At last, an evening I know a few people (both on and off stage) had been waiting for. Except it wasn’t quite.
After last year’s farewell gig turned out not to be farewell to the band but more a kind of send-off for Vicki as she headed for the bright lights of London, Dream Of Apollo became more focused on recording their debut album. The departure of drummer Jamie Bradley mid-recording did little to slow them down and, after raising their desired target on the PledgeMusic site with weeks to spare, an album launch party was announced. It would be a chance for the band to meet, thank and play to some of their pledgers (those that could make it – some were hampered by being international) and to pass on what those pledgers had spent their money on. Except, when is an album launch party not an album launch party? When there’s no physical copy of the album available at the time. Despite download copies of Alpha being available nearly a week before the CDs were taking a bit longer. Happily, the t-shirts, badges, posters, stickers and key-ring/bottle openers were all available.
The album cover – art by York artist Nell, logos by Lydia Bevan of Hand Drawn Maps
Did anybody care? I wouldn’t say so. In fact, the evening turned into more of a celebration of completing the album. When we arrived there was already a party atmosphere. The Cock And Bottle isn’t one of the biggest pubs in York and its seating area was already fairly packed with friends, family of fans of the band, with the band members themselves making their way through the audience greeting as many people as possible. The replacement drummer, who had helped complete the album, wasn’t available tonight which, in a way, was lucky as, with the addition of Sarah Pickwell and her cello, the small stage area was already pretty cramped, with Vicki literally fronting the band by being located on one of the steps in front of the stage.
“We’ve made an album,” shouted Winston from the back of the stage. The sense of achievement, happiness and, perhaps, relief was almost palpable. The sense of fun even more so. After opening song Children Of The City, the audience were told, “You are our soundman tonight, let us know if anything needs adjusting,” just before Sarah was introduced. “More cello,” was the cheeky first request. The first half of the set was made up of (nearly) all the songs from the album, necessarily played acoustically. Rhys took his relaxed style of bass-playing to another level, not only spending the whole evening sitting down and in bare feet but, on at least a couple of occasions, appearing to have nodded off. After a section of slower songs – Sandman, Home, Someday, Too Lost Too Late and All For You – Hold Me was announced with “time for a quick one” and Vicki’s short frenetic guitar solo was met with appreciation from the audience and a clashing of glasses from Winston and Rhys, who then relaxed as Vicki and Sarah duetted on a lovely version of Mine (a song I think I had only heard played solo by Vicki before). Regrets Of The Devil and Anatole rounded out this section, the latter accompanied by a shaker “egg” that was thrown into the audience, narrowly missing me (much to the amusement of at least one band member, who them tried to complete her vocals while supressing laughter…)
Dream of Apollo – Rhys, Winston, Sarah and Vicki
After the break, the band returned with Jolene, one of their usual covers and then played one of the songs that, sadly, didn’t make the album – the multi-faceted Free is one of my favourites and it was nice to have it dedicated to me. Local gig photographer Marc McGarraghy, another fervent supporter of the band, was given a choice of having either of the next two songs dedicated to him, without knowing what they were going to be. “They’re both good,” quipped Vicki as he tried to decide, eventually picking the first of the two, which turned out to be Folsom Prison Blues, the acoustic version of which, accompanied by country-style yells and shrieks from the audience, builds brilliantly. A cover of Your Loving Arms was, if I remember correctly, performed just by Winston and Vicki and was the last song to feature either of the male half of the act. “The guys have got no stamina,” said Vicki before starting a short solo section with Gregory And The Hawk’s Boats And Birds. By now the whole event, rightly so, had the feel of a private party rather than a gig with good natured banter being thrown in both directions and the atmosphere was, if anything, lightened even more by the final song of the set, the brilliantly bitter-sweet Dead Pets (the album’s hidden track) which raised much mirth with the audience. Finally, an encore of Memories Of You proved that, if you are going to break a guitar string, the last song of the evening is the time to do it.
May 27th – Gibsons, Micklegate, York
July 6th – Flummoxed Festival, Milton Keynes