After being a witness to the excellent Sheffield band Sheafs rampage around the Lending Rooms at Kazoopa Festival recently, I was up for round 2 a little before Christmas at one of my favourite venues Leeds Chapel. Add in that the excellent Jordan Allen were headlining (no disrespect intended to the men tipped for the top in 2018 by the Daily Star, but why do I reflect they are just one letter away from the absolute banger band name; Jordan Alien), and with a band I’ve been hankering to catch since the early summer The Elephant Trees to start, the deal was struck. With this line up it wasn’t surprising that the gig was a near sell-out.
Unfortunately in sub zero December temperatures the back end of a converted Church is still bloody freezing, and the Elephant Trees were going to have to work extra hard to warm up this audience. Thankfully there was a good early turnout so we could all huddle together for warmth. From the first few notes I could tell the Elephant Trees are something special live. There are many professional and accomplished bands out there but there aren’t that many of them with that certain spark, and those carving out a sound which swims against the tide in a good way is rarer than hen’s teeth.
Lead singer Martha Phillips is a one woman Catherine Wheel on stage with her long golden brown hair flaying the room; add her strong, confident and clear vocal and the word is “exceptional”. An added dimension comes when Phillips adds acoustic guitar to the mix on some of the songs. An early set highlight came with the current single Open Up and I got something of the quirky vocal style of early punk Lene Lovich (Lucky Number). The song is about the tricky decision about whether to fall for someone and to give it a go.
Behind Phillips, the guys in the Elephant Trees (branches perhaps? trunks maybe?) offer full strong support. Guitarist Sam Hugh-Jones has an excellent slightly chopped and clipped guitar style with some complex chord work which compliment Martha’s fast vocal delivery perfectly, and Alex Goodall on bass and Tom Palmer on drums set the beat up well. Alex managed to put a twist on getting a guitar lick going as he ran his tongue down the neck of his instrument. Very Kiss inspired.
The class highlight of the set just had to be the summer banger, Monster, with its edgy slow start and wild build up. I was transfixed to watch the words of this complex song trip out of Philips’ mouth while the slightly sinister edgy musical tableau played out beside her. The brash first single 90 Degrees also received a welcome airing.
The Elephant Trees have been performing together since 2015 and they have recently relocated to Manchester from Leeds; 2017 has seen them grow and become a regular gigging fixture. Martha is also building a successful solo career and it will only take another couple of banging tunes from the band to ensure that 2018 can only see great things happen for The Elephant Trees.