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david-crawley
2nd February 2015

Live: Johnny Sly

The innovative post-folk outfit surprise and delight
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24th January

The Roadhouse

8/10

Soulful 7-piece post-folk band surprise and delight the Manchester Roadhouse with their varied and intricate music. Adorned in a range of exciting hats the band started their show with ‘Déjà vu’.

Underpinning the cerebral, bitter lyrics are long and warm trumpet notes over a twinkling harp and piano flow. The song is about failed love; a nihilistic observation that “someday you’ll be pleasing someone else”. Emotional and personal; the track has choral, jazz and indie influences.

‘Peace of Mine’ sounds trip-hoppy with its sung-spoken lyrics, lo-fi effects and some psychedelic bendy guitar elements. The song had the crowd in a happy (and chilled) place. ‘Stitch’ reveals more worldly influences; reminiscent of Latin-Jazz and Flamenco chill. The crowd were properly going for it by the end of the set.
It is a struggle to find any band to directly compare them to. The line-up consists of six vocalists, acoustic & electric guitars, bass, drums, keyboard, trumpet & a harp. Powerfully amplified instruments dominated Jonny’s voice and try as the soundman might to strike a balance throughout the set lyrics proved hard to decipher. The music never fails to innovate; but was inconsistently reproduced by the Roadhouse sound-system on the night. One thing that no-one could fail to hear was a man with bellows for lungs in the front row screaming “JOHHNY SLY” in between every track.

Their ability to encompass such a wide variety of styles and influences is their greatest strength and it is hard to place or define their sound. Listen to their Déjà Vu EP. Brief sections of songs sound like they have potential as songs in their own right but can be overshadowed by changing influences, instruments & voices coming in or going out. That said the band interacted well with the crowd; handing out presents and throwing scarves. The connection felt strong.

There are huge voices & instruments in this band; but like a war they need to pick their battles and balance sounding the artillery with everyone coming in like the cavalry. A live structure where they start with slower/softer pieces and build to faster/louder tracks would be better. The performance was rock solid with the only poor decision of the night being an acoustic encore. Their music maximises its emotional payload when restrained but is at its most compelling when the crowd dance.


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