Toba Caldera, Silent Gestures, Ivory Tusks and Exit Calm: The Lucorum, Barnsley – 19/10/2012

There were a couple of reasons to look forward to this gig: First, it was the much anticipated Barnsley debut of successful promotions company SBsquared. Second, the mighty Toba Caldera was returning to their home town after a bout of touring.

After a lengthy sound check the first band sauntered on stage a little later than scheduled to kick off the evening’s events. Well, when I say ‘kick’ I mean ‘gently push’ and when I say ‘band’ I mean the guitarist (Rob Marshall) and vocalist (Nicky Smith) of local band Exit Calm, who performed a stripped down version of their usual 4 piece, and far noisier arrangement.

The test of great songcraft is how well a song works in its most basic form.  These guys proved not only how well they write, but how instrumentally and vocally adept they are too. Nicky’s vocal ability is outstanding, delivering impressive dynamics and delicate nuances with apparent ease. The pair’s relaxed on stage attitude served them well, although their obvious voiced concerns about on stage sound detracted from their otherwise flawless performance. If the crowd aren’t covering their ears it’s always wise to stop whining and just get on with it.

Next up were Ivory Tusks, who fall on the heavier end of the Indie spectrum and are the kind of band you don’t just hear but feel in all resonant spaces. I haven’t been on the receiving end of this much vibration in years; clearly I need to get out more.

The bass heavy 3 piece delivered a decent set, blending minimal, typically Indie style vocals with a dark and dirty instrumental sound. It would be rather nice if the vocal line contained a few more notes than the 3 they’re obviously fond of, particularly as I’m sure the vocalist is capable of so much more. Nitpicking aside, the clever and creative changes in tempo kept things interesting and made for a dynamic and exhilarating set.

A nicely warmed up crowd welcomed The Silent Gestures to the stage. The band generates an impressive output, sounding far bigger than their 4 members would produce. This is due to their effective vocal harmonies and inspired choice of instrumental effects, which sound fat, a bit retro and actually really good.  Creatively toying with pace, they went off on some interesting rhythmical tangents which clearly demonstrate their musical competence.  An unfortunate issue with microphone placement resulted in a fair bit of dallying about which interrupted the flow but they eventually got on with the next song, featuring more great vocal harmonies, this time from the drummer. I can’t help but feel they missed a perfect opportunity to add to their impressive sound by utilising all three vocalists at the same time. Three part harmonies squeezed into their already full sound would give them a great edge. The Silent Gestures kept the crowd happy, leaving the final band a suitably receptive audience.

Ending the evening was, of course, was the hugely popular Toba Caldera. I’d heard plenty about their musical prowess before I arrived and having never seen them perform before I feared my high expectations would set them up to disappoint. I needn’t have worried; these guys delivered a truly impressive set that more than lived up to their reputation. Their experience and professionalism was blatantly obvious, particularly during their impromptu jam when yet another sound issue reared its head.

Vocalist James Gilroy has an impressive set of lungs and an understated persona that is quite captivating. His stage presence is immense, despite the fact that he only ever occupies the same square foot of floor throughout. The band treats the crowd to a flawless performance of their popular, heavy, psychedelic, trip hoppy, indie rock set. To be honest I have no idea how to categorise it, but whatever it is, it’s rather memorable and extremely good. My only gripe was that they simply weren’t on long enough. The set seemed way too short, which may have had something to do with the delayed start earlier in the evening, or it may just be that time flies when you’re having fun.

SBsquared certainly know how to hand pick the best of local talent and the evening was yet another huge success for the Lucorum.  Hopefully the Sheffield promoters will be back again soon with another fine selection of Barnsley’s best talent.