Don Gonzo and the Bug Club Live Aug 2022

Huddersfield doesn’t have a brilliant track record when it comes to live music. That’s particularly true during those lazy summer months when the students are presumably in their hibernation slumber under a tree somewhere (where do they go exactly?). So, it was a pleasant August surprise to find a well populated Parish for local support act Don Gonzo and then an almost full room for the wonderful Bug Club later on. It’s thanks to hard work by venues like the Parish and Northern Quarter to bring original live music to the point where its now a regular thing that more local Huddersfield residents do. Now, lets get folk to pay a sensible fair living wage price for it.

Image from Otis

I’ve seen three piece Don Gonzo live a few times now, and they just continue to get better and better to my ear. I think its their brand of spacey, jazzy, proggy psyche garage. There’s just so many complex carbohydrates in their musical meal which means it takes a little time to digest. There’s kinds of sounds like Steely Dan and Gong but with the boring excesses taken out, and a splattering of angry post punk added. I love a band that channel their own groove, and that’s most definitely true for Don Gonzo.

Image from Otis

I know some folk are a bit stuffy about the 5 string bass, but you know what? To my ear its what bass sometimes needs to make it sexy. Add in some expert and unexpected jazzy and funky guitar riffs just at the right spot and consistent and solid drum work and that’s Don Gonzo being pretty darn special. You might find the style of music that Don Gonzo mine isn’t quite your thing, but what’s undoubted is the quality of the musicianship.

Image from Otis

The band’s stage present is strong, with bassist Ben in particular offering an interesting sight with some sardonic in between song banter and playing often with his back or side to the audience. Lead vocalist/Guitarist Evan also works on sound and lights at Northern Quarter, and the band members have a solid pedigree of history, playing with various local bands stretching back over the past decade. I won’t mention that Britain’s Got Talent audition from 2012. Oh, oops, sorry, too late.

Some of the tracks tonight were from Don Gonzo’s last year’s album release, Active Ingredients – songs such as Quit Your Job, You Know Nothing and Toerag warmed us up nicely, and Don Gonzo amply did their support task with acres to spare. Drop on over to the likes of Spotify for a Don Gonzo blast if you ever fancy some music to really get your teeth into,

I was at the Parish with my nephew and I wanted him to experience The Bug Club unexplored and unexplained, just as I had when I saw the band first time (as support to The Goa Express over at Manchester Gorilla) at the end of last year. There are so many bands around, its easy to miss a gem stone within the pebbles of the river bottom. So, its particularly special when you find one immediately in front of you. That’s what I thought of the Bug Club last year, and I sought to replicate that moment for him this evening.

Unless you know, the Bug Club’s rather unique strident sound and stage presence catches you unawares. After that initial wtf moment comes the broad smiles and bang, you are suddenly Bug Club swatted.

The Bug Club like their music dirty and scuzzy, and they have a feel for the Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman, and all kinds of that in your face sardonic, laid back, bluesy indie. However the band are from rural Monmouthshire rather than downtown New York, so they really don’t take themselves seriously.

The three piece (Sam, Tilly and Dan) have been playing for 6-7 years together (and Sam and Tilly go back further) and that constant stream of gigs make them one of the tightest bands I’ve heard playing together in a long time. These guys can turn a song on a sixpence as the old saying doesn’t go. Sam and Tilly’s shared vocals offer a great counter balance; Sam’s vocal is depressed and hound dog, Tilly adds an even more sweetly sardonic edge to it. However the music always chugs sweetly through. This is happy stuff.

There are a heap of songs involved (the set list I snaffled had 20 listed), and there’s a good mix of faster boppy ones interspersed with the occasional more quiet and sentimental one. It’s a pleasing mix and the band gig constantly meaning they have a great idea of what goes down best. Tilly in particular is chatty on stage with some light banter between the songs. They are a nice and pleasant threesome to chat to, so do them a favour; see them after the gig and buy some merch while you are on.

That delicious Bug Club album Pure Particles has created such a love for the band that I recently spotted a copy of their yellow vinyl Pure Particles selling for £350 notes on e-bay. To paraphrase the title of the new album, an f### dream as the band might say. Well, I’m not sure about the poor soul who bought the album at that price (and tbf I just wish I’d sold him my copy), but toddle along to the gig merch store and they might still have a few yellow vinyls left. As I already own a copy (in yellow and in black – get me), instead I bought one of the band’s last t towels (I’m of an age, dear reader where a t-towel collection is a thing, and this was a snip). I’ll take offers only over 150 please.

The Bug Club are on the cusp of releasing a new album, and to my ear tonight’s set was something of a transition. A mix of banging familiar happy tracks from the well received Pure Particles album of last year, and what I might presume are some new tracks to my ear, largely from the forthcoming album Green Dream in F# which is due to be released on 14th October. Clearly, it would be diminishing for The Bug Club to simply release a Pure Particles Mark 2, and while live versions are always heavier and often a bit more free style, I get a vibe from listening to the new tracks that the new album will be a little more serious and bluesy gutsy. If that’s so, then its a good development for The Bug Club; their sound and the momentum can only build. The Bug Club will be playing at a venue near you, so there are no excuses.

Tiggerligger

* Images of Don Gonzo taken by Otis Henningham, the rest are my own.

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