Opening the show was Rob Lynch, who I’d seen once before (supporting All Time Low in Kingston). I was a couple of minutes late, so I’m not sure how many songs he played before ‘Selfish Bones’, but I arrived to the news that his second record is coming out in late July – certainly an exciting revelation!
I heard two brand new songs in the evening: the aforementioned ‘Selfish Bones’ (“a song about how I’m a selfish piece of shit and how I’m trying to get more interested in other people”) and an untitled new song (which I’m referring to as ‘Not Worlds Apart’ based on the chorus) which Rob called a love song to the one mate he’s stayed in touch with from school; the friend who got expelled after finding a prefect’s nude photos online, printing them out and distributing them around the student body. Out of the two, I definitely preferred the latter: it’s still stuck in my head today, and I can’t wait for it to be released so that I can listen to it on repeat until I explode.
I’d actually forgotten how brilliant Rob was until I saw him again. I listened to his debut, ‘All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul’, so much just after I purchased it, but I haven’t listened to it for a while – I have no idea why, because the songs are all ace. I particularly still enjoy ‘Hawking’, with its catchy “oh, no, it’s not the end of the world” singalong. In the attempt to get the crowd involved Rob said he was bringing the “super Friday vibes”, before joking about the fact that he really liked spending time in Swindon because he was catcalled for the first ever time earlier in the evening – “turned 30 last week – still got it!”.
If you haven’t given Rob a listen yet, I’m definitely suggest starting with that debut, and starting fairly soon. I was talking to him after his set and he said that his new single should be released within the next two weeks, so that’s something to look out for. He’s also performing on the acoustic stage at Slam Dunk Festival: it looks like I’ll be able to make that set, and I’m already looking forward to seeing Rob again. This was his first time ever playing Swindon, and he said he was hopeful to return when the new album’s been released: fingers crossed!
Not Worlds Apart
My Friends and I
I’d been expecting Rob to steal the show for me, but there was no question that Sean McGowan was my highlight of the evening. When ‘Place Your Bets’ started I was a little undecided: his thick Cockney accent and his blunt lyrics (“wind your neck in, your doin’ my head in”) just didn’t appeal to me in the slightest.
However, then ‘Patchwork’ started. Calling it a song about his “patchy beard”, I hadn’t been expecting too much, and I could feel myself getting a little bit restless. However, it ended up being so much more than that: a bittersweet love story, telling the tale of a boy and a girl going back to his place after a night out, and him desperately hoping she wouldn’t think less of him in the morning when she noticed his patchy beard. It wasn’t the most complex song lyrically or musically, but the way that Sean chose to phrase the lines – splitting them in unique and interesting places that really captured the attention of everyone in the room – and his look of utter vulnerability up on the stage: it was goosebump-inducing. The room was deathly silent, but in a respectful and interested way; even the people at the bar who had been drinking throughout Rob’s entire set were rapt, and you genuinely could have heard a pin drop in the room. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
The rest of the set didn’t surpass that moment, but it was almost like I was under a trance: I couldn’t take my eyes off Sean even for a second. New song ‘Come Unstuck’ (which usually features Sam Duckworth, but they hadn’t rehearsed enough) was very catchy, and that – combined with his cover of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ – proved that he could sing beautifully (the rest of his set was more spoken than sung, but he really hit the high notes and held the notes out during those two songs).
I couldn’t find the names of the last two songs that he performed, but I really enjoyed them both. The penultimate song was about Sean returning to the pub that he got barred from to clean their toilets (“I showed them, didn’t I? You’re laughing, but this is my fucking life!”) and it was tongue-in-cheek, the perfect lad anthem for a night out, particularly when Sean used the word ‘swell’ in the song and took a moment to pause, laughing about the fact that he used it in a lyric.
The last song in his set was by far the most intriguing: it was a spoken word piece, completely acapella, as a way for Sean to reintroduce himself (“I’m 23 years old and I’m normally pissed up”) to wrap up his set and bid the crowd farewell. I’ve never seen a closer like it: it was entirely stripped back and unaccompanied, which made it one of the ballsiest moves I’ve seen in a very long time.
Sean McGowan is one of the most exciting acoustic acts I’ve heard in a very long time. The last time I found myself this pumped about an artist was when I discovered Heartwork (and we all know that my love affair with Dan O’Dell will continue eternally). I bought Sean’s CD at the show, and I can’t wait to listen to it on repeat over the coming weeks.
Place Your Bets
Wild Mountain Thyme cover
I had to miss the end of Recreations. set, because I live a little way outside of Swindon and our bus timetables are not the best. I left at 11pm, 45 minutes after Sam started his set, and he’d already managed to squeeze in nine songs: he doesn’t mess around, and you can tell he’s been touring extensively for a large period of his life because of how smoothly everything runs.
This tour is to support ‘Baby Boomers 2’, the first full-length Recreations. release that came out at the end of last month. I didn’t realise it had already been released, so when I arrived at the venue and saw it for sale I had to buy it. Luckily the majority of the set was songs I was already familiar with – whether because he performed them when I saw him in December, or because they were reworked versions of Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly songs.
The thing about Recreations. is that it’s very solidly grounded in dance music. Compared to the toned down, relaxing guitar sets of both Rob and Sean, Sam’s funky beats got the crowd moving a bit more, and I loved the way he’d updated some of his older songs to fit into the new style.
Similarly to last time, the singalong to ‘Red Spex’ was the most crowd involved of the evening, with the chant of “with your red spex on, all the red flags just look like flags” being easily carried by a large portion of the crowd.
Because I didn’t get to see the full set, I can’t comment on what happened in the rest of the evening, but I really enjoyed the songs that I managed to see. I will admit that some of the dance sections were a bit too long (particularly the intro to ‘Pipe Down’, which seemed endless) but that’s just down to personal preference – I much prefer singalongs to dance-centric tracks. However, I thought the breaks between the songs were very cleverly done: Sam had recorded sections from news broadcasts to fill the breaks, something that worked particularly well in the build up to ‘Built To Last’, a song in support of the junior doctor’s strike.
Compared to last time I saw him, Sam was much less interactive with the crowd, but he was fitting so much into his set that he didn’t really have enough time to stop and talk. He did speak for a little bit before he jumped into ‘Out To Lunch’ – it might be something that happened towards the end of his set. Hopefully I’ll be able to see Sam performing as Recreations. again in the future.
War of the Worlds
Lifestyle Concept Store
Zones Nine and Ten
In Two Minds
Built To Last
Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager (Part One)
Out To Lunch
Just before I go, I need to give a huge shout out to Kieran from Sheer Music: he had to sell and check tickets AND man the sound desk all evening, which is a huge accomplishment. If I had that many responsibilities…