Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Making the ascent from the main body of The Jolly Farmer is the Newton Abbot version of opening the doors of the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.
It’s a bustling Friday night in a pleasant town centre pub but overall it’s wholly unremarkable; that is until one takes the trip upstairs to the Bradley Suite. Stepping through the door is like being magically transported back to a 1920s era.
The room opens up into a sizeable area; there’s a kind of Greco-Egyptian art-deco feel to matters with a twist of Metropolis thrown in for good measure. This isn’t your standard venue; there’s patterned wall panels, chandeliers hang from the raised ceiling, a large square clock adorns the far wall. A huge ‘templed’ mirror stands to attention atop a fireplace which plays home to a pair of decent sized pot plants. It wouldn’t be a surprise if The Hatter and White Rabbit popped in for good measure!
This evening’s main course is a homecoming gig for Firekind to celebrate the 2020 release of their debut long-player ‘What I Have Found Is Already Lost’; all before they head off on the road with the much-vaunted Jack J. Hutchinson in what promises to be an electric collection of dates up and down the highways and byways.
First up is a reunion of sorts; hailing from Teignmouth The Quails take to the stage, as a collective, for only the second or third time since splitting back in 2011.
A time when, following the release of two albums and airplay on national radio, there was much promise. Reforming back a couple of years ago The Quails played a well-recieved hometown gig at the Teignmouth Air Show – a decade on from opening up for stadium alt-rockers and fellow Teignmouth outfit Muse. The Quails are fronted by the energetic guitarist Dan Steer – one time frontman of Marshall Records outfit Reigning Days – who delivers a whirlwind of hard punching riffs and jabbing lyrics.
Flanked by a quartet of talented but seemingly serious-looking band members Steer could be perceived as being optically at odds with those on his flanks; one feels in need to check on what today’s lunar phase is. This visual ‘clash’ doesn’t translate to the powerfully delivered output that emanates through the PA.
The quintet rattle through a swift set featuring tracks from both 2010s ‘Master Of Imperfection’ and their 2008 debut ‘I’ve Heard It’s All Rumours’. Singles ‘Fever’ and ‘Argentina’ are well-received by the ‘home’ crowd – there’s a good smattering of Quails’ tshirt repping herein – with the latter track closing a set that has powered along in indie-rock channels with punky energy and an occasional foray into the higher charged echelons of what was broadly termed ‘Britpop’.
During the swift changeover one notes the fantastic presentation that has been expended for this evening’s show; replicating the high levels of interior-decour on display in the Bradley Suite Firekind and their management have brought in a decent sized temporary stage with cracking lighting and PA for the night to ensure a high-quality delivery.
After all you only get to release your debut album once. Ravenbreed vocalist Luke Short, my fellow MPM reviewer, delivered a most favourable review of ‘What I Have Already Found’ back in November last year and having read this through one is intrigued as to how this will project in the live setting.
The Morris brothers – Dan (bass / vocals) and Jas (guitar / vocals) – who front Firekind – have been an integral part of the South Devon music scene since they first come to notice as teenagers in the Morris Brothers Band back in the early 2000s.
A career of two decades – that belies their youthful appearance – has seen them journey through becoming Rude Tiger and winning the World Final of Battle of the Bands out in Chiang Mai, Thailand back in 2013 before opting upon the Firekind moniker a few years ago. It’s certainly been an entertaining ride for these Devonian siblings; from partying with the Foo Fighters to introducing Sharleen Spiteri (Texas) to tequilas it’s been the veritable rollercoaster!
From the moment Dan, Jas and drummer Mitch Pike take to the stage, to ambient guitar sounds, it’s clearly evident of the chemistry between this highly-animated trio. Smiling constantly from the offset they set about the gathered assembly with the soaring stadium-ready anthem ‘It’s Not Over’, a single classified, justifiably so, by Planet Rock as “most excellent”.
It’s gentle yet somehow powerful; there’s touches of Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers here. A quick thankyou to the crowd; “It’s great to see so many familiar faces” observes Jas before they launch into the dark, heavy, rumbling beats of album-opener ‘Adrenalin’. The juxtaposition of the crisp clarity of Jas’ vocals with the depth of the blistering six-string atop a thundering rhythm is to behold.
As with the album so ‘Rise Again’ follows, taking to flight with its delightful intro guitar tones. This is music to truly listen to, such is it’s majestic technicality that is yet countered with an accessibility few truly achieve.
The most atmospheric strains of ‘If There’s Any Reason’ reverberate about our musical Narnia as we verge on disappearing down the progressive rabbit-hole. Capturing the essence of being at the end of hope and having the assistance of an individual who is willing to jump in alongside ‘Cry For Help’ follows.
It’s a gentler interlude; we are paying witness to a trio who possess many strings to their collective bow. The 100% electric delivery of ‘No Stone Unturned’ catches us off guard; an ambient acoustic track on the album this track has been reworked completely with a bluesy-edge solo from Jas.
With its soaring six-string intro and soulful, atmospheric vocals laid upon a sensitively delivered beat from Dan and Mitch ‘Coming Out Alive’ cries out for a packed arena. Switching to an acoustic guitar Jas goes ‘solo’ for the tragically beautiful album-closer ‘Have I Been Living’ that lifts the goosebumps with its slight folk edges; one can quite easily imagine Dartmoor’s Seth Lakeman performing this heartfelt track that gives food for self-contemplative thought. “What will I have to show when I am judged by my future self?” enquires Jas; something to ponder upon indeed.
Retaking form as a trio Firekind come forth with the title track of their debut release. Commencing in a vein of serenity this is a number that works up through the notches of intensity but never relinquishing that serene edge. Next up ‘These Are The Thoughts’ thumps along with an energetic undercurrent of Terrorvision. Tattoed sticksman Mitch is a blur of activity behind the two brothers who raucously exude precision technique out front.
The brooding, mid-tempo rocking ‘Defend’ is a searing, slow-burner of a fusewire that threatens to explode uncontrollably throughout yet never loses control. The Devonian triumvirate wrap up the main segment of their set with the only track remaining from the debut long-playing release ‘Sound Of Rain’. It’s a quality number that drives along with a faint Celtic undercurrent; the kestrel swoops down on the heath to make its kill.
Called back to the stage by the appreciative crowd Mitch kicks off D’s Wisdom an instrumental rebel-rousing noodler before punching a hole in the roof with closing number ‘Desolate’. This Rude Tiger track is the one that set the wheels in motion for Dan and Jas to win the aforementioned global Battle of The Bands; it’s an interesting peak into what has gone before to reach this juncture. It’s been a long and winding road for sure but there’s much promise in the coming weeks as 2021 begins to turn the corner to morph into 2022.
Aside from the aforementioned slot on the Jack J. Hutchinson tour Firekind have a slot at Planet Rock’s Winters End festival as well as being on the bill alongside fellow Devonian rockers Kris Barras and Ethyrfield; on the former’s hometown Xmas gig in Torguay in mid-December.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM