With the Bimble Inn tent’s balladeer crown going to Emmy The Great last year, it’s deservedly up to multi-instrumental troubadours Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit to nab it in her absence this time round.
One of the strongest members of the alt-folk scene in London at the moment, Flynn’s country-tinged songs showed off the band’s versatility, with Flynn alone rapidly switching between ukelele, banjo, guitar and violin during the course of an excellent set.
‘Cold Bread’ and July’s release ‘Ode To A Mare Trod Ditch’ were received as old friends, with extra applause reserved for a rousing version of old favourite ‘Tickle Me Pink’. A record label honcho is later heard to grumble that they were too young to be convincing on a lyrical basis, but ambition never killed anyone – certainly not when it sounds this good.
Malcolm Middleton has been around the block enough to know exactly what he’s on about. “It’s miserable as fuck,” he says cheerfully when introducing ‘Loneliest Night of My Life Come Calling’. While the lyrics wouldn’t argue, Middleton’s acoustic band comprising himself, a double bassist and a violinist-cum-backing singer means that the lasting effect is more that of a relaxing dinner party than a teary evening hugging the remote. Hell, he even promotes a Swindon hotel he recently stayed in, praising the all you can eat Japanese buffet and resident Basil Fawlty.
New song, the ravishing ‘Week Off’, does little to change this sedate atmosphere, but then ‘Break My Heart’ gets Middleton shrieking, “I don’t want to sing these shit songs anymore.” The old grump’s still grumbling, thank God.
Sticking my head around the door of The Local afterwards to catch the last few songs of The Young Republic is about all I can do: fans of the Bostonian octet have filled the tent to bursting. As signings to End of the Road’s own label, they’ve played three sets this weekend, and all this has got them enough new followers to warrant ditching their own songs and playing covers.
Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ is blaring out as I peer over the shoulders of the heaving throng in front of me, while frontman Julian Saporiti wisecracks in a way that annoyingly fails to translate when written down, before the band finish off with one of their own. More please.
Words: Kat Brown