Imagine creating an object made of thousands of minuscule vibrations, all bouncing off each other and working together to make the object appear to be one complete thing. The thing is made of its component parts, but exists only as itself – remove or change any part of it and it becomes something different entirely.
Now consider this. The object you’ve created is a product of every decision you’ve ever made in your life up to this point, and only you at this exact point in space and time could ever make that exact object. Thus it is unique, and it is truly yours.
Finally, imagine holding that object up and proclaiming its existence to the world. People come and look at this incredible piece of magical engineering you’ve produced, that captures your essential being at the exact point in space and time at which it was created. And they examine it and offer their opinions on it, in real time.
And then they go home and write reviews about it.
I’m a big fan of WagonWheel gigs at the Greystones. I like making the arduous journey to the flagship Thornbridge pub, where you’re rewarded with proper beer and a warm smile.
I like being greeted by the bear-like presence of WagonMaster Craig, finding a seat (or a bit of bar to lean on) and waiting for the unknown.
But you know what I like best? I like it when I’m surprised. With a WagonWheel gig you know some things about what’s coming. But you never know everything.
Take tonight. Dirdsbead is playing first. Who the hell’s that? I don’t know.
Turns out it’s an unassuming young guy with a guitar. He looks like he’s been teleported from Nineties Seattle, but he sounds like he’s from here. At least when he talks he does.
What does he do? He sings his songs and makes awkward, self-lampooning jokes in-between songs. He’s really, really good. Funny, sad, shambolic, brilliant – and really, really good.
Some smartly-dressed guys from Italy are up next. I make an immediate internal judgement, expecting to hate it.
Stiv Cantarelli and the Silent Strangers are the biggest surprise of the night. They shouldn’t exist (should anything?) but they do – occupying the lines between a number of genres.
I like the fact that they have a saxophone player, because I usually hate saxophones. Not this time. He knows when not to play – it makes a big difference. And he switches to lap steel for half the songs.
The drummer’s great. I mean, the whole band’s tight but the drummer’s the spine of this outfit. And Stiv‘s ever the charismatic frontman.
They have great songs too. It helps. Stiv tells the audience that they play some rough places, and that to play rough places you need rough songs. That’ll work.
A third surprise of the night: I don’t like Roaming Son as much as I thought I would. I mean, it doesn’t matter – it’s only my opinion, and they were good, just… they could be better. In my opinion.
First, some positives. Praise be to Great Cthulhu, that boy can play guitar – he’s like bottled lightning. And, again, he knows when not to play.
They have a tight sound. It’s brutal and dirty when it needs to be. And they can tone it down and go all acoustic and intimate for you.
They’ve got songs and plenty of them. Some good songs.
But there’s a couple of things I really want them to sort out. And I don’t mean this in a sneery, dismissive way. Roaming Son have got a ton of potential to squeeze out, and I really believe they’ll do it.
Here goes. On a very superficial level, I’ve got a beef with the Rockabilly logo. It just doesn’t tell their story. They’re made up of much more than just ‘the Fifties thing‘, and I get more of an Oasis vibe from them than a JD McPherson vibe.
And, again this is superficial and petty of me, but… well, the Status Quo-esque rocking in unison. It’s a risky strategy. It works for ZZ Top, but unless you’re wearing a foot-long beard and shades, you’re probably going to misfire.
See, I told you it was petty – and every band takes some time to settle into their identity and stage presence. Forget it. Let’s concentrate on the rufty-tufty barrel-house blues-rock. Play me another yowling guitar solo.
Check out their EP, History of Violence. If you buy it at a Roaming Son gig, you get a cool branded plectrum.
Words : Joseph McArthur Field.
About the author: Joseph writes for several publications, including his own Tumblr.