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Clambering over the discarded offspring of our glorious Prime Minister (good to know the country’s in safe hands eh?) we arrived just in time for local singer songwriter Phil Gibbs and his band of merry men (and lady…on the keyboard…not literally…that would just be silly). Had the pleasure of seeing Phil for the first time a few months back and he’s got a neat line in summertime feel good songs like tonight’s opening number (and pick of the set) Part Time Lover (no, not that one…a different one). A bit of soul, a bit of reggae, a slice of pop…what’s not to like? A darn sight more cheerful than the freakin’ weather at the moment.

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Next up someone I’ve been tipping for big things for a while now George Barnett & The Ninth Wave. Since last catching him back in February he’s released his amazing debut album, 17 Days, been played on 6 music, booked a headlining gig at the legendary Clapham Grand (July 13th, tickets here), filmed and released a video for new single Bewitched and, just this week, he’s been playlisted at Radio One. Not a bad few months work eh? That’s just some of the stuff I know about by the way. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d written a musical, repainted the Sistine Chapel and discovered a cure for cancer too. This dude’s seriously talented with a rare knack for penning catchy, classy pop that embraces influences from everything from The Beatles through to ‘80’s funk and tonight he and the Ninth Wave transformed the Hare & Hounds into a stadium (well it felt like that at times), filling every little nook and cranny with musical loveliness.

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It’s not just a performance though, it’s a real show. It’s clear that both George and the band have put some serious thought into how it all comes together. Opening number Lone Rose saw George playing the keyboards like Animal from The Muppets, a furious blur of hair and limbs, before picking up the cowbell and bringing the good times right out into the crowd. I was exhausted just watching it. And this was just the first song. Other highlights included a beautiful acapella ending to Bewitched with George and the band gathered round a mic, stomping feet providing the simple beat. Magical. The set ended all too soon with Apocolade which this evening was just HUGE. Muse huge. Coldplay huge (big shout out to soundman Greg for doing a cracking job this evening by the way). Whilst I’m not a massive fan of Coldplay as a band they do make some truly anthemic tunes. Well, they can step aside now thank you very much. There’s a new gang in town. George Barnett and the Ninth Wave. If they don’t end up playing Apocolade in stadiums I’ll…eat Chris Martin in a bap.

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Last up headliners Essex four piece The Milk, self professed ‘new soul rebels’. Dexys were famously searching for just such a thing over 30 years ago, are The Milk the answer to their prayers? Well they’ve certainly got soul and a determination to do whatever they can to get the audience to enjoy themselves “We’re here to make every night like Friday night!” Oh goody, Friday night’s chicken kebab night. Not sure I could eat one everyday though, my waistline’s in enough trouble as it is. The Milk have hit upon the idea that breaks between songs get in the way of the party so it’s pretty much a non-stop set, kicking off with current single Broke Up The Family. It’s an okay song online but oh so much better live. Like fellow Essex boys (possibly their spiritual granddads in fact) Dr Feelgood, The Milk are one of those bands that work so much better onstage, drenched in sweat, getting down and dirty. They’ve been compared to Maroon 5 on more than one occasion and you can hear the similarities but The Milk are a lot edgier. Maroon 5 with bollocks if you like. Less Moves Like Jagger, more Rocks Like Richards. But, like the chart munching Americans they’ve got some instantly catchy numbers, All I Wanted Was Danger, Kimmy Kimmy, Broke Up The Family and My Momma Told Me (think it was called that, a little Jurassic 5 vibe in there…sweet) all hit the spot tonight. A rocking cover of Music Sounds Better With You was followed by an awesome encore skank through Toots’ 54 46 (requested by one particularly enthusiastic fan) before The Milk split. Good times.

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Gig Review by Daron Billings
Gig Photography by Ian Dunn

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