Gig Review by John Kennedy / Gig Photos by Ian Dunn

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Birmingham’s home-grown, Bella Diem (Beautiful Day) – the name sort of gives you a clue – featured the disarmingly self conscious, whispy co-vocals of The Girl with the Pre-Raphaelite hair. Their engaging nuFolk/Country-lite harmonies were sometimes overwhelmed by the perhaps, excessively loud, punchy rhythm section. ‘Bullet’ had it’s C&W charms whilst ‘Saturday’ brought recollections of China Crisis (Man Ray) for those of you old enough to remember. The cryptically titled, ‘From Venus To Girth’ had echo guitar twangs and romantic ballad close harmonies suggesting the ubiquitous Rom-Com rainy-day movie denouement where the soppy lovers inevitably make-up. An evolving band with work in progress. And my, haven’t they bagged themselves a bonus with that one-man orchestral electric guitar player? Gig Junkies have these frisky young Folkers firmly on the radar.

Bella Diem

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Last April I wrote in Gig Junkies the following – ‘Ellen and the Escapades are a curious curate’s egg of engaging, damn hard working, effervescent musicians. Their wholesome embracement of ubiquitous bitter-sweet sleek mid-West alt.Country-Folk ballads and galloping up-beat nu Folk has garnered fulsome praise from some who ought to know better than to make exaggerated claims the band’s self-effacing modesty might dream of but never assume…[However] I’m duty bound to say that I was prone to the occasional Mumford & Sons moment of, ‘Where have I heard this before?’ – the old wine in new bottles syndrome…’ Essentially, I still feel the same although it would be a cold-hearted git who didn’t fall for ‘When The Tide Creeps In’. And, as for ‘I Just Can’t Love You Any More’ – well, that was a Kleenex-crisis if ever there was. Hang on – I’m getting a bit confused now. This band does that to you – I’ll get my coat…

Ellen and the Escapades

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For one moment we shivered in anticipation of Spinal Tap schadenfreude as The Travelling Band stacked the stage with racks of back-up guitars and rock-tech paraphernalia – turns out they put it all to great effect. (My son tells me we saw this lot at Greenman Festival but I was distracted by the beckoning songs of the 8% scrumpy Sirens… rock n’ roll!). Their full-on Mancunian bonhomie had the near capacity punters high-hand clapping and chorus ‘Whoo ohhing’ in to the first song, ‘Anybody Ask You Why’. They draw on an intriguing concoction of sometimes contradictory genres ranging from the buckin-bronco Beat C&W of ‘Battlescars’ to the, what ought to be impossible, 60s/Indie guitar dronal riffing of ‘Making Eyes’.

The Travelling Band

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Close harmonies and slick time-signature shifts together with a raptor-sly bass and drum backline kicking beats allowed for all sorts of adventurous and alternative verse/chorus and unexpected ‘bridge’ arrangements. Indeed, with ‘Borrowed & Blue’ the opening dreamy jazz, slow snare hiss soon got very boisterous with the late 1950s sci-fi B movie weedy keyboards swelling to something suggestively Prog Rock. And then we had new song ’25 Hours’ whose Paperback Writer kick-drum/guitar riff had all sorts of Cast/LAs bubbling beneath the snappy chorus harmonies – and very good it was. There were even frissons of Lindisfarne and swelling Arcade Fires within the new ep ‘Pledge’ release ‘Hands Up’. Accomplished, eclectically intelligent, seat-of-the-pants crisp/crossover Pop music. And, they’re just so damned nice with it!

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