Josh T Pearson cuts a lonely figure on the Anson Rooms far from modest stage, it’s an early indicator of what will turn out to be an evening of contradictions for the bearded cult hero. Best known as lead singer and guitarist of legendary Texan band Lift To Experience whose only release Texas Jerusalem Crossroads has to go down as not only a great concept album but one of the best albums of the last decade. Having spent nearly ten years below the radar, Pearson recently released the harrowing yet brilliant solo album Last Of The Country Gentlemen.
The Anson Rooms is a soulless shoebox of a venue and to add to this, the majority of the crowd have no clue as to who Josh T Pearson is, let alone the musical importance as to what they are witnessing. These elements combined result in something akin to a near religious experience marred by the inane and uninterested conversations of impatient Drive-By Truckers fans who have very little clue as to the significance of what they are witnessing. Understandable of course; as a support act there is a huge contrast between Pearsons haunting acoustic laments and the headliners country-rock anthems. And there is no blame apportioned to the unsuspecting crowd, it’s just a simple case of wrong place, wrong time.
Speaking of contrasts, the most striking aspect of Pearsons performance this evening was that between the top and bottom three strings of his acoustic guitar. His playing is masterful, creating deafening feedback whilst his little finger delicately picks out the most intricate of melodies. With only 45 minutes to play, the set list was sadly limited. Kicking off with Sweetheart I aint your Christ and concluding with Sorry with A song, it was far from an easy listening experience. He did an admirable job of filling the venue with sound but came unstuck during the all important quiet moments, which is why I think that he would be far better suited to a smaller venue housing a dedicated audience. regardless of all of this, Pearson stopped me in my tracks with a performance that not only upstaged the headliners but soared far above the uninterested portions of the crowd.
I was supposed to see Robyn at the Academy tonight; but apparently the gods had other ideas. Around mid-morning I received an email notification that the Swedish pop princess was ill and that the show had been cancelled. Whilst understandably gutted, I was determined to see somebody and two hours later I had managed to score a couple of tickets to Darwin Deezs sold out gig at the Uni.
The Anson Rooms is by far my least favourite venue in Bristol, apart from the musty stench of education and the fact that it’s a soulless cuboid, it reminds me of how long it has been since I was a student. Quite rightly there were students in spades this evening and with Darwin Deez music having featured rather prominently throughout the 3rd series of The Inbetweeners the average age of this evening’s crowd was shrunk further still. So much so in fact, that I considered cutting my losses and going home when I spied the queue outside the venue.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs took to the stage as main support (alongside a couple of go-go dancers) wearing a headdress that bridged the gap between The Village and The Village People rather seamlessly. The UK producer was a blur of boundless energy that saw him flit between laptop and live vocals as his genre hopping beats filled the venue admirably.
Darwin Deez were one of the highlights of last years Green Man festival, their blend of between song dance routines and jangly indie pop was a breath of fresh air and provided welcome respite from the folky theme of the rest of the line-up. Unfortunately tonight, they sound both muddy and tired. The cleanliness of the guitar sound is one of the bands biggest assets but the venue suffocated any breeziness that the album or open aired appearance may have afforded them. Deez himself was off-key too, the dancing was not only muted but seemed out-of-place and gimmicky. A general lack of energy and enthusiasm along with the absence of any real between song banter dominated a totally lacklustre performance that even set highlights ‘Radar Detector’ and ‘Constellations’ could not redeem. Perhaps they could do with a break, this is the second time that they have played Bristol in the last six months which reeks of opportunism and the realisation that they are a one-hit wonder without the hit. Their festival slot was enhanced by a break in the bad weather at Green Man and unfortunately tonight they failed miserably to make the transition from the band I saw then, to a fully-fledged headline act. The slightly high-pitched rapturous response from the crowd begged to differ but rather cynically, it seems that Deez is perfectly astute in choosing his target audience wisely. A very disappointing show that in no way whatsoever made up for the disappointment of where I should have been.