When I was a teenager there was nothing to do in Ashford, bar kick around bemoaning life, sharing a single portion of chips between twenty of us in McDonald’s, and drinking too much cheap beer. Music, art, culture and community were on the thin side, and we had to travel to London to find any kind of decent live gigs. Now things are changing, with The Creative Collective, an amped up Create Festival, and the brilliant Revelation, who host some top names in the space of St Mary’s Church. So a night with Cate Le Bon and friends is definitely a win for the town.
Kicking things off and embracing the eighties aesthetic with their electronic beats, cats and catsuits, were Hastings duo Elf & Stacy. Their sparse rhythms and flat ghostly vox went over the heads of most of the audience heavily populated by the Ashford Folk Society, although a few did get up for the finale ‘Dance, Jump, Move’ and its dictatorial instructional lyrics.
Appearing to have taken the church location literally and appearing dressed in cassocks, Tim Presley and his band play trippy folk with an off beat sensibility reminding of The Coral. Once of the band The Nerve Agents, then playing as White Fence and last year collaborating with Le Bon as DRINKS, Presley knows his stuff. He is vibrant and passionate in sound, and with his guitar held high and his waistband higher, he played through his solo output with deadpan demeanour, all to thumping drums and twisted bass
Exuding wilful passion and playing her guitar with crisp athleticism Cate Le Bon is charming and compelling on stage. Lashes of electric bass cross with belting drums and keys in a melding pot of brash folk and rocking psych. ‘We Might Revolve’ does exactly that, whirling into a landslide of distortion, and crowd rising ‘Love Is Not Love’ made for the kind of set that attracted newcomers and pleased old fans. ‘On Fire’ was beguiling and ‘Wonderful’, the first single from newest album Crab Day, the exact idiosyncratic drama that is Le Bon’s trademark. It all feels off kilter and free, and also beautifully constructed and compelling. There’s a lovely quirkiness of bitter anguish delivered with vibrant assurance.
Given the time of year, a Christmas tune had to be done. A twisting and enticing version of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ was Cate Le Bon’s Christmas treat to us all. It’s a show we’ll be remembering until at least the next Christmas.
Review by Francesca Baker – andsoshethinks.co.uk