Sweet Baboo & The Pictish Trail, Luke Saxton
The Basement, York
Wednesday, December 10
It has been a good year for local independent gig promoter Joe Coates.
Throughout 2014 he has continued to put on a series of alternative musical events, the majority of which have been here in The Basement.
From the enduring English indie-charm of The Wave Pictures way back in January to last month’s appearance by that careworn yet consistently wonderful American troubadour Simone Felice, Coates’ very own Please Please You initiative has showcased a rich and varied roster of some of the most creative musical talent that is around today.
Tonight’s final show of the year is absolutely no exception.
In keeping with the majority of these past events, three artists are scheduled to appear. But by way of contrast this evening, two of them – Sweet Baboo and The Pictish Trail – will take to The Basement stage together. Before that, though, there is the no little matter of Luke Saxton.
2014 has also been a good year for this 19 year old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from York. It has marked the arrival of his debut album Sunny Sadness – released through local record label Bad Paintings and Gillygate’s vinyl and record store, The Inkwell – and seen his live performances continue to grow in both stature and confidence.
Tonight he plays a handful of songs from the album, of which the title track stands out as an impressive exploitation of the tensions that exist between heartache and brittle optimism.
But if the cool jazzy inflections of new song September Rain are to be a barometer for his future, then even clearer blue skies must surely lie ahead for this prolific young talent.
Stephen Black and Johnny Lynch have much in common. They both adopt a nom de plume for their musical ventures – in Black’s case it is Sweet Baboo, whilst Lynch favours The Pictish Trail – and each has a fierce maverick spirit that embraces modesty, inspiration and a quaintly off-kilter view of the world with suitable abandon.
The two men play two 45 minute sets, bisected by a short interval and alternating some 20 songs between each other.
There are old songs – Sweet Baboo perennials I’m A Dancer and Let’s Go Swimming Wild make beautifully understated second half appearances, nestled alongside The Pictish Trail’s deeply moving Long In The Tooth.
There are new songs taken from their forthcoming album; the tenderness of Black’s You Are Gentle and the darker hue of Lynch’s paean to the greatest film ever made, Fargo, promise much for this joint collaboration.
In recognition of the time of year there is a Christmas song – a rather ramshackle rendition of Little Donkey – and then there are those that belong somewhere in the future, each one connected by a common thread of human decency, humour and an often child-like yearning for a much simpler world.
It is a performance that transcends mere genre classification, moving the evening into a sphere of glorious all-round musical entertainment.
Having clearly been at one of the dates earlier in the tour, a voice from the crowd opines that tonight “is slightly better than Hebden Bridge”.
On that basis alone, that Trades Club show must surely have been something very special indeed.