There’s a recession, it’s Wednesday, it’s March – looking to pack out the Lexington is a bold move in itself, but kicking off with a band playing just its sixth gig borders on reckless.
So with the place bustling with knowing industry types sipping complimentary whisky by 8.30pm, there’s a sense of expectation about the night’s feel-good folk billing. Happily, it delivers. On this evidence, expect the Fleur-de-Lys to offer a winning combination of real talent and quirky promise for the duration of its monthly residency at The Lexington.
Whilst their stated ambition to “bring real music back to London” remains a work in progress, openers Treetop Flyers seem a triumph of genuine talent over inexperience, this being their sixth gig. Mingling intricate, guitar-heavy harmonies with thinker’s lyrics, they bring with them an infectious sense of fun and soon have a knowing crowd purring approvingly as they change pace into bolder, stronger country inflections, trading the earlier subtlety for a little bounce. It’s unrefined, but it’s a lot of fun. They’re amazingly tight given their lack of stage time, and they’re enjoying themselves. If the haunting narrative of “Roses in the Yard” is a sign of what’s to come, they’ll be flying well above the treetops before long.
Most of the crowd are here for Findlay Brown. With a personal history that warrants setting to the ghostly soundscapes he’s making his name in, Yorkshire’s finest bare knuckle boxer turned alt-folk minstrel delivers a performance full of class and breezy control. Avoiding getting caught in the backstitches of his lyric playfulness, he treads the right side of thoughtful and puts instrumentals at the centre of the performance. The crowd hangs on his words to songs with ‘Thats Right’ being my highlight of the set comes as he riffs towards a crescendo with a band that acknowledge their man’s diverse strengths. It’s rousing stuff, and he knows it. Brown has clearly thrown a few backslaps in his time, and by the end of the set he’s in amongst the crowd and tickling them with what I’d begrudgingly describe as a ‘roguish charm’.
Whilst its hard for The Memory Band to sustain the sparkle of the earlier performances before a thinning crowd, happy evidence people still have jobs, the acoustic collaborative carry through the night’s involved and intimate vibe with a range of toying, experimental numbers peppered with bewitching female vocals. Things being thrown together is part of their appeal, and it works.
After many free Whisky’s and a little boogie after the Memory Band I was spent. Next up at Fleur de Lys are Connan Mockasin, Meme Love and Planet Earth on Wednesday April 22nd. Promises much, and I for one will be back for more.
~ Hugh Jazz ~ March 2009