What with the Public Entertainments Act busy stifling opportunities for new talent, the rise of the “live (as opposed to dead?)DJ”bar and general decline in people going out to pubs, it was with great enjoyment that I spent a recent Sunday night defying these trends in the company of a band named Sounds Like Stellar.
This unplanned flash of colour took place in the Walpole pub in New Cross, a medium sized gastropub that had the band set up on one side of the bar and an assortment of Goths, students, drinkers and a professional dedicated one-Guinness-only-well ok if you’re buying then maybe another- music reviewer in the other. The proximity of punter to performer in the venue was something that was exploited to good effect by the lead singer Jack Edgecombe. I have been to pub gigs where space is at a premium and consequently the mic-stand has been more active than the frontman but the compressed space didn’t seem a problem here as he built up an intimate and congenial atmosphere with a lot of movement and dancing, some good natured banter and the occasional dodgy one liner.
By all accounts (and via a lastminute.com research trip to Myspace ) a newly formed band, Sounds Like Stellar play a mixture of funk, jazz, soul, and r’n’b. Regularly gigging across London, and every other Sunday night at the Walpole, they are formed of bass, lead guitar, keyboards, drums and two vocalists. The first hour was a selection of the band’s own material, uptempo jazz-funk that had people up and dancing intertwined with more melancholy soul that showcased the versatility of the band’s sound. I found their song “got no money got no worries” particularly appropriate for the end of weekend skintitis that often afflicts me on Sunday evenings. A short break, then the band was back for an hour of jamming. Frustrated bandless musicians take note for Sounds Like Stellar proceeded to invite various instrument brandishing members of the audience to accompany them on a journey encompassing rock and pop covers with an improvised roadside stop-off at a freestyle Wonderwall restaurant.
Regularly building tracks from a steady quiet start to a frantic jumping crescendo, their music was at one stage of such intensity that the bar manager was reduced to staggering around, stumbling into barstools and throwing a pint of beer over some equipment. Such is the power of live music – and bottles of vodka. The juxtaposition of faceless MTV groups displayed on the TV screen above the band lent the night a symbolic note, showing that live music can rock a pub in a way that no static DJ, manufactured popgroup or disinterested karaoke MC could ever hope to.
Every other bar seems to have a DJ these days, as do some shops, toilets, probably there’s even a DJ down the back of your sofa if you have a look. A free night of live music and a chance to interact with a group who appear to thoroughly enjoy performing was a refreshing change and something that I plan to partake of again – I’d definitely recommend you do too.