“What did they do with the bodies?” – Defiance Ohio @ Cowley Club, Brighton

+ Madeline + Jakal + Kelly Kemp

Cowley Club, Brighton, 28th May 2009

It’s a while since I’ve been down to the Cowley Club – not since last time I tried to see Defiance, Ohio, in fact, on which occasion Brighton’s only radical social club was so packed they’d instituted a one-in one-out policy. This time around I persuaded everyone to arrive early, a plan which worked well enough that we polished off several bottles of delicious organic cider before the night’s music kicked off.

First up was Kelly Kemp, of Livers & Lungs, tonight playing solo acoustic folk with a country tinge. Her songwriting touches on themes both personal and political, although her unamplified guitar playing and beautiful voice were often obscured by the chatter from the front of the club. It’s a shame but perhaps to be expected in a venue like this, with a merch table, bar and activist book store just feet away from the stage. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to see her play again somewhere slightly more suited to her style of music.

She’s followed by a quite different beast: London’s Jakal, a dub/punk band remicescent at times of King Prawn or Random Hand. They’re energetic and this comes across in their music, although they lack an essential spark to elevate their political songs beyond toe-tapping and into fist-waving. Good fun, all the same, and a good choice to break up the folk-punk skew of the evening.

Madeline are from Athens, Georgia, and are currently on tour with Defiance, Ohio. They’re a softer, gentler and subtler affair than their tourmates, and their eponymous singer has a gorgeous, rootsy voice, but my companions for the evening aren’t captivated so we step outside for a smoke, which quickly devolves into talking about our own bands. Poor form and terribly rude. I can still hear the band from outside, though, and I’m enjoying their music even if I can’t make out what’s being sung.

By the time Defiance,Ohio hit the stage the Cowley is rammed. There’s not a chance of making it back to the bar, and even making it into the room seems optimistic at this point, so I make some new friends and spend the set hanging off the top of a door frame. Defiance are on great form and hammer through a range of material from their three full-length albums as well as a number of tunes I’m unfamiliar with. Frankly, though, my heart leaps as soon as the first chords of ‘Oh Susquehannah’ ring out, and I’m joining the room’s chorus in wondering, “what do they do with the bodies?”

Defiance, Ohio | Madeline | Jakal | Kelly Kemp

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