Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Daniel Bachman @ The Castle Hotel, 19.06.13

A good example of the appeal of this all-seater affair at The Castle Hotel is when, during headliner Daniel Bachman’s set, attendees without chairs were filling in all the nooks and crannies by crouching, kneeling, reclining and resting behind and betwixt the furniture and in the aisle.

It was a busy, yet attentive, one from the start, as a pair of Manchester’s most active musicians, Tom Settle and Dan Bridgewood-Hill – aka dbh – set the scene in the Oldham Street alehouse’s back room. The former, a soft spoken finger picking guitarist whose strings collection extends tonight to a mandolin, compiles a collection comprising his own work and Jefferson Airplane’s ‘My Best Friend’, evoking the spirit of that 60s psyche band’s ballad by inviting the latter to join him to perform a rendition of Shirley Collins and Davy Graham’s ‘Hares on the Mountain’. Underneath the spotlights of a web of fairy lights that dangles overhead, dbh carries the appearance of an Eisenberg-Cera hybrid, with the pair’s gently strummed songs resembling Juno’s final scene.

When he takes centre stage, dbh can be seen in better light, showing the Eisenberg-Cera fusion to be no more than whimsical myopia on my part. His set is more forceful, with each note immaculately considered despite being short-lived amidst the fluid arpeggios of flamenco and Americanised acid-folk. While often searching and introspective, his closing tune, ‘Fix’, hits the major notes to offer a happy ending.

The main attraction – the touring American Daniel Bachman – sits just as the other two before him: quietly and politely in voice, but the most intensively of the three in sonic terms. This time launching in with his lapsteel guitar and a bottleneck slide before reverting to type with an acoustic guitar, whose open low-E string shudders in discord with other elegantly selected notes, the whole set is turned up a notch on the speedometer.

Between songs, he re-tunes, red-faced in concentration.

Then liftoff, again, with a style that isn’t quite strumming, and is far from finger picking; notes that often seem to be merged, yet are audibly separate. The catch, if there is one, is in the divergence from the core technique; beyond the opening bottleneck slider, there’s little to differentiate his songs, and a set continuing any longer would merit another direction the break up his favoured style. His chord shapes are no more inventive than anyone else’s, but with a playing technique so vigorous there’s enough to mesmerise the gathered audience.

Words & photos: Ian Pennington.
Poster design: Fliss Horrocks.

The next Crowfoot Records gig is scheduled for tomorrow, 24th July, at Kro Bar on Oxford Road, and will feature L’Etrangleuse, McWatt, Irma Vep and David M Birchall.

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