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Monday, 27 February 2012

Mark and the Mystics - Su Casa - 25/02/12 (Ayr)

It seems that it's been a long and difficult week for everyone I know.
So how better to finish it than with a trip to Su Casa in Ayr to see the d├ębut gig of Mark and the Mystics.
Well that was the plan, but it wouldn't be a night out without at least one spanner being thrown in the works.
This time it was that Kelly, Claire, and myself had travelled to a small place called Crookedholm to collect our brother in musical appreciation who is otherwise known as Robbie Mills.
Unfortunately Robbie wasn't there.
He was hanging about in a car park in our home town and waiting patiently for us to pick him up.
It was a simple mistake of some crossed wires, or as we would say locally 'numpties with tatties in their ears' but after a few cryptic text messages back and forth we were all reunited and still managed to get to Su Casa in plenty of time to catch Trusty and the Foe who were the first act of the night.
I've seen them a few times now and they've never failed to impress me, but tonight everything seemed to take huge leap forward.
It wasn't that they were playing better, but instead that the sound guy nailed it.
Every single note from their guitars weaved in and out with perfect clarity, and the vocals were perfectly balanced in the mix.
This was exactly how Trusty and the Foe should sound.
Imagine if Simon and Garfunkel were in their early twenties and just starting to play coffee shops right now.
If you can manage to wrap your head around that then you wont be far off from grasping where Trusty and the Foe are coming from.
It was a sublime set of folk inspired music and as the audience were appreciatively quiet when they were playing it made it all the more special.
Following Trusty and the Foe was Julia Doogan who has a lovely soft voice that expresses some timidity without sounding fragile or weak.
This was my first experience of her performing and I was quietly impressed with her folk pop songs.
There did appear to be some nerves on show, but in a way it allowed the audience to pull for her.
To quietly urge her on by allowing the atmosphere to be quietly supportive.
It all made for a very lovely experience.
Next on the bill was to be Melisa Kelly and her Harmless Thieves who have now appeared so often at Su Casa that they could be considered the house band, but similar to a few other Ayrshire acts you can never tire of seeing them play as every performance is different.
This time the Harmless Thieves are missing Jamie on Cajon, but are bolstered with a a couple of members who I've not seen play with them before.
One on saxophone and the other on acoustic guitar.
The dropping of one instrument and the addition of two more alters the sound dramatically, but it's not that it sounds better or worse, just different again.
Unsurprisingly the set is shockingly entertaining, and it will never get old reiterating what a soulful and barely tamed vocal delivery that Melisa has.
She could sing the phone book and still enthral an audience.
Mark and the Mystics, the headlining act of the evening, very obviously had to pull something rather special out of the bag to follow Melisa and her Harmless Thieves, but that's exactly what they did.
I was under the impression that what we were going to see would be the usual front man and backing band set up, but instead what we got was Mark Rafferty, Teri Booth and Terry Balfour, displaying their individual talents together as they effortlessly swapped instruments and the taking on of the role of lead vocalists.
It's difficult to put a finger on how they did it, but something that could have been a very disjointed affair was far from it.
As instruments changed hands and the differences between vocal deliveries became apparent it could easily have lent itself to soaring highs and crashing lulls in the performance, but there simply wasn't a hint of that.
Instead what we got to witness was three fine musicians managing to convey a great deal of camaraderie, and in doing so elevating what could be considered a jam session to something much more appealing.
It all sounds polished, but also organic. A finely balanced performance.
Even the changing of seats and minor technical hiccups come across as part of the performance as Mark uses them to display a quick and sharp wit that some stand up comedians could learn from.
To say that I enjoyed them would be an understatement.
I'd happily part with some hard earned cash to see them all individually never mind pay a paltry five pounds to see them all.
It's going to be interesting to see what they come up with in the studio and how they will be able to convey what they do in a live setting.
Su Casa host Little Fire was the man to finish the night off and that he did in fine style.
Recently he supported The Secret Sisters on their Celtic Connections appearance in Glasgow and later this year he has secured the support slot to Joan Armatrading.
So things are going rather well for him and once he starts singing his songs it becomes obvious why.
Everything revolves around the well trodden path of the boy meets girl story, but the reason that path is so well trodden is that the subject material is timeless and as long as it is put out there with passion then no one will tire of it, and that's what Little Dire does.
A fitting end to yet another great night in Su Casa.
February has just delivered one excellent gig after another. March has a lot to live up to.


  1. No gonna mention the other gigs that were happening.
    Or just the ones you were at.

  2. Oooft. The anonymous poster is quick off the mark this morning.
    Shame that they don't show the same mental agility.
    1) There's a review of the Banana Sessions gig in Jollys being done by someone who WAS at it.
    Once it's completed I'll be happy to post it.
    2) Matt Scott played a blinder at Tuts by all accounts, and if anyone wants to review that then of course I'll happily post that as well.
    The only downside to this weekend of music is that I actually can't split myself and go to all the gigs, but I doubt that anyone expects me to.
    Both these events were pushed by myself on FB.
    Bombskare were also playing.
    Did you know that?
    Maybe you have heard of them, but then again maybe not.
    There was also plenty of bands playing all over Glasgow and outwith the city limits.
    I apologize for failing to mention them all.
    Oh, and it should read 'just the one you were at?'
    Oooft (again)

  3. 'Anonymous' is a moron!27 February 2012 at 12:41

    Well said!

  4. no meantion of the ape man then

  5. My Planet of the Apes impression remains a closely guarded secret. Shhhhh!