I’ve been to four Pledger-only gigs in the past month. Indeed, that may explain my current inability to concentrate for longer than 3 minutes, or indeed keep my eyes open, but as a result of reflecting on these events it occurred to me only this morning that the thing that makes gigs from Pledge campaigns extra special is that everyone in the room has made a commitment to supporting music in a different way than at a normal gig. For the gigs I’ve attended, everyone in the room had to have pre-ordered an album before they’d heard much more than snippets of it. All of which is by way of an overly-long introduction to say that this might explain why, for me, the atmosphere at pledger-only gigs is a little bit more…electric than at usual gigs. Clearly being in at the start of something amazing is a good feeling, for both fans and the musicians involved.
And so it was in both London and Leeds for The Dowling Poole pledger only gigs (and no doubt in Birmingham tonight) that a crowd anticipating great things were not disappointed. With the incredibly superb Bleak Strategies album being so rich with musical layers it had been a matter of some debate as to how the songs were going to be played and sound live. The answer, of course, was stunning. And who would be surprised with that amount of musical talent on the stage? With Jon Poole on acoustic guitar, Willie Dowling on keyboard (both singing) and joined by the wonderful vocal talents of Givvi Flynn, the live versions of all of the songs played sounded less-stripped down that one might have imagined they would have been, while still allowing the vocal harmonies and lyrics to shine. The set included 8 of the 10 tracks from the album by my counting (though I am better at words than numbers). In particular, both “Saving it all for a Saturday” and “Where the Memories Fester”, already fantastic on the album, had a touch of something extra-brilliant live. “Clean”, with Givvi on lead vocals was an emotional moment on both evenings, and it’s hard to imagine a finer song to illustrate all the musical talents on display. Interspersed with some tracks drawn from the wealth of both Dowling and Poole’s back catalogues, there were songs here for every fan. Songs that make you dance. Songs that make you cry with the unfairness of life. Songs that remind you why it’s good to be alive.
Extra treats for pledgers included a vocal guest appearance by Victoria Liedtke in London and Willie’s old HoneyCrack bandmate CJ joining the band on stage in Leeds to finish the set with some HoneyCrack songs. Teasing us at the end and promising that they might return for more gigs in September, I really hope they do, but doubt they can make the gigs any more special than these ones already were.
Watch out for a forthcoming radio session with these chaps soon, plus the release of “The Sun is Mine” as a single on August 11th.