Despite rubbing my eyes and pinching myself repeatedly I wasn’t dreaming, I really was walking into the Amersham Arms in London for a gig. Not a streamed gig, where you can check out an artist’s book and art choices, but a real live, bona fide, motherfreaking concert. It’s been 247 days since my last live show (Prettiest Eyes at Shacklewell Arms) and it was emotional being in an audience again, even if it was seated with tables spaced out for social distancing. Even the tang of a smoke machine in my mouth was welcome. With the heart-breaking decimation of the arts during COVID-19 this experience felt like breaking water to grab a lung full of fresh air. Sadly, it’s a bitter-sweet feeling as, by the time you read this, a Tier 2 lockdown will be in effect in London, something likely to quash live music for the rest of the year.

Tonight’s show is promoted by Trust the Doc which is part of a growing music empire led by Neil March. He’s a musician and composer who has also been promoting gigs on and off for over 20 years alongside running the Demerara Records label. He is a fierce supporter of new music and ran the eclectic music night, Vanishing Point, which ran for over two years at South London’s Ivy House pub. There is also now a Trust The Doc radio show* on and Trust the Doc TV music magazine-style show on YouTube. Pandemic aside, Trust the Doc Live is part of an ongoing collaboration between Neil and the iconic Amersham Arms in London’s New Cross which has been hosting gigs for what seems like all of the 162 years it’s been standing. This show demonstrates what Neil does well, curate portmanteau evenings with different musical styles sharing the stage and there is no official headliner, just emerging artists hungry to play.

Opening act Fragile States were minus their a drummer but Dido Hallet, Dan Cross and Donald Ross Skinner (a favourite guitarist of mine) brought a warmth to start the evening. Fragile States live up to their name with a delicate tension holding their songs together. Unlike the glittering bucolic-pop of full band songs like ‘I Like You‘, tonight they weave the slow end of the Velvet Underground and the quirky end of Syd Barret. The bass and two guitars formed shapes like the musical equivalent of arabesque decoration and their set was understated and charming.

Moses owned the stage from song one and played like there were 10,000 in the venue not <100, and it’s always great to see a band that give their all whether they are playing to no one but the bar staff or a packed out venue. They are Matthew McCrilly on drums, Luke Fitzwalter on guitar, James Creighton on bass and Victor M. Moses on vocals; a man so skinny that gravity must have trouble holding on to him and this might explain how he manages to leap Gazelle-like through every track. They packed a lot of power into their sound and they should have a bright future post-COVID lifting audience spirits with their rock/pop anthems.

Penultimate act Everafter brought a darker tone to the stage. Like a proto-Blink 182 the subterranean rumble of fuzzed guitar and bass was punctuated with bursts of riffs and harmonies. They are Ivan Sheppard on Drums and brothers Alexis Daperis on vocals and guitar and Stefan Daperis on Bass and vocals.

Emma Kelly closed the show by bringing us out of Everafter’s dark embrace and out into pop’s shining white light. Whereas Moses gave us in-your-face vitality, Emma brought huge positive energy to the stage with her arm movements seeming to help her voice reach some exquisite soaring notes. If this is the kind of music she is producing at this point in her career, then I doubt the Top 40 is too far in her future. The power of her voice was supported by Ze U’Chong on keyboards, Ollie Poet on guitar and Richy Daki on drums and Emma finished her set with current single ‘Lifeboats’, a warm glow of a track that was perfect to combat the cold night air on the way home.

Joyzine readers, like all truly discerning music lovers, will be lamenting the absence of live music. But to strike a more positive note music is in some ways more abundant than ever before and all the money you are saving on beer and travel can still help artists and venues stay afloat. Streaming services like Spotify or YouTube music are great research tools but if you really want to help musicians then I would encourage you to visit band websites, sign up to mailing lists, trawl Bandcamp and buy a t-shirt, badge or beanie to go with your download. Head further afield from radio stations like 6Music into the wild frontier of internet radio stations like Resonance FM and on where you will find new music aplenty on the Trust The Doc radio show which is live every Saturday 5pm – 7pm.

Review & Photography by Paul F Cook

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