This had been on my radar for a few months as I had been keeping track of the occasional Great St. Louis live dates since hearing their sophomore release, In Your Own Time, earlier this year. To add to the event were two Welsh bands, one of which, the Modern Farewell, I also wanted to see, given their frontman Jon Greenwood’s almost endless array of bands.
Le Pub is a small yet welcoming venue in my hometown and is always a venue I enjoy going to for numerous reasons--one being it usually involves drinking with friends and listening to some excellent live bands.
First up were the Modern Farewell, and they did not disappoint me or the rest of the unfortunately small crowd. Jon Greenwood’s vocals and guitar playing were emotive yet rocking in equal measures and whilst there are obvious comparisons to other bands he is in, this to me is the highlight so far of his musical career. A bit more rock than punk but with tunes that, on playing their demo CD afterwards, are instantly recognisable from their live incarnation. Without doubt, the Modern Farewell are a band to keep eyes and ears open for.
Next up were Bridgend’s Peachfuzz. I wasn't sure what to expect from this three-piece, although they too were able to provide some decent tunes drenched in melody and decent musicianship to keep my toes tapping and head nodding. A friend reckoned they were my kind of thing, seeing as it was a mixture of indie pop and rock, and that might have been so if I’d first listened to them on record but the live setting is where any band should be able to engage a crowd, however small. Peachfuzz did this and I’ll certainly track down any music they have available to see how it comes over in the more sedate medium of a CD.
Up next was the main event, the Great St. Louis, all the way from the North West of England. With no fanfare or welcoming words, they kicked off in turbocharged mode for a set consisting of 12 songs culled from their two albums. To those in attendance, this was the icing on the cake for the evening. John Dagger’s vocals were strained and gruff as you would both expect and want, whilst hammering away at his guitar, which as a left-hander always looks a bit odd to me! On the other side of the stage, the behemoth that is Carl Arnfield was all guitar leads, in constant motion as he added the subtlety to the driven punk rock sound of the GSL. Centre stage was taken by bassist, Dan Borszcz whilst behind the drums was Ryland Minta (?), who to me and a friend gained many punk points for wearing a Descendents shirt--never a bad thing at all. This pairing provided a rhythm section that adds just what the doctor ordered for this band.
With a set surprisingly featuring more songs off the first album (seven out of the 12) including “Summer,” “Forever Now” and “Sink,” this was everything I had hoped for from my first experience of the GSL in the flesh. The only downside was the lack of the encore, but after a dozen songs in a fairly warm Le Pub, the band had earned themselves a drink or three. With buzzing guitars still ringing in my ears I made my way home through the detritus of Newport town centre on a Saturday night, feeling that few people would have had as good an evening as those in the upstairs room of a tiny pub where a total of 10 people had spent their time entertaining perhaps three times that many people. This really was a blasting gig, featuring three bands worth checking out live.