Dalliance in the Doghouse with The Voluntary Butler Scheme More

Doghouse Live Review

Written By Ria Wilkinson Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Ophelia, Modeliste and The Voluntary Butler Scheme Doghouse at The Royal Oak, Halifax

Dalliance was in the Doghouse. It was a chilly Friday night too. What crime or misdemeanour had been committed? None, for this was a treat. A treat that wheedled Dalliance out of it's cosy Bradford home to venture forth over yonder hill to the Doghouse in Halifax.

The Doghouse is a night hosted in the intimate setting of an upstairs room of The Royal Oak drinkery. However, don't go thinking you can turn up on the dot of an 8.30pm doors and be expected to be let in, instead they encourage you out into the night to seek entertainment whilst they set up in apparent privacy.

As it was, it was nearly 9.30pm by the time first act Ophelia took to the stage which was crowded with all manner of ibooks/ipads/iMacs, mysterious boxed stuffed with wires, and even a small screen onto which a Clara Bow film was projected.

Ophelia are a two piece act that really should have never bothered leaving their bedrooms. The music of Ophelia is third rate Angelo Badelamenti-esque, soundscapes over which undeterminable lyrics are affectedly murmured as Clara Bow frolics on screen in order to grasp any of the attention rapidly dissipating from the audience. By the third track of music to accompany pretentious art house movie sex scenes, we know there are no surprises from this "create music by numbers with my ibook" outfit.

The audience thins out and the half hour Ophelia play feels like forever. Tellingly, the greatest volume of applause comes when it becomes apparent it was their final track. They shuffle off stage and we hope that the next band on are something a bit different or else we'll have to brave again the locals' karaoke in a nearby pub until the top act of the night is on.

Happily, and likely all the better received for it, the middle act are an actual instrument playing group named Modeliste. A local three piece of percussion and two guitars - what else do you need? - they opened up with pacy "Misinterpreted" and soon the audience attention was recaptured and there was involuntary bobbing along to the beat. This promising start was further built on with another couple of tracks before the Hendrix/Chili Pepper influenced "Bop Good" swung things round to a 70s feel. Fronted by Ben (who looks like an escaped Sanderson from Le Tournoi) on bass, "Wyld Thing" Ross on waccachacca guitar and completed by another Ben doing the prerequisite "vaguely dark and mysterious drummer" (I cite fourteen corners and the [now defunct] Letters as further evidence...) that is a local band motif, they powered through another four songs ending with another slick slice of 70s "Hot Love".

Modeliste were a real refreshment of the senses post Ophelia, and it was appreciated the way their melodies broke rhythm so that there were different flavours in each track. And whilst soft rock guitar noodling and "Shaft" reminiscent "waccachacca" noises may not be original, it's what you do with it that counts by referencing them well. Modeliste were well positioned to lift and energise the crowd and they really made the most of it and we look forward to catching them again.

Top act of the night that persuaded Dalliance not to climb into it's fleecy pyjamas but instead into the car, was the excellent Voluntary Butler Scheme. Previously seen as a support to the Brakes' Eamon Hamilton at the Faversham in Leeds earlier this year, we were quickly converted to the charm, uniqueness and downright skill employed by one man act, Rob Jones.

Using a series of layered looping pedals and variety of different instruments that would make any music teacher proud, Jones produced quirky, original and beguiling tunes about love and life. Dalliance was delighted to have the chance to see him again after tracking his quite prolific output of new material released via his MySpace site.

Tonight was not merely a rerun of the previous gig but actually the first gig of Rob playing with his two new compadres. He has recruited a percussionist and another multifunctional friend to tackle various instruments - apologies for not catching their names to credit them accordingly.

Credit they indeed deserve though! Rob mentioned that he was tired of assembling both instrumentage and tuneage and explaining to bemused audiences the nature of his act‘s name. When taking into account the complexity of assembling his music as one man then deconstructing it to make it fit for three whilst building it up more, it really was quite an achievement. In total they played eleven songs. Some newer like opener "Multiplayer", some more downbeat like "Country Lanes to Motorways", a short fun thing like "Dancing with Ted Danson" and some familiar favourites such as "Alarm Clock". The audience had a significant proportion of pre-converts and they lapped up, as did Dalliance, each tune rapturously. None more so then towards the end of the set when recent single (and BBC 6Music favourite) "Trading Things In" was released into the room. It was interesting to hear a fuller arrangement of the tune and one of the new recruits did a sterling job on the trumpet, rewarded well with whoops from the audience.

The Volentary Butler Service live in Halifax

Whilst their set didn't run entirely smooth, suffering from technical problems, and new recruits dashing about slightly unsure of what instrument to grab next, it felt very organic. The audience warmly supported the band and the relief and smiles of the new line up spoke volumes, that despite it being a bit unpolished, they had most certainly ridden the wave of their first gig together triumphantly! So much so that they were strongly encouraged to perform an encore and despite their protestations that they had no further practised material, they did oblige by playing their opener again. And the audience loved them all the more for their shy reluctance and honesty.

With the recent success of the not too dissimilar sounding Noah & The Whale, as well as strong support from such forces in music as Steve Lamacq, hopefully it's only a matter of time that an album is released and The Voluntary Butler Service are rewarded with the fans they deserve. But please don't let them get too popular, for it's these tiny venues that Rob and new sidekicks really shine.