October Drift and Hell Fire Jack live at the Parish

It was good to reflect upon the differences in the two bands in the same room. For our opener at the evergreen Huddersfield Parish, there was clean crisp blues duo Hell Fire Jack and they were contrasted against the full complex sound of those indie anthem maestros October Drift. Both bands were excellent and a corner of Huddersfield came alive in a way that is most uncommon in this town on an October Tuesday evening.

While I was waiting for the start of Hell Fire Jack a random thought struck me; is Hell Fire one or two words?; apparently it can be either so the band happily passed my strict English test.

Duo bands like Slaves, Royal Blood and Cleopatrick have perhaps set an expectation for how two guys on a stage behind a drum kit and holding a guitar should behave; Hell Fire Jack pleasingly break the right rules.

Hell Fire Jack have more of a rolling, heavy rhythm and blues sound upon which they overlay other influences; there’s a Mid West almost rockabilly vibe to a track like Sunday Best, next might be a straight blues take of a song like The Hustle, the next might have a dub tinge. This Harrogate duo have been going strong for 7 years or so and the strength in the songs come through.

The songs have a nice, busy pounding beat and pace; frantic enough for the music to feel urgent, but not too banging for the sound to blend into one.

Lead singer Alex Trewhitt is one of those slightly scary strong tattoo beardy blokes, but a friendly reflective soul if you speak with him. The lyrics of the songs are heavily influenced by the strains and stresses of life, and the deep tuneful gruff timbre of Alex’s vocals ensure they hit the target each time.

Since the beginning of the year, the drums are provided by cousin Max Trewhitt whose accent reveals a stint of living in Australia. There was an anxious moment with a broken drum stick which was discarded into the crowd. As Max pointed out it doesn’t happen too often. The duo are passionate and knowledgeable about music and on chatting a little with them both, its very clear their musical direction and influences are carefully considered and drawn out. This is a band who know their own skins and are comfortable to wear them.

New single Demons is the first released with the new line up, and it is a brooding bluesy rocker. As Max said there is a nod to that lazy repetitive dub sound with its rolling drawl of a tune. The lyrics are equally hard hitting about a man struggling on the edge following a loss, with vivid dreams and sick making memories.

I always check out audience reaction to a band and it was clear as a collective that we warmed to this particular Hell Fire.

I think the band could be slightly less reserved on stage; I won’t describe the guys as shy, but the audience would have responded to a request to draw into the front of the stage and the vibe and togetherness would have been all the stronger for it.

Hell Fire Jack clearly love performing and gig as often as they are able. Coming up are gigs at North Shields Snow Moon on Sat 18 Oct, Sunbird Records in Darwen on the 19th, Tynemouth Surfcafe on the 20th, York’s Fulford Arms on the 24th, Bradford Underground on the 25th, Harrogate Blues Bar on the 27th, and Leeds Northern Guitars on the 9th Nov.

No excuses not to go and see ‘em!

While Hell Fire Jack blended their gutsy music with a slightly reticent stage delivery, Taunton based October Drift are right out there in the audience. From the minute they started lead singer Kiran Roy was off with a guitar duck walk through the crowd. I am something of a music tart where my love of a band is intense but sometimes fleeting. It seemed clear that for some of this audience October Drift was their band where the guys have been seen live and adored any number of times.

With stage antics which also saw Kiran climb to the very top of the rafters in the barn of The Parish and a whole series of stirring, emotional anthems to shout along to, I can see October Drift are a band to love.

When you have such banging accessible tunes, the October Drift guys reminded me of The Chamelions, a band I adored in the 80’s with perhaps the vibe of someone like Echo & The Bunnymen. I’m not suggesting a direct copy but a rethinking.

Lead singer Kiran Roy impressed with a good portion of a song sung without amplification or backing. It takes real talent and confidence to get that in the back of the net. It left the hairs down the back of my neck aquiver; and as a middle aged man, let me tell you there are more than there used to be to get standing on end.

The October Drift drummer Chris Holmes also offers an impressive vocal backing. One of my little bug bares is around good vocal techique and I complimented Chris on his vocal note holding, particularly at the end of a busy and breath sapping set. While he told me he had not received training, he had carefully observed singers he admired, and it was true he had sat at his drums at full stretch to open his diaphragm and sing from his core.

At the end of the gig October Drift had pleased me (“pleasured me” sounds rather wrong) more than I had imagined; this is a band clearly out to entertain and they achieved it in spades with a nicely controlled and regal set.

It was class to see quite a queue build up for both October Drift and Hell Fire Jack merch; well deserved and a great way to get the bands a bit of much needed funding as well as to grab a word or two and to offer a fist bump.

The band are towards the end of their tour, where they been pleased with numbers coming along; coming up for October Drift in the next few days are gigs in the midlands and south – go and hunt down their social media.

Chris R

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