Rook and the Ravens/The Smiling Assassins/The Tenth Leper @ the Doghouse @the Old Cock Halifax
Some days you wake up in Paris but finish the night in Halifax! Well I did anyway the other Friday. Thanks to Rook and the Ravens the transition wasn't nearly as traumatic as you might imagine it would be.
The Doghouse is a monthly event that is put on by local music enthusiasts in Halifax. I attend infrequently when a band of interest to me plays. Previously it was held in a pub called the Royal Oak which seemed pretty rough. The new venue the Old Cock seems cut from similar cloth. The difference though is that the Doghouse night takes over the whole pub rather than a room above it. So the pub is full of Doghouse attendees who are more or less a fairly harmless bunch of people.
The first band of the night were The Tenth Leper. They are a bunch of middle aged blokes with the look of professional people playing at been weekend rock n rollers. A sign of how times have moved on is the style of music they play. Twenty years ago if I'd seen this particular gang at the Nag's Head or the Flint Cottage in High Wycombe I would have predicted that they would be doing competent covers of sixties and seventies blues oriented hard rock with lots of excruciating solos and gurning. But no instead they play punchy short sharp self-composed power pop with hints of the likes of REM and Lloyd Cole. In truth its not brilliant but they are a honest bunch and have a couple of nice tunes.
Between bands we retire to the bar where my other half finds that she hasn't lost 'it'. Just over 18 years since she first met me she found that she can still attract middle aged losers. While I was at the bar a man approached her offering to buy her a drink. Apparently she was too busy been repelled to take him up on his offer. I don't know! Nearly nine years in Yorkshire and she's still can't get her priorities right (free drink and then repulsion in case you need to know). Later on the same guy had another crack even though I was standing right next to her. Full marks for effort but zero marks for observation.
Anyway the Smiling Assassins were woeful. They peddled sub-Springsteen pub anthems. Every song had a super catchy chorus but no discernible verses. There was a smugness about the performance as well. Probably connected to the half a dozen smitten female fans down the front. To put the tin lid on it they had a saxophone player who never stopped playing for an instance. For goodness sake buy him a tambourine or a cowbell or summat!
Thank goodness for Rook and the Ravens. The first thing that sets them apart from the average band is that the two gutarists and the keyboardist share lead vocals. The blend is interesting in that sometimes they harmonise together, some times one individual takes the lead vocals for a whole song but usually they have a tag team approach with each vocalist singing some lines in the song. There's a lovely moment where they do a short song almost acapella with only light guitar accompaniment. The songs are very much American country influenced. They are not a million miles away in style from the Travelling Band particularly with the three vocalists and the harmonies (ironically it was the Travelling Band who bought them to our attention). The difference is that Rook and the Ravens rock out much more. Finishing with a Neil Young cover ('Ohio' in case you were wondering) flags up their influences.