Hastings and St Leonard’s music scene is re-emerging in difficult, even controversial, circumstances. However in the large, open and relatively safe space of the Kino-Teatr Gallery area, it felt ok to spend a Sunday afternoon hearing, for free, some top-notch performers. Masks are of course optional and they do make singing difficult, not to mention eating or drinking. We had witnessed music performed on a Sunday in the Kino-Teatr's Upper Gallery a few weeks earlier and therefore had a sense of what to expect on our return visit on August 1.
Back in July, ‘Simon and The Pope’ had excited the modest gathering with their funky, spacey vibe (‘punk funk drum and bass’, according to the description on Soundcloud) driven by a dextrous bass player (John Pope), cool drum patterns (Simon Charterton), and special guest Keith Rodway on keyboards/synth. However when Simon, The Pope, and fiddle player Robert Rosenthal get together they constitute something quite different; namely ‘The Aftershave’ . Dubbed ‘countrydelic’ in the Kino-Teatre’s pre-gig publicity, that genre, previously unbeknownst to me, more or less sums up what they do.
Upper Gallery view of The Aftershave (Pic: Amanda Thompson)
I’d initially been reminded of McGuinness Flint as in a semi-acoustic catchy ‘70s folk-pop shtick, but there’s a musical versatility and an ‘otherness’ to The Aftershave that soon made them escape the confines of my initial impression. For one thing the fiddler knew how to make the relatively simple (and I mean no disrespect) sound out of this world. Simon kept things tight but loose on the drums whilst singing lyrics that were alternately funny or deeply moving but which probably escaped most of an audience that was seated below him in the lower gallery area. I heard an audience member express concern about the acoustics of the music space. However for the most part (aside from hearing the lyrics, which are never easy to discern at gigs) the bands came through well.
|The Aftershave (Pic by Amanda Thompson)|
|Punters' view of Afrit Nebula performing in the Upper Gallery, Kino-Teatr|
First up on on Sunday Aug 1 had actually been Afrit Nebula, named in part after an Arabian djinn, and at times, due mostly to the soprano sax playing of Elaine Edwards, they definitely had a Middle Eastern feel. Her first solo sounded more snake charming than ‘Naima’, but as the band’s set progressed Ellen’s playing eclectically tapped African-American, Arabian, and entirely her own vibes. Speaking of which, her keyboard provided a xylophone accompaniment at one point. Frontman, in a sense, is Ken Edwards, whose bass playing, like that of John Pope above, was stellar and conducted with feeling. On drums, percussion, and occasional bursts of acoustic guitar, was Yair Katz.
|Afrit Nebula (Picture by Amanda Thompson)|
Necessary Animals should have been the stars of the show and, despite only performing as a duo with keyboards apiece and having technical issues, in some ways they still were. The difficulty in playing for a lunch time crowd is that in order to at least keep them in their seats, or better still up and bopping, you need to …eh…play to the gallery.
Keith Rodway and Amanda Thompson are the nucleus of a band whose music explores the outer reaches of psych, avant rock, cosmic pop, jazz, and all spaces within and without. Much of that was communicated in their set, aided by backing tapes and samples, but only if you were among the increasingly small number who were actually listening. Amanda’s vocals are always excellent, whether with the Necessary Animals or her electronica pop outfit ‘The Big Believe’ . However this was a hard sell, especially when the tapes included a spoken voice offering disconnected ‘commentary’.
The number ‘Acceptance’ was introduced by Keith as, I think, an exploration of coming to terms with a stalker (maybe he meant ‘Stalker’ – Ed….). Some of the Kino’s passing trade voted with their feet, which was a real shame because this is a band that deserve a lot more attention. My friend commented, ‘F*** the audience.’ Whilst this is a sentiment I understand, they can have their uses.
|Necessary Animals Keith and Amanda (Pic: Amanda Thompson!)|
Necessary Animals did warm up though, a recent single ‘Driving Out of Town’ mined anomie post Brexit and mid-Covid, and by the time of their closing number they were decidedly hitting their stride. Their sense of having bombed though was evident in Keith’s muted goodbye; so muted in fact that it wasn’t clear that they’d actually finished, and a couple of fellow musicians had to get a clap going. My friend and me applauded as heartily as hand strength would allow. A possibly ironic ‘more’ was distinctly heard. In truth I can’t believe that Stuart Maconie and his wigged out (Sunday evening) ‘Freak Zone’ (BBC 6 Music) or the wonderful Mark Riley (ditto; Mon-Thurs 7-9pm) haven’t discovered them yet.
Anthony Moore is something of a musical legend; a term that gets tossed around with wild abandon in these hyperbolic times. However, having been a member of renowned progsters 'Henry Cow', played with Kevin Ayers, collaborated with Paul Young (sic), and both produced a wonderful album by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (‘Angel Station’) and written a song covered by them (‘Third World Service’), he really is something of a star.
Playing to a, by now, much emptier gallery, Mr Moore is these days a one-man band. Various guitars were deployed as well as some peddle effects to accompany the man and his voice. Not exactly Caruso but full of emotional range, and with lyrics (if you strained you could make most of them out) that had a whole lot of edge. He’s almost 72. However, viewed from the Lower Gallery, he looked (and sounded) way younger but (forgive me Anthony) still old, though in a good way. Initially I was getting (contemporary) Roger Waters unplugged, but Anthony is very much his own man. So expressive, whether apparently lauding the ‘perfect English’ of the BBC World Service or musing on, I think, ‘The Blackhills’, this was a man whose oeuvre is probably for the older and more discerning listener. Too bad that so many who’d comfortably fit at least part of that remit had actually left the building.
Anthony claimed that he was getting more nervous as his set wore on, and he was plainly putting a lot into the performance, including some deft playing alongside his impressive vocals. My friend and me were very moved, and I’d only consumed two beverages from the excellent adjoining bar/restaurant, and she was sober. I resisted shouting ‘Moore’.
|Anthony Moore (pic by Amanda Thompson)|
Closing the bill were ‘Simon and The Pope’. Anthony stayed resolutely in his chair, seemingly relieved to just be just strumming in a band setting. Keith once again guested on keyboards, offering some BBC Radiophonic Workshop touches. It’s not for nothing that Keith Rodway is increasingly known as the Brian Eno of the South Coast.
Simon Charterton and John Pope are the nucleus of this white funk punk combo. They kicked things off with the irrepressible ‘Space Bossa Noodle’, before the awesome bass riff of Miles Davis’ ‘It’s About That Time’ (from his earliest jazz fusion phase) greeted us. Two numbers later and the tune had morphed, more slowly, into ‘It’s About Time’, emphasised by Simon’s repeated spoken delivery of the phrase. Simon and The Pope are only the second band I have ever heard live covering anything by Miles – the first was an African-American outfit performing in The Cotton Club….a bar in Chicago that is. A musical musing on being ‘At the bus stop…smoking a fag’ funkily followed, while another number seemingly spontaneously segued into something for the remaining older folks, T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’. That went by largely unnoticed too.
As we raced for a train, Simon and The Pope were, sadly, performing their last number. However they’ll be back. In fact the Gallery at the Kino-Teatr, St Leonard’s looks set to be a regular venue for free gigs offering variations of the above acts, and probably others, for the next few Sundays. Check it, and them, out.
|Simon and The Pope, with Anthony Moore (left) and Keith Rodway (inside right) (Pic: Amanda Thompson)|
For a taster of the music performed in the Kino-Teatr Gallery on August 1, click here for Keith Rodway’s video selection