Chickfactor 25 – London, The Lexington (November 12, 2017)

Posted on 13 November 2017 by Dorian

Tonight’s Chickfactor 25 gig at The Lexington is part of “a series of fortunate events” to celebrate 25 years of the US-based indie pop magazine Chickfactor. Across the events (happening in New York, Portland and London) dozens of bands are playing, but this event alone is a pretty impressive selection of indie pop acts from the last quarter century.

The Catenary Wires

The Catenary Wires

Amelia Fletcher has been part of my musical life for 30 years now, first as a vocalist on a Wedding Present record and later fulfilling the same role for Hefner. I’ve never owned any records by the many bands she has fronted, but I have enjoyed seeing her play live in a number of acts over the years. The Catenary Wires, a duo with long-time collaborator Rob Pursey, are perhaps the most pleasant of all these bands, playing a low-key acoustic set that wouldn’t shock fans of Tallulah Gosh or the Tender Trap.

Would-Be-Goods

Would-Be-Goods

Next up at Chickfactor 25 is the Would-Be-Goods, who play the liveliest set of the night, sporting a full band for the evening. This is a band that I had never heard of before booking tickets, but one that has a career dating back to the late 1980s. Singer Jessica Griffin is as English as can be, both in her sung accent and her on-stage demeanour. The band is pretty good and they come close to rocking out a couple of times which is refreshing on such a restrained musical bill.

Stevie Jackson

Stevie Jackson

The last time I saw Stevie Jackson play a solo set was at Indietracks in 2012 where, backed by a full band, he played (to my knowledge) no Belle and Sebastian songs. Here, alone with an acoustic guitar, he plays a set that is heavy with songs by his band. This includes an as-yet-unreleased song from their next album and an inevitable performance of Chickfactor. Perhaps the best moment of the set (and perhaps the night) is when Rose Melberg joins him on stage to play a Gene Clark cover. Although his bluesy version of Step Into My Office Baby is another highlight.

The Softies

The Softies

Rose Melberg has played in seemingly dozens of bands over the last 25 years, and they all seem to have fairly fleeting existences. She has three basic musical styles that these acts work around, Go Sailor and Pups offer bouncy guitar pop, Tiger Trap and Knife Pleats a fuzzy downbeat guitar pop and solo and with The Softies an introspective and soft type of guitar pop (there are other bands too, but I’ll not list them all). The thing that unites all these bands is that they are all great, largely unheard and feature her wonderful singing voice. The duo, with Jen Sbragia on guitar and backing vocals, are perhaps her best-loved incarnation and you can see why tonight. At Chickfactor 25 their voices meld perfectly and the subtle melodies work perfectly without a backing band. The duo doesn’t play often, and there were some false starts and abandoned solos in the set, but the songs and voices sounded pretty great and the fan-heavy audience clung on to every note.

By Dorian Rogers

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