This latest edition of the long running Clerkenville East-West night is also the London album launch show for Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates excellent new album The Birmingham Poets.
Down in the basement on the banks of the river Fleet the evenings host Dave McGowan kicks things off reading excerpts from his latest book Earwigging that is a series of short stories or things Dave has overheard in all sorts of places and of course taking them out of context makes many of them very funny indeed before he gives us a brief resume of Robert Rotifer's career while introducing him.
Robert Rotifer is performing solo and he's nowadays best described as an Austrian folk singer based in Canterbury who mainly played angry remainer folk. He opened with Mistakes that is quite angry but set against some really nice acoustic guitar playing as Robert lists some of his mistakes and the mistakes the rest of us make. He then sang a song about 20 Years ago which could have made it into 1999 but it was far more downbeat than that.
Robert then explained that one of his recent albums was a 77 minute long song cycle and that he was going to play a reduced version of it that would be about 20 minutes long and so he got stuck into They Don't Want You Back that was quite episodic with some really beautiful guitar figures punctuating the angry and desperate lyrics for me I would have been happier if this had been boiled down into a 5 minute song.
Being the day after Brexit didn't quite happen and among the ashes of several political careers that seem to be disintegrating his final song We Have Lost was rather melancholic and doom laden but in the current circumstances it's also rather fitting.
Dave McGowan then read a few more Earwigs while introducing Barry Payne & The Long Shadows and pointing out that Barry survived playing Bass in and touring with Wreckless Eric, Johnny 7 and many many others. They opened with This Is Life and it was a great blast of power pop with a good edge to it.
Barry told us he wrote the next song Walk The Plank back in 1976 and it was another sure footed blast of power pop punk, The band were tight and all look like they have been around the block once or twice.
Call Your Name sounded a lot like The Favourites to me or maybe a bit Raspberries either way it was catchy and cool. Reaction Time stuck to the template nicely and had me wondering how I'd not seen this lot before.
Shut Down felt like a statement for the way our country is going but it had some nifty guitar and it also had shades of the Estuary pub rock of Dr Feelgood and as Barry explained he grew up in Clacton before playing Ghost Of The Coast that was all the more Feelgood like and rollicked along at a good pace.
Night Train is the second song I've heard recently about catching the last train back to Essex which is something I was certainly familiar with when I first stared going to gigs, nothing worse than seeing someone come onstage at 1 am and wondering how you'll get home afterwards. This song had all the elements of being on the vomit comet and hoping to stay awake until you had to get off again.
Murder was introduced as being about witnessing a brutal bar fight in which one of the people involved never survived and what seeing that did to the witnesses like Barry, it may have been an old song but sadly it's still a far too relevant subject matter and this just sounded very cool indeed.
I'd Rather Be had a good selection of hopes and wishes within its tight structure and sounding like most good power pop good and catchy. They closed with man About Town that had some cool lyrics and yet again a great guitar solo as well as some band intros. This is a band that need to be seen live, great fun.
After a few more of Dave McGowan's wonderfully funny earwigs it was time for Matthew Edwards & The Unfortunates who opened with the title song of the new album Birmingham poets with its rueful tale of those heroes of verse while The Unfortunates made sure it sounded pretty close to the album version. They then dipped back to the last album for a cool version of Ungainly that wasn't at all ungainly and featured some of Craigus' wonderful guitar work.
Bad Design was good and jangly and seem to go down a treat with the packed crowd. Beside Myself sounded pretty lush and certainly sounded as late period Bowie as you could wish for without it being the Dame herself.
It was inevitable they would play The Sons Of Marxist Fathers while in a pub less than 100 yards from the Karl Marx Library and in an area that Marx met with Stalin and Lenin among others back in the day. This version was tougher sounding than the album version, as it will always, it reminded me of the meetings dad took me too in the 1970's and certainly some of the people I met while he was working on the campaign to get us into the Common Market making it a real high spot in the set for me.
Matthew told us that California, Can You Wait is about his time in San Francisco and that he may well be headed back there soon before they played a good laid-back version of it that was well more Quayside pop than Chamber pop considering how close to the River Fleet we all were. They then went back to the bands first album for Ghost that must be fitting to be played in a location that was once sailed up by the Roman army as they went into battle with Boudicca the place is full of ghosts.
Folklore the title song of the second album sounded was the point in the set that Craigus switched to sitting down to play The Omnichord to get the central drone the song is built around and what a sound that instrument makes it really sounded great. They then closed the set with Birmingham which is all about Matthew's return to the city from San Francisco and how it made him feel like the prodigal son a great end to a great night's music. Dave McGowan tried with the audience to get them back for an encore, but they had played everything they had sadly.