I’d not heard much of 3 Daft Monkeys before we reviewed their latest self-released album The Antiquated & The Arcane a short while ago, but since then I’ve had the album on near-constant repeat and have fallen in love with their eclectic folk stylings. It was with some excitement, then, that I recently attended their gig at Gloucester’s Guildhall.
Arriving late due to a slight guestlist kerfuffle and having a bit of a chin-wag with an old friend in the bar, I missed the start of opening act Inflatable Buddha. It turns out that this was a major mistake on my part. Wandering in to find enigmatic poet/mandolin player Steve Larkin joking around with the crowd as naturally as if he were best of mates with everyone in the room, I was instantly hooked. Their particular brand of quirky folk punk was quite mesmerising to behold, a relentless energy surging from Larkin, and also double-bass player and co-vocalist Susannah Starling, through the remainder of their set. Particular highlights for me were ‘Clown’, a highly entertaining tail about a bi-polar, alcoholic circus worker which very clearly showcases the poetic nous that won Larkin 2004’s Spoken Word Olympics in Canada, and ‘Life Is Sweet’, which got the crowd well and truly warmed up through the liberal use of well-timed hoi‘s. A thoroughly enjoyable set, and I shall certainly be looking out for this 4-piece in the future.
Onto the headliner, then. It was clear from the off that the crowd were all fans of 3 Daft Monkeys – I guess something to be expected with a small, independant band with little to no commercial backing; the fans are almost as fervent and passionate as the band are themselves.
Opening with ‘Perfect Stranger’, the band immediately set the tone for the rest of the set – AtheneÂ Roberts blending frenetic fiddling with serene pizzicato through the verses, Tim Ashton in fine voice and setting pace with a single kick drum (the only percussion present tonight), and Jamie Waters holding everything together with his subtle bass work. It’s clear that this is a band very comfortable playing together.
The great thing about Gloucester Guildhall as a venue is the ridiculously bouncy floor – you can really tell when the crowd are enjoying a band, as it tends to coincide with you spilling your pint all over your shoes whilst everyone dances around madly. Playing on the floor instead of the stage, I think the bounciness both worried and energised the band, with Jamie sneaking glances at his precariously balanced amp stack on more than one occasion. They seemed to relish the fact that they could literally feel the ebb and flow of the crowd, though, and you got the feeling that the more the floor bounced, the harder the band played.
This could be seen in full effect during third song, ‘Human Nature’. If the crowd were already warmed up by Inflatable Buddha, by now they were positively baking. Roberts’ operatic fiddle solo was suitably operatic, and the rest of the song was heavy with feet poundingly relentless energy. It was a relief, then, that ‘Doors of Perception’ was next. A slower ballad, this was a thankful respite for our bouncing souls. The let-up was short-lived, however. ‘Love Life’ was sans the 30-piece choir present on the album, but retained it’s psychedelic nature throughout, building in energy towards the end for an epic climax.
Whenever the band play a song from The Antiquated & The Arcane, the pride which they have for the album is readily apparent. A huge backdrop with the album’s front cover adorned one wall of the venue, and every time Roberts’ eye was drawn to it she gleamed. It’s lovely to see a band who clearly enjoy playing their material, but it wasn’t just the new tracks that they put their energy into – classics such as ‘Paranoid Big Brother’, ‘Faces’ and ‘Social Vertigo’ were received hungrily by the crowd and delivered lovingly by the band.
My highlight was ‘Days of the Dance’, their retelling of the tale of a woman from Strasbourg who started dancing in the street and would not stop. The band treated this track as a dance lesson and encouraged the crowd to find a partner with whom to promenade. There’s something quite magical about watching the entire crowd waltzing in time to such a beautiful song.
I had a lot of fun at this gig; a testament to the fact that this is very much a band focussed on touring their work and building on their live show. I’d heartily recommend that you try and catch their brand of world-infused acoustic folk whenever they next play near you.