Doss, Last Boy, & Health And Beauty – Reviewed By Me, Big G

There are times when three band line ups with three very different acts feels like a booker throwing darts at their Twitter feed and hoping it makes money.  This was not the case on the 24th of February at The Poetry Club when Health and Beauty, and Last Boy played the second night of a double header supported by Doss.

Doss are a straight forward group on the face of it.  They decided they had a point to make.  And then they decided to make it.  Only numbering two vocalists and a laptop they still had the place in the palms of their hands.  Doss values authenticity, and they make that very clear.  When performing “The Mullets are Moving In”, an appeal against the downsides of gentrification, and “Posers’ ‘, which is probably about posers, you could tell they meant what they had written.  It was real, in a really real way.  The highlight of their set however was their final tune.  By their own admission it was about a minute long “And took about a minute to write”.  They kindly dedicated this tune to DF Concerts.  “DF – Dirty Fuckers” was written only to highlight that DF, a subsidiary of Live Nation, offered the duo a pathetic pittance of payment for the gig.  These are exactly the kind of business practices used to exploit groups who A) Don’t know any better.  Or 2- Don’t have many other options.  And hiy, they said it…I only agreed with it.  I haven’t even described the sound of Doss.  Whatever it is, it’s frantic and purposeful.  They’re one of those groups who have something going on other than the sound of their music.  Go and find them if you are intrigued.

Last Boy was second on the evening’s bill.  Last Boy does a very modern sounding take on the Indie Folk thing.  What makes it Folky in particular?  Well, they have a fiddler!  But not only that, the lead singer and the guitarist regularly swapped between guitars and mandolins.  A wee five string banjo even turned up for a rendition of bluegrass tune “Little Pink”.  I always enjoy it when there are more instruments in a band than musicians.  So well done to Last Boy for sharing drums, a sample pad, bass, guitars (electric and acoustic), fiddle, banjo, and mandolins (electric and acoustic) between five members.  I noticed over their set that it wasn’t very often one member stood out above the others.  You’d get a cool bassline every so often…or a fiddle solo…but the instruments tended to be drenched in reverb and delay effects in such a way that they all blended into each other and created a singular sound under the vocals.  That’s the kind of thing that’s easy to get wrong in a small venue but it was all clear enough and well mixed. 

I will say that being unfamiliar with the band I struggle to differentiate between the songs thinking back.  Sure, I can point out the cooler basslines, the more memorable lyrics, and the sneaky wee Yankee Doodle Dueling Banjo’s gimmick played on the fiddle at the end of one tune.  But many of the tunes were played at similar tempos and sung in a similar vocal range.  This very much suits the genre, and I’ll admit it will be a problem solved by adding Last Boy to my playlists and paying more attention, but I can only review the gig I experienced. There’s one final thing about Last Boy I’ll add here because I couldn’t shoehorn it in anywhere else.  That is that the guitarist/mandoliner had a super cool wee beret bunnet on, and I can’t explain exactly why…but it made him the best one.  More funky headgear in your indie-folk bands please.

And then, something completely different.  An unassuming young gentleman wearing a tucked in shirt and tie took the stage.  With one guitar, one bass, and a whole lot of other stuff.  For you see although Health and Beauty is but one man, he maketh many noises. The guitar and bass were almost superfluous as the main music maker of Health and Beauty is a massive tabletop unit crammed full of synths, sequencers, and sample pads (oh my!).  I was impressed by the set up before I had even heard it, I just knew to expect cool things.  In fact if the Chernobyl nuclear power station had had a safety console as advanced as this unit we wouldn’t have nuclear dogs running around Ukraine.  This wasn’t even the whole of it as the absolute unit was backed up by a floor unit where his effects pedals, and particularly his Big Muff lived.  I shall now refer to the whole rig as “The Groov-inator 5000”.

So how did it all sound together?  I’d say if you imagine the Düsseldorf sound mixed with house music.  It’s not totally like that, but it’s not totally unlike that either.  Some people have asked me before if there’s a point in going to see electronic music live.  Since it’s “just pushing play on a laptop” y’know.  Acts like Health and Beauty are why it’s worth seeing electronic music live.  Most of the music is pre-programed and sequences but it’s not like he isn’t controlling that with The Groov-inator 5000.  Not to mention that the vocals are live, and what an expressive vocalist he turned out to be.  There were many times he was singing away from the mic and was still heard in the venue.  And it’s infectious when someone emits serious energy when performing.  Every time he let out an impulsive whoop, he’d get at least three back from the crowd.  We were digging it.

The guitar and bass were used during the set, but I did prefer it when the bass was in the spotlight.  It was a sound that probably wouldn’t work in most bands…good thing this wasn’t most bands then.  The tone was very heavy on the high end and drenched with phasers and ran through many of the other magic boxes on the Groov-inator floor unit.  When the sound was coupled with the playing style of using a heavy attack and jamming on the upper frets it complimented the music very well.  Imagine if Peter Hook had worked in admin, that’s a bit like what was going on.

I love going into gigs blind and I loved being surprised.  So, to find these three varied acts sharing a bill and each of them making it a success was superb.  All three acts have music available online so check them out, lest the ghost of Groov-inator past pay you an unpleasant visit.

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