Review: Eef Barzelay, Chris Otepka, Mark Woods and Rob Loxley Hughes
Venue: The Basement, Thursday, October 17
I’ve had this gig in my diary since August. On an almost weekly basis since then I’ve had Joe Coates and every other self-respecting music fan telling me how great it’s going to be.
I was introduced to the idea of the Eef Barzelay gig with the same enthusiasm of someone introducing “the funniest joke you’ve ever heard”. I geared myself up for disappointment, because the build up was almost unmatchable.
A bit like when I watched Pulp Fiction for the first time last year and didn’t love it as much as I was supposed to.
The Basement was packed with people begrudgingly coughing up the best part of a tenner for a glass of wine. There’s always an eclectic crowd at these things, and tonight they’re incredibly prompt, with all available seats filled in time for Rob Loxley Hughes’s support slot.
Rob is as cool as me at a Springsteen gig, starting his set whilst Eef’s outside to avoid the nerves taking over. It’s disappointing that the special set we were promised by Rob and Dan Lucas has been cancelled at the last minute, but it’s only to Rob’s testament that he managed to open the evening so well.
He’s joined by Simon Himsworth, who I later tell about seven times how much I love his T-shirt, it says More Cowbell on it, which I feel needs recognition.
They even throw in a bit of the old theramin for good measure, and honestly, it’s the first time I’ve heard it in a song where it actually fits.
Secondly we had Mark Woods, who looks like Walter White in a wig – Breaking Bad, another party I’m incredibly late to – and sings like an extremely poor man’s Tom Waits. I’m unimpressed.
I squirm in my seat as a song for his girlfriend features the lyric “My sail is up for you.” Nautical, but definitely not nice. I head to the bar in an expensive attempt to block out the last 15 minutes.
I’m not the only one, as the room is a lot livelier when the timid voiced Chris Otepka takes to the stage. I had to ask one girl to be quiet, she stormed off and missed the most interesting set of the evening. That’s karma for you, you chump.
Chris is adorably awkward, I didn’t how much of it was a ruse until after the gig it transpired that he’d gone missing in York. What a card.
As well as his gentle, clever songs it’s his stories that enrapture us the most: “Here’s a song about pushing your eyes back into your head and counting the seconds it takes for your vision to come back, and then taking that number and dividing it by the length of time you’ve been alive, and that is the age at which you will go blind.”
My friend pointed out that I say this about almost everyone – but I really do want to be best friends with Chris Otepka.
What happened next was ineffable. Or should I say ineefable? (I can’t take credit for that, that was all Sam Griffiths.)
Something I’ve learnt tonight is to trust that whatever Joe Coates puts on will be nothing short of brilliant. Why was there ever any doubt in my mind?
To see a performance like this, in a tiny space like The Basement, is something that stays with you. Life affirming.
Eef isn’t a thousand miles away from Chris in style. A little less awkward, a little more powerful but still a gentle voice, singing incredibly intelligent, unpredictable lyrics. I almost don’t want to write about it, because I’m never going to be able to capture how utterly captivating he was.
Amongst the highlights of an entirely stand out set, as well as heart stopping performances of I Love The Unknown and Fontanelle, were covers of surprise sing along, There Stands The Glass and Sinatra’s All The Way, which came as a poignant end to an emotionally draining evening.
I don’t know how to end, but to say I’m utterly deflated now, because if I could I’d spend my whole life in that Thursday evening.