. Maddie B’s keyboards seem initially to be pretty much inaudible. They do get louder though. Guitarists Mike (who is also the vocalist) and George both play lead, which gives them a great deal of instrumental flexibility.
‘Witchcraft For The Modern World’ epitomises what is good about this band: it’s powerful and tuneful. So powerful in fact that drummer Ollie breaks his snare drum skin. There’s no spare immediately available so the band carry on with ‘Village Green’ and ‘Holiday At Home’. A spare snare is found and guitarist George plays a snatch of ‘Jessica’ by The Allman Brothers whilst it’s being changed. I have to say that there is little or nothing to fault about this band, and believe me, as a reviewer I usually find something! They’ve got good material, they’re a really good live band and I’ll definitely be seeing them again.
Mike – vocals/guitar
George – guitar
Henry – bass
Ollie – drums
Maddie – keys
Owners Club setlist:
‘Come Dine With Me’
‘Miss American Vampire’
‘Witchcraft For The Modern World’
‘Holiday At Home’
Next up we have Lonnie Gunn, who is an American singer/songwriter who is based in London. Including herself she has a six piece band who are joined by her friend’s aunt Michelle for the first song. Lonnie and some of her band are wearing tops bearing vaguely disparaging comments about herself. Lonnie’s vest top bears the legend “Lonnie Gunn bullied me”; Michelle’s t-shirt reads: “Lonnie Gunn turned my daughter into a goth”; whilst the keyboard player’s top reads “Lonnie Gunn can’t read”. I suspect that there isn’t the faintest grain of truth in any of these statements! Lonnie starts the first song accompanied just by fingerpicked guitar, which is joined by keyboards and viola. She sounds at this stage of the song very much like a torch singer. Then the whole band crash in really loudly, which thankfully shuts up the people chatting. Nostalgia is much heavier with some nice slide guitar. For ‘Jessie’s Pitfall’ Lonnie uses a pink loudhailer. ‘Honeymoon Suite’ is once again more at the torch song end of things. This is another really good artist, with some very wide ranging material.
Lonnie Gunn – vocals
George Woodford -lead guitar
Francisco “Chico” Parada – rhythm guitar
Tomas Parada – drums
Mikey Belfrage – bass
Kat Pihl – keys/keytar
Michele Monks – violin
Lonnie Gunn setlist:
‘Black Sheep’ (cover of Metric)
Lonnie Gunn is on Spotify
Next up are the very wonderful Welly. The two previous artists have both appeared to be quite serious, whereas Welly always give the impression of really not being that serious, and this worries me a little bit on their behalf. Of course, they very much are serious musicians and writers. They may jump about continuously throughout their set, but this is in no way at the expense of the quality of their playing. Whenever I see them it always astounds me how they manage to leap about whilst playing so well, whilst also having a complete wail of a time. They manage it though.
During opening song ‘It’s Not Like This In France’ bass player Jacob is already in the audience, whilst Welly (the singer) is bashing the drumkit. At the beginning of ‘Deere John’ Welly gets the audience to mimic starting a petrol lawnmower, something that we all do without questioning why. Welly then starts bashing a cowbell on the floor of the stage. It looks kinda cruel. In ‘Me And Your Mates’ Welly demonstrate why they are probably Brighton’s bounciest band. Jacob’s guitar strap comes undone, so Welly holds the instrument up for him, and they move around the stage together as if they are on a three-legged pub crawl. It seems perfectly normal behaviour. Welly are probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on. If for some strange reason you have yet to see Welly perform live, you need to put that right as soon as humanly possible.
Welly – vocals/percussion
Hanna – synth/triangle
Joe – guitar
Matt – guitars
Jacob – bass
‘It’s Not Like This In France’
‘Home For The Weekend’
‘Soak Up The Culture’
‘Me And Your Mates’
Headliners WOOZE do take things a notch or two higher than the rest of the bill. There’s an air of professionalism and experience that the rest of the bill haven’t really gained yet. Bassist Daniel McCarthy, guitarist Scott Rimmington and drummer Matt Barnes are all wearing full face masks which makes them look really sinister (although when I meet them after the show they’re really not!). Only vocalist and guitarist Theo Vo Suh is mask free.
Opening song ‘Was Father Prezzington’ has a late 1970s new wave feel, whilst ‘Heather’ starts off more slowly, sounding like a Led Zeppelinesque riff monster, before speeding up and again having more of a new wave feel. The band are really tight and powerful, and you get the impression that they could play just about anything that they turned their minds to. Theo takes off his shirt to reveal that he’s wearing Lonnie Gunn’s vest top. There’s a definite Led Zeppelin influence to their material, but there’s also very strong hints of 1980s David Bowie too, amongst other influences such as Prince and Hendrix. Theo is clearly a very talented guitarist. At one point he puts his guitar on the stage, supports himself on his elbows with his legs in the air and plays the guitar with his teeth. Blimey…..
This band’s standard of musicianship is extremely high. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re virtuosos, but they’re getting there. ‘Cruiser’ is a song that they first played live only a week ago, but you wouldn’t know it. This song has a very clear Prince influence. Theo has a very impressive vocal range, and he makes it look so effortless! ‘Cowardly Custard’ is an older song and is greeted like a hit. Theo solos just with his left hand, hammering-on.
Then something quite inexplicable happens. They invite a guy called Noah Yorke on stage (son of Thom), and they play a cover of ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ by Travis. Bassist Daniel McCarthy is clearly not expecting this, doesn’t know the song, so falls over on the stage and plays dead! Thankfully the song falls apart before the end, so the band get back to playing their own material which is far better and far more interesting than anything that Travis were ever responsible for! They carry on with ‘Sabre Tooth’ and ‘Witch Slap’, which is far more like it. Tonight is apparently their last UK headline date. They will be back, but under a different name. Apparently a former member of the band has taken exception to them continuing to use the Wooze name, which he came up with. Whatever. This is an incredibly good band, and will be well worth looking out for in future, whatever their new name may be.
Theo Spark – vocals/guitar
Daniel McCarthy – bass
Scott Rimmington – guitar
Matt Barnes – drums
Noah Yorke – guest vocals
‘Was Father Prezzingtons’
‘Good Old Fashioned Fun’
‘Cowardly Custard’ (from 2022 ‘The Magnificent Eleven’ EP)
‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ (incomplete Travis cover)
‘Witch Slap (IOU)’ (from 2021 ‘Get Me To A Nunnery’ EP)
‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ (from 2019 ‘What’s On Your Mind?’ EP)