Gig Review: Parts & Labor, SJ Esau, Lonely Ghosts @ Brighton Prince Albert (20.02.09)

Another gig review within days of the last? Just what the hell is going on here? Does it make up for my total failure to post flash fiction for the past fortnight? Read on for the answers to precisely none of these questions.

It’s OIB Records’ second birthday – hurray! To celebrate the occasion they’ve invited Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor down to play for us – hurrah! And it’s £7 – um, hurrah? Okay, it’s a bit costly for those of us raised on super-cheap punk shows, but this is the world of indie pop and to blend in we must learn their ways.

First up tonight is Brighton’s own lonely ghosts. After having watched their set I’m unsure whether I think they exemplify competent mediocrity, or if they’re just another one of those points I keep on missing. They’re good at what they do, and their songs are pleasantly put together and played, but it’s only when they play ‘Happy Lovers Friends Forever’ that I find myself getting drawn in. In fairness this is not my thing, and I should just be happy that there’s one song catchy enough to entertain me, but then I don’t seem to be the only disinterested party present.

(This is a now-unveiled reference to the folks stood in front of me who, it transpired, weren’t too down with the concept of shutting the fuck up and listening to some music for two consecutive minutes.)

Next up is SJ Esau, a name I’m not familiar with but it’s just one guy in front of a small array of instruments and devices. Devices! It’s a good sign of a more experimental approach to music than the openers, and should build up to the headliners nicely… and certainly for the first few songs I’m entertained. What SJ Esau does is clever and must be tricky to pull off live: he uses effects loops and delay to capture vocals, guitar and the occasional crash cymbal and utilise them as percussion. It works nicely and the overall effect is pleasantly dreamy, but unfortunately over time I find that the same conceit being re-used over and over wears thin, and too many of songs lack enough variation to keep my attention focused. There are standouts, though, and I look forward to hearing more from this ambitious solo project.

And, at last, Parts & Labor begin. A fair amount of their set is drawn from Receivers – fortunate, really, given that I’ve yet to work through their back catalogue, but rate that album as a standout of 2008. I squeeze back into the room as they run through the 8-minute ‘Satellites’. The venue is crammed now, but I’m fortunate enough to find myself almost at the front with a perfect view of frontman / electronics maestro Dan Friel and guitarist Sarah Lipstate. Oh, lucky fate etc. It’s fascinating to have this view because, whilst I’d have been happy to stand anywhere in the room and listen to songs this good, it adds an extra dimension to watch Friel and Lipstate switching and adjusting effects throughout.

I’m actually struggling to think of more to say here beyond “I really like this band” and “they delivered a great set”. What else to add? I dragged along a bunch of friends who’d not heard the band before and they liked or loved them? I met a man at the bar downstairs who said they were shit and told him he was 100% wrong? I want to marry Sarah Lipstate (or, at a pinch, Dan Friel)? The complexity of what the band do is head and shoulders above my ability to comprehend, but I guess there’s no harm in describing this sufficiently advanced technology as magic and just enjoying the show.

Lonely Ghosts | SJ Esau | Parts & Labor

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