‘The Mesmerist’, a slightly retro bar teetering on the very edge of The Lanes in Prince Albert Street, has a reputation for expertly mixed cocktails and an eclectic mix of live music. Indeed, when I asked for a simple tomato juice with a splash of Worcester sauce, the barman insisted I should have a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary instead, at no extra cost. It seemed like a good deal, so I agreed and was more than impressed with the ensuing attention to detail. And it tasted good, albeit spicy enough to blow the roof of my mouth off, so the evening started well.
Folk and Sea-Shanty
Moving onto the second part of my claim, the venue was packed already, even at the start with an equally eclectic mix of punters. Some had clearly staggered up from the beach on the hottest day of the year so far, bringing their sunburn with them; others were pale enough to be considered the more serious contingent of the audience. But the first musicians – ‘Woolfenden Mills’ – received a warm reception from all. Both exceptional acoustic guitarists, they are also talented singer/songwriters and they strummed and sang their way through some excellent homespun folk music, with the occasional cover thrown in for familiarity. They complement each other perfectly: Arthur, with his very traditional style, sometimes slipping into sea-shanty (he is also very accomplished on the harmonica) and Alex with his more alternative folk, displaying strong vocals throughout. With titles such as ‘Love Thee’ and ’Trojan Horse’, these are intelligent, reflective lyrics. Put to their typically intricate folk music and the result was half an hour of some of the best talent in folk music in town. Wrapping up with ‘My Son John’, Alex’s rendition on the vocals was far too good for someone so young. Woolfenden Mills: one to remember.
Rock and Rock ‘n’ Roll
Next up was self-confessed rock ‘n’ roll band ‘The Peeps’. Giving us some great sounds and covering popular oldies like The Monkees’ ‘I’m a Believer’ (possibly owing popularity amongst the 20-somethings to its presence in ‘Shrek’), their half-hour slot was an entirely different vibe from the mellowness of the first band. ‘Manoeuvre’ followed, who are more rock than rock ‘n’ roll and their gentler sounds eased us into the last act of the night.
Made for Rock
‘Young Sahara’ were the final act and the unofficial headliners. A local rock band consisting of four lads, they were confident and edgy. Feeding off the energy of the crowd – or were the crowd feeding off their energy? – their songs, such as ‘Laughter of Hate’ were slick, loud and catchy. Frontman Vern Asbury is every inch the rock star. With an enviable vocal range, his voice, with just the right balance of warmth and gravel, was made for rock. With two fellow guitarists, both of whom seemed to be in perfect synchronisation with Asbury, the overriding feeling is one of professionalism. Their following was evident, as the enthusiasm from the crowd was tangible and throughout the evening the numbers had gradually built up until The Mesmerist was packed to the rafters with an appreciative, supportive crowd. Young Sahara: one to watch.
Reviewed by Lisa O’Connor at ‘The Mesmerist’ on Sunday 9th April 2017.