The directions The Dharma might take

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, February 9th, 2009

Meet Me In Vegas, Sound of Guns and The Dharma at The Cockpit, Leeds

The Dharma are not a bad band but they are a pub band and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

First some Meet Me In Vegas who are initially three lads in smart ties and shirts thudding effectively through an introduction that gives way to a set of songs voiced by their slightly Jazzy sounding lead singer who joins them. Singer Caroline Carfrae provides the glamour to but the real star of the show is Chris Dabass's bass guitar which pounds a line of vintage New Order matched perfectly with Josh Toulmin suitably Morris-esque drums. These Spartan elements - albeit not the technically impressive noodling of Guitarist Seb Santabarbara - promise a direction for this band.

A direction - or rather a direction which promises uniqueness - is harder to see for Liverpool's Sound of Guns who have a great front man in Andy Metcalfe but seem to be too easily defined in music maths - Oasis plus Arctic Monkeys over the Stones to the power of Julian Cope - and the band are charged with doing what they do very well but lacking that individuality which could make them stand out from the crowded crowd they are in.

The Dharma take to the stage amid an attack of strobe lighting and power through the sort of chords Bon Jovi would shamelessly play.  They demand attention and for their honest play - if married to slightly gimmicky presentation - and they receiving it. Paul Holihan milks the crowd effectively and bassist and backing JB Butler provides a good counterpoint.

They play a heady mix of standards and original material and they play it well as a band hardened by an unforgiving circuit of pubs and clubs who have conquered those arenas would and are enjoying the lofty heights of The Cockpit.

Where they, or any of tonight's bands, can go from there and how they would get there is more interesting.

Written By Michael Wood Monday, February 9th, 2009

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5 Responses to “The directions The Dharma might take”

  1. Ria Wood Says:

    It is quite exciting to go to a gig where naught is known about all three acts. It gives you a real ability to have an open mind to the evening and the hope that a new musical gem might be discovered.

    I was initially surprised to learn that Meet Me In Vegas were actually a four piece fronted by a lass as they started their set as a 3 piece with a really good, bassy, instrumental. As Michael said, the singer may have added visual impact in her blue dress however I felt that her vocals didn’t fit with the music they were over. Possibly a male singer or a lass with a softer but powerful voice like Kelly from (the now sadly defunct) Letters would fit better. The bass was particularly good and there were some catchy melodies but the whole band didn’t gel for me either visually or aurally. I wonder if the line-up is relatively new. The final track was botched a bit (although not disastrously) and their stage craft needs some work! Perhaps it’s nerves, etc. but I didn’t feel the trio of musicians were particularly “connected” by an intra-band spirit to the singer.

    Sound Of Guns filled the stage with their 3 guitars, drums and a separate singer. The first three songs were good, especially the opener and sounded more “together” in style than Meet Me In Vegas. More polished. However as the fourth track set in, I became bored of the singer’s voice. A powerful Alex Turner from Liverpool sound that lacked any modulation or flexibility. The audience, being typically Leeds, was not as responsive as the singer would have liked, especially after his “Man On Wire”-esque traversing the narrow stage in front of the guitarists. He even came in to the audience to work the crowd to no real avail. His sarcastic comments towards the audience was slightly justified but did leave a bit of sour taste. I wonder if they sound any different “on record”?

    The Dharma were quite an oddity. They were being filmed and therefore seemed to have brought the necessary hardcore fanbase with them to populate the front of the crowd. Their group headshot poster screamed “pub band” and they really were. With Marc Bolan hair, non-ironic fedora, and dodgy waistcoat on! They played mediocre rock type stuff jazzed up with two covers that really gave away their “pub band trying to be relevant to the kids” aim. The first was a cover of Coolio’s Gangsters Paradise and later on a cover of Wiley’s Wearing My Rolex. The former cover more successful and the latter leaving several in our crowd unmoved having no idea of the original. To really gild the lily, The Dharma’s final song, a rousing rock affair, featured strategic timed pointing by the singer/ guitarist (Brian May would’ve loved it) and for the finale, the now inevitable “playing the guitar with the teeth”. Well, stick a fork in me, I’m done! To see a 70s/80s timewarp rock band in a pub is one thing (at least there might be decent beer) but I don’t think it translated particularly well to the Cockpit. Anyhow, their hardcore following loved it but I don’t think they would have converted many to go see them next time they’re on at The Dog and Duck.

    So I don’t think any musical gems were unearthed but you can’t win them all. Meet Me In Vegas actually showed the most promise and I’d be especially interested if they re-jigged their line up or at least started to sound and look like they were all part of the same band…

  2. Claire Wilson Says:

    A flyer had dropped through my door earlier in the week. Then I trudged past a big bollard poster of ‘The Dharma’ outside drydock. ‘People’ seemed to know about the gig so I thought I would brave a snowy Leeds night.

    I managed to catch the end few songs of ‘Meet Me In Vegas.’ I was blown away by the craft of the songs. Playing live to a sampler and a click really takes some doing. The rhythm section is certainly one of the best I have ever seen. ‘I’m falling down’ had a lovely bittersweet feel to it.

    ‘Sound of guns’ started well with ambitious multi layered guitars. They do buck the trend by having the balls to be a full band. The sound is wide and deep. The vocals are really apreciated by the growing crowd. They were very scouse but the effort was enjoyed by all.

    The headline band ‘The Dharma’ are Leeds locals. So why are there at least 500 people in this room? I have never seen a turn out like this for an unsigned local band. Being elbowed in the head by a 16 year old girl during the trance strobe intro did not dampen my excitement.

    The band really looked like they belonged on the big stage. No skinny jeans to be seen! It even looked like some of these lads has seen a gym too. The girls at the front looked very pleased. The set pounded through with a real buzz that all of the crowd enjoyed. The previous reviewers must have been at another night! It is commercial, it is catchy and hook layden, but the so were the beachboys! There will always be a big place on the scene for this music! The crowd loved it from front to back.

    I thought the set was too short though. I did manage to get a free CD from a girl being mobbed by the bar. The review will be on ‘Leeds Music Scene’ this week. I also spotted the guitarist from the pigeon detectives talking to that guy from the Kaiser chiefs. No autographs thanks.

    All in all a great night of unsigned bands in Leeds…..

  3. Lee Mayor Says:

    I usually don’t view my opinions on websites, but the night was one of fun and brilliant music. The crowd loved every minute of it – what more can you ask of a gig.

    I have been going to gigs for years, and it’s rare a band (The Dharma) get the crowd so involved into the excitement of gig.

    Well done to all the bands, i really enjoyed it and will defo be going to the next gig of The Dharma’s.

    There on the road to fame…

  4. Ria Wood Says:

    Interesting comments but I do think we must have been at different gigs! As the Dharma were filming that night, they did ship in their own converted groupies to populate the front in order to make them look extra loved – no one wants to film an indifferent audience on their promo video do they? Also the gig was apparently sold out but I bet that was due to a significant number of tickets being given out via the bands and friends to encourage a decent turn out. I can say this because I was one of 4 people in our group that got tickets for free as promotion through a contact with one of the bands.
    Still if you had a good night, marvellous, and ours wasn’t bad but I didn’t see it as the faultless evening you seem to have!

  5. Rob Stones Says:

    Thanks for the reviews. Nice website.
    The reviews are a mixed bag…..

    The videos of the gig are here:

    Judge for yourself…….

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