…Two hours ago, I arrived amidst a buzz of electricity from a galvanised crowd as they formicated on the Town Hall in the somnolent village of West Kilbride that is about to be woken up with a bang! The excitement and hype for this exhilarating gig has been building exponentially for months now, longer for members of the crew, as this is sure to be a crowning achievement. A triumph of the best music the unsigned scene has to offer topped by two legends of their field, Dave Sharp and Aziz Ibrahim.
Starring local rockers The Corvus Experiment, the phenomenal Will & The Wild Horse, Scottish/American unique cellist Calum Ingram, the glorious rag-tag ensemble of Duffy’s Gypsy Band and the two aforementioned headliners – Dave Sharp is an international legend, founding member of late seventies punk rock group The Alarm, he has had hit records such as ‘68 Guns’ and ‘The Spirit of ‘76’. Aziz Ibrahim is a Manchester-born Pakistani who has played in Simply Red and The Stone Roses as well as working with the legendary Modfather himself Paul Weller and supergroup Asia, not to mention being in the H Band with ex-Marillion member Steve Hogarth! So we’re really mingling with some hard-hitters here tonight!
I’ve had the privilege of seeing Calum Ingram once before when he played at the Windy Ha in Saltcoats, and he shattered my mind to fragments with a very Led Zeppelin-infused style poured through a cello and churned out as the most unearthly and wonderful music you have ever heard, I asked member of the crowd Kayleigh Morgan (all the way up from Newcastle to see the gig) what she thought of the performance afterwards, ‘Calum was just incredible, he made me want to learn an instrument!’ Calum hails from Scotland but lives in New York and travels over regularly to treat us to his brilliant blend of blues/rock/metal cello which is truly matchless and impossible to see at any other gig than one graced by Mr.Ingram himself. On the stage there is a telepathic communication between the incredible Japanese drummer and the master-cellist himself, they feed and bounce off each other and I only need to take one look at the crowd’s overwhelmed faces to know that they are all experiencing something very special indeed. It’s also worth noting that the last time I saw Calum, his style was beautifully bellicose, this time it’s a whole different direction, smoother, more laid-back, tranquil and impressive. After asking Calum of this change in direction during the post-show interview he informed me that he has so many projects on the go at any given time that his set depends entirely on his mood, so a very manifold musician indeed, and one that it is a pleasure to behold, with his distinctive grungy, bassy, dirty Jimmy Page-esque style of cello-playing.
Duffy’s Gypsy Band are one of Ayrshire’s top bands, a collaborative collection of cracking musicians coruscating with shades of genius through their instruments, influenced by everything from Johnny Cash to Gogol Bordello! This six-piece group are well-renowned on the local scene and good reports of past gigs flow through the crowd like wildfire in anticipation of the performance, and nobody is disappointed. With everything on stage from guitars and drums to clarinets and the outstanding double-bass they’ll have you jigging every time with their commanding and potent performance!
Next up, under a trademark black hat and clutching his Gretch like a weapon, Dave Sharp fills the stage with his looming presence and commands attention, he exudes a mysterious and influential aura that is the natural by-product of decades spent touring and travelling the world playing his music alongside legends like Bob Dylan and Neil Young.
Dave Sharp on stage with a guitar has the same warming effect of a campfire on a cold beach – everybody will huddle in around him to soak up the suave, euphonious tones and mellifluous vocals he produces, which are palpable and perfectly projected onto the people. Many men can chord a guitar, but Dave Sharp uses it as a conduit for love, harmony and passion, he beats the deep chords and picks the strings like little angelic footsteps, wise, experienced fingers matching on the frets until the people have moved closer in to the salubrious fire and the audience is closed and tight, but comforted, so that the shadowed eyes of the crowd can turn inwards and replay times of love and loss and joy and peace, the tender melody is as rewarding as a long rest, and Dave’s songs have fused the crowd into one single gratified entity, gently breathing in the artful and serene atmosphere.
After a performance like that you might think ‘What could possibly follow it?’ Well, there’s only one thing that can really, and that is the overpoweringly captivating magic of Aziz’s mystical music. Asian-blues meets acid-etched psychedelia, the sound emanating from the stage has thrown everybody right off their game, it picks you up and slams you off the wall, before plonking you down to dance like you’re en route to heaven, and indeed you might as well be, as this music is spiritual and illuminating, the sounds are almost forming into colours right before my eyes! I’m torn from my journalist notes because the inescapable impulse to dance to this amazing sound is irresistible.
I’m right in the middle of an absolutely high-definition tantric jam of godly proportions! Mellow undertones with a trippy overlay. The ingenious skills of the two men on stage are taking the audience through the peaks and valleys of a truly intoxicating trip! This is the kind of sparkling electricity I would expect to feel on stage if Hendrix himself was blessing us with his presence, albeit with a delightful Asian slant. Aziz’s music could be the soundtrack to my life, being a life-long advocate of progressive rock/psychedelic music, and as Aziz and his phenomenal percussionist (who is by the way, to the tablas, what Keith Moon or Jon Bonham was to a drum kit) get into the groove I’m starting to think this might be one of the most profound live performances I’ve ever witnessed, how can only two people on stage be producing such an enormous sound!? Filling your soul to the brim with joyous harmony, and the crowd agrees, as told by their rapturous cheers between songs, this truly is a cathartic life-changing moment.
I ask a few people in the crowd their opinion as the music plays and they find it hard to tear their attention from the show on stage, which is nothing short of miraculous, I can see something deeply stimulated in their wide, staring eyes and I know exactly how they feel. Frenchman Loic Monerat, who I manage to stop from dancing just long enough to get a quote, manages to offer that Aziz is ‘The most intense sound I’ve ever heard! And all that from two instruments!’ Musician Will Johnstone stands dumfounded to the side of the stage and I ask his professional opinion on Aziz’s guitar-playing, Will doesn’t answer, he merely genuflects to the awesome presence on stage, which says it all really. The floor is actually bouncing to the crowd’s response to Aziz’s music and witty Manchurian banter, the listeners of the tunes are acting like they’ve ingested mind-bending psychotropic substances and Aziz’s version of ‘Fool’s Gold’ is so superior to the original it might as well be being performed live by deities!
Wake up the West was a rip-roaring success and everybody agreed. The musicians who performed were nothing short of virtuoso geniuses and the organization of the event was flawlessly executed without a hitch. With an extremely reasonably-priced bar and the greatest sounds around you wouldn’t fail to have a good night. So don’t miss the next one, as local music is a rolling stone that gathers no moss, and in the words of Will Johnstone, ‘‘When a rock is rolling with this much momentum you don’t get in its way, you get behind it and push!’’ Support your local music scene people, stars are born in the embrace of its galaxies and legends are formed in its timeless universe…