First published on Musika.uk.com in December 2012.
Son of Dave
Bedroom Bar, London
27th November 2012
In the cosy, low-ceilinged Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch, the crowd slowly fills up during the evening’s opening act, Into the Moon. This Parisian ensemble, led by American singer Leander Lyons, take music from the place where rockabilly, hot jazz and gypsy music from throughout Europe meet. Having studied with gypsy musicians in France and Turkey, the violin of Mirabelle Gilis swings in and out between the vocals and guitar-work creating an attractive melding of styles that works equally well being played fast and furiously or in a more relaxed and contemplative manner.
After receiving much appreciation from the at that point packed venue, Into the Moon made way for the event’s main act. Originally from Winnipeg, Canada, Son of Dave (stage name of one Benjamin Darvill) graced the stage in a white suit patterned with old-style newspaper lingerie adverts, bolo tie and silk dressing gown, together with his usual shades and wide-brimmed fedora. The rest of his stage-show is no less eye-catching.
Darvill has been credited with popularising the use of the loopstation to create every part of a track from scratch, live and with minimal musicians – as opposed to its previous use of layering sonic textures, usually on guitar, to create dense soundscapes – and he provided a fine demonstration of his trademark skill here. Pieces emerge from beatbox, shakers and basslines (created by pitch-shifting his vocals), giving room for the driving harmonica and a voice that can range from squeaky and playful to low and menacing.
Although he’s rightly known for his mastery of the blues harp, Son of Dave’s music seems to take more musical influence from grooved-out funk than anything else. The dry humour, stage presence, and other intricacies are taken from the blues, and the genre can be heard more obviously in some songs than others, but a blues label would probably do a disservice to a man whose repertoire far exceeds it.
Mostly playing a selection of tracks from his past three albums on the night, Darvill also previewed new material from his latest album, currently in post-production. As well as a few covers including the track ‘Black Betty’ (“written by some guys in a field, recorded by Leadbelly years later, and then ruined by Ram Jam”), he also performed new compositions such as the bluesy track ‘Shake Your Hips’.
While most of the crowd were fully immersed in the grooves emerging from the stage (even being able to be led on a sing-along on the second song of the set), Son of Dave seemed irate at several points in his set due to the amount of chatter coming from the back of the venue. Ever the comedian, however, Darvill used his sharp wit to make light of the situation and channel the energy even more so into his music. By the end of the gig, the supercharged wave of music and madness had raised the temperature by what felt like 10 degrees, and the crowd were cheering for long after their one-man-band had left the stage. And all that from one man in a big hat.
Photo: Son of Dave, by Andrew Dubber. Used under licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.