I’ve just about got my brain functioning again after the weekend. Not only did I take in the Harrogate model railway show, I went to two gigs in York, Breathing Space at the Roman Bath on Saturday night, followed by Odin Dragonfly at Fibbers on Sunday, neither of whom I’d seen live before.
Unfortunately I wasn’t aware of the Viking festival taking place in York that weekend, which meant there were no hotel rooms to be had on Saturday night. That meant I had to catch the 1:50am train back to Manchester, and finally arrived home at a quarter to five. After a few hours sleep I got up just in time to catch the train back to York in time for Sunday’s show. The whole weekend meant I saw a lot more of the inside of First Transpennine’s shiny new class 185 Desiros than I’d bargained for. The overnight trip even featured the scenic delights of the Calder Valley line, which was wasted on me because (a) it was dark and (b) I was completely knackered. I know the train reversed at Leeds, but have no idea what route it took from York.
Fortunately I did manage to find a B&B room the second night.
The Harrogate show was a bit of disappointment; not nearly enough N, and not quite enough D&E era either, although I did meet up with a few familiar faces.
As for the gigs, Breathing Space, for those who don’t know them, is the band formed by Iain Jennings and Olivia Sparnenn after Iain’s departure from Mostly Autumn. Currently they’re looking for a permanent drummer; in the meantime Livvy’s dad Howard is filling in on the drumstool.
To give an impression of the venue, I think there were four rows of people between the front of the ‘stage’ and the bar. And everyone had to get through this area to get to the loos. And I thought the Uplands Tavern in Swansea was weird.
In this impossibly cramped venue with the audience wedged in like sardines, Breathing Space overcame some quite severe equipment problems that delayed the start by more than half an hour, and still gave us a great show. Previously I’d only seen Livvy on stage as Mostly Autumn’s backing singer, sharing lead vocals with Heather on just one song. To see her fronting her own band, it’s apparent that she’s as good a frontperson as she is a singer. And she sounded and looked fantastic.
Material from Iain’s solo album, rather poppier than Iain’s old band in direction, made up the core of the set, with the addition of a great version of ‘Hollow’, some new songs which will presumably appear on the next album, plus a few covers, including Pat Benetar’s ‘Heartbreaker’ and a version of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ that owed a lot instrumentally to Muse’ version of the song. I may be completely wrong, but I take this as a hint that their future direction might be a bit harder-edged and guitar-driven. High spots were ‘Shades of Grey’, one of my favourites from the album, with a strong dance music element, and the excellent ‘Hollow’.
At least when playing on home turf, they’ve outgrown this size of venue. When do we get to see them play on our side of the Pennines?
Sunday’s show was in the rather larger Fibbers, a rock club with a proper stage. Odin Dragonfly are a side-project of Mostly Autumn, consisting of vocalist Heather Findlay and keyboardist/flautist Angela Gordon performing as an acoustic duo. This was supposed to have been the launch party for their album “Offerings”, but unfortunately the release has been delayed. When I walked in I recognised a good third of the audience, including Bryan Josh (who recognised me!), Andy Smith, Livvy and Howard. The whole place gave off an incredible friendly vibe.
There were two support acts. First up was vocalist and harpist Sarah Dean. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever seen a solo harpist live; I don’t think I have. Heather gave an introduction and asked the audience to keep quiet during the songs – and you could have heard a pin drop throughout the set. Second support was Hijack Oskar, a six-piece playing a semi-acoustic sort of folky pub-rock that makes perfect sense after two or three beers.
Odin Dragonfly played for about an hour, with Heather on acoustic guitar, Angie on piano and flute. It was a stunningly beautiful set, with the two of them sharing vocals. While I’ve always known how well Heather can sing, I hadn’t realised what a lovely voice Angie has when she sings lead.
Since the album’s not yet out, I didn’t know the majority of the songs, apart from some acoustic versions of Mostly Autumn oldies such as the seldom-played ‘Steal Away’ and ‘Eyes of the Forest’. They included an arrangement of ‘Caught in a Fold’ that sounded totally different from the hard-rock version I’m used to, though still recognisable as the same song. They also played a couple of covers, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ (not a song I know) and the encore, Jethro Tulls’ ‘Witches Promise’, both of which I believe are going to be on the album.
The evening ended with a few hardcore fans visiting the Old White Swan pub after chucking out time at Fibbers, to be joined by Bryan, Andy, Livvy and Howard.
I’ll be seeing both Breathing Space and Odin Dragonfly at the Mostly Autumn Convention in a month’s time. If you’re going, or thinking of going, see you there!