This Boy Wonders, The Grazing Saints, Jack James @ Waterfront Studio, 18 May 2013, review.
I was very tired for this one, but forced myself out to the Waterfront, in the knowledge that it was also club night and the upstairs Studio was having a 10pm curfew. So, arriving at the very early time of 7.30pm it was only a short wait before Jack James took to the stage with his band. I’ve never seen or heard this artist before but my friend Ga told me he had seen him playing solo a couple of times locally. Incredibly, Jack James is only 17, a very talented singer and guitarist, with an excellent rhythm section to his band, especially I thought the bass was sounding extremely good. At one stage bassist and drummer performed a short jam whilst Jack sorted his guitar out.
Once he had changed to electric, I thought the songs seemed a whole lot better and more powerful. Bearing in mind his age I suppose I am imagining the influence of some early 80s post-punk indie bands of the Bunnymen, Joy Divison, New Order ilk, but that is what I was feeling. The final three songs of the set sounded excellent. Some potential here I think.
Jack James: A 17 year old Singer/Songwriter from Norfolk, writing and performing original material. Debut EP ‘Backbone’ coming soon!
“I have always written and performed in a band from a young age, known as ‘T Shirts and Ties’. After this i became part of ‘Oakwood Avenue’ then decided to start writing and performing as a singer/songwriter. In 2011 i started to write music on my own, after writing a few songs i decided to record them and release them as an EP, Backbone. Which is due for digital release this year.
Also, i decided to release the EP under my make shift record label ‘Risky Rambler Records’ which is a bit of a working progress. I’m currently gigging around Norfolk and Suffolk to try and gain as much exposure as possible.”
My main, and possibly only reason to come tonight was to hear again The Grazing Saints on a larger stage. They took to the stage about 8.30pm, Joe full of his usual intense, brooding swagger and self deprecating humour. The first guitar chords set the scene for a powerful and very emotionally involving set. This band seems to shine on a larger stage and it was good to hear them loud and electric. Fresh from their appearance on BBC Norfolk’s Introducing show last week, they played “Windows” live to an audience for the first time, and it sounded awesome. This could be a new set favourite for me. Six minutes of brooding and menacing intensity.
Robbie has a very delicate and subtle side to his drumming, for such a powerful band, he knows when to rein back, and as for Paul. I think this is as good a bassist as you are likely to hear anywhere. Joe has great power in his guitar playing, and a fascinating voice which couples with his undoubted talents as an articulate and poetic songwriter very well indeed. He also has a touch of the Nick Caves in his writing, especially with lines like “now I’m waitin’ for ya, I cound’t shoot ’til I saw the, the whites of your thighs” … “You know that I’ve been drinking, tokin’ up and sinking … sinking so low”
Tempest was equally awesome and powerful, but sadly a few of the slightly worse for wear This Boy Wonders fans were by this stage becoming very loud and shouting over the band, but no mind, they carried on, only to be told they only had time for one more number. Following this they got a very appreciative round of applause from an impressed audience.
Grazing Saints bio:
The Grazing Saints: Born in Earthen Swamps of Norfolk, UK, in the Spring of 2012 The Grazing Saints create an Organic Sound through the medium of a rock n roll band, through the influences of all that is seen and heard, with no preconceptions, a Respect to The Atomic, Subatomic and Intergalactic force of all things and a desire to Atone for all sins. Jam it out, Dont force it Out. Music by Human Beings, Not Robots.
“When Christian Saints were no longer Persecuted, to prove dedicated faith they found new ways to suffer. Clad in the skins of wild beasts. Zealots for ‘Freedom from Care’
They eat grass and grow their body hair, to resemble their bovine brothers…”
After the gig I read the bio for This Boy Wonders and was really surprised to read the comparisons of BRMC and early Stones, I did not detect that at all. I can only assume the writer has never seen the likes of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club play live.
This Boy Wonders is Chris Athorne, Lee Wilkins, Mark Willis and Nikk Butcher. Front man Chris Athorne had been writing songs for 2 years when the opportunity came to take his music to the next level with a full band and he hasn’t looked back.
Since then, the band has recorded three EPs and one fully produced album. The first EP, released back in 2009 entitled ‘Chasing Rainbows’, was a very different sound from now, with a folk/ acoustic feel that runs through the record. However, crowd pleasers such as ‘Chasing Rainbows’ and ‘Home’, are still played in their live sets as it was these songs that gained the band support from BBC introducing back in 2009.
The second EP ‘Frame by Frame’ was released in 2010 and moved the sound of TBW forward. With heavier guitar riff driven songs such as ‘As I Go Now’ and a more epic feel with the track ‘Phoenix’. ‘Midnight Writer’ is the third EP in the TBW collection and was released in 2011. This demo presents the band in a new light and carries a heavy blues and rock influenced sound that represents a new maturity with the song writing. Midnight Writer took only 2 days from start to finish and was recorded ‘Live’.
The band’s first album self titled ‘This Boy Wonders’ demonstrates how the band have truly discovered the sound that they want to represent. The record echoes sounds from the past with similarities being made to early ‘Rolling Stones’ but still managing to add that ever so important contemporary feel to the overall sound. With huge blues riffs and tracks that feel good in the sun it’s an album for all occasions. It is set to be released in December 2011.
The bands appearances haven’t been half bad either. Over the course of 3 years they have been heavily supported by BBC introducing and in August 2011 they made their debut performance on the BBC introducing stages at Reading and Leeds Festival. On top of that they secured performances at The O2 Academies and played at the prestigious Cavern Club in Liverpool.
With the eclectic style TBW push through it suggests many and varied musical influences some of which weigh heavily on their shoulders! However, they still manage to carry a sound that is completely original. Some describe it as ‘unclassifiable’. They have been compared to heavier bands such as The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club right through to more acoustic and soulful bands, as well as artists like Ben Harper, Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver.
Headline act This Boy Wonders are very slick, and do what they do very well, but it just doesn’t work for me. The singer has a good voice whilst at the same time not being very clear, and I could not tell from his singing nor the band’s music exactly what it was they were trying to convey. Having said that, a sizable number of the audience had travelled up for this gig and they were loving it and dancing wildly and enthusiastically. I was talking to some of the more sober amongst them who were telling me about the band, and by all accounts they are decent, hard-working guys and maybe I was tired but their brand of Starsailor/U2/Coldplay indie pop-rock just wasn’t doing anything for me, they are OK at what they do but volume and energy is not always a replacement for soul or strong tunes. At least half the audience was either a relative or a personal friend of the band. Looking around the audience I noticed the hall was split between the enthusiastic dancing travelling fans at the front, and the unimpressed people watching from the periphery. That tells its own story. Not bad but not convincing. I wanted to like them for the nice people I spoke to who travelled here to see them, but … instead I found myself needing to listen again to The Fall, Grazing Saints, or BK & Dad. A shame as £8 for this gig was a little high. Grazing Saints however, surely their time for a full headline set on a big stage will not be long in coming.
words and photos by richard shashamane (c) 2013