It doesn’t seem possible that Mellowtone have been “quietly creating a stir” for all of a decade now, but Dave McTague and the tight-knit, dedicated team that form the nucleus of Mellowtone have been doing just that with their moveable feast of events promoting the more laid-back, acoustic side of the city’s music scene.
To mark the occasion they have assembled a line-up of Mellowtone luminaries tonight for a celebratory performance that goes hand in hand with the Mellowtone 10 compilation album. The first half of the show is designed to showcase as many of these artists as possible, with each playing a two-song set. This on-off, on-off scenario works really well in a party atmosphere, allowing the partygoers a chance to enjoy some fabulous live music whilst not being restrained from revelry for too long.
The live acts themselves are suitably varied, from the more traditional singer/songwriter storytelling of DAVE O’GRADY, whose rich vocal soars over a punchy acoustic rhythm, through the southern rock/gospel-infused stomp of KAYA, beautifully backed by Jazamin Sinclair and Jodie Schofield, to the sublime vocal and guitar playing of NICK ELLIS, whose second song, St. David’s Day, provides the highlight of the evening. The song gradually rises to a crescendo, fading and soaring along the way, the vocal and guitar drenched in echo and reverb, which lends a depth and texture that carries the song above and beyond the traditional, propelling it into the realms of a psych soundscape. Ellis ends the song on his knees, adding a final flourish of guitar effects as the sound fades, but this is a towering performance.
SILENT SLEEP round off the first half and appear a little distracted by the level of background noise in the room, Chris McIntosh introducing their second song as “the quietest song we’ve ever written, so please listen”. I can’t say the level of noise drops any, but they appear unperturbed and the song they deliver, Everything I Own, is shot through with lovely Fleet Foxes harmonies, strong melody and nimble fretwork.
The room buzzes with conversation and laughter, even during a brief technical delay, before Mellowtone ‘supergroup’ The Prelude/Atlantic Massey hit the stage running, with the Pogues-like A Drunken Death followed by the song Butchers Son, which is a thinly disguised version of Steve Earles Copperhead Road, but none the worse for it.
After jokingly haranguing Mellowtone for always putting them on on a Wednesday night (not good for drinking, apparently!) they quieten things down with a few Irish-inflected ballads, which sees one young couple indulging in a “last chance at the disco” clinch on the dancefloor. The interplay between guitarists Garvan Cosgrove, Charlie Mullan and Aidan McTeer is exquisitely balanced and is beautifully embellished by Marian Bonner’s fiddle-playing and passages of delicate mandolin. The set builds back up to a rousing, raucous finale that has the crowd clapping and singing along. Beaten Tracks carry the party on into the night, dance moves breaking out all over the room. Don’t let the name fool you – a Mellowtone party isn’t THAT mellow.
Perhaps the legacy of Mellowtone’s first ten years can best be summed up by Paul Straws, whose beautifully performed song, You’ve Always Got A Home, contains the repeated refrain “you’re always wanted here”.