As This is the Kit took to Leaf on a miserable rainy Thursday, Getintothis’ Rick Leach found warmth in their banjo led sound.
Banjos. They’re pretty odd instruments, aren’t they? More of them in a bit.
A rainy Thursday night in late November saw us heading off to Leaf to see This Is the Kit. A miserable and soggy Thursday night. A night that needed music to warm you up, to act like a comforting bowl of soup and to let you know that everything isn’t really too bad. A night that would be perfect for This Is the Kit. And it worked out pretty well.
Leaf was busy as Cristobal & The Sea clambered on the stage and treated us to a soft and slightly gentle psych work-out. A four piece from France, Portugal, Spain and England, their Tame Impala-like, woozy, sun-flecked songs worked well and eased the fairly attentive audience into an evening of music that warmed the cockles. It’s unusual to hear a flute being played that much live, especially if it’s present through much of a set, but for Cristobal, it seemed to fit and added a gentle melodic touch to the whole thing.
By the time This Is the Kit started their set, the place was pretty much full and a palpable sense of anticipation hung in the air. They opened with what was a very quiet solo performance by Kate Stables, just a voice and gently plucked guitar, with the rest of the band sitting on stage simply watching. A brave start but a good start. She captivated the audience from the word go with that voice, a voice that cut through that rainy night outside, a voice as clear as crystal, ringing like a bell. That was the way to go.
It could be supposed that This Is the Kit are a folk-rock act and certainly that’s a convenient pigeon hole to stick them in, but they are more than that. It’s just a lazy label. There’s more than hints of folk-rock of course, and touches of 70s Laurel Canyon introspection along the way, yet there’s also a distinctly British tinge. There was something within that quietness that permeated their whole set that recalled the deeper steeliness of quiet music such as Young Marble Giants. It wasn’t all overly earnest music, but honest music; well-crafted and carefully thought out songs. Heartfelt songs. This is what music needs right now and we guess it’s also what the world needs right now. Certainly that’s how it felt because everyone seemed to be captivated and watching with happy smiles on their faces.
After the first song, the whole band joined in for almost the rest of the set. Many of the songs were from the latest album,Bashed Out with a smattering of earlier stuff interspersed along the way. All of the songs benefitted from being performed live; they were stronger than the recorded versions. Not louder necessarily, but stronger and more tightly focussed.
We didn’t expect to hear cutting electric guitar ripping through the songs, but when it did happen it was revelatory and cut like a knife through butter. It added an extra dimension to This Is the Kit and steered them away from the folk-rock pigeon hole. We’ve never heard such quiet yet insistent drumming as well. Drums so quiet that you could hardly hear them although they unpinned it all; deep currents swirling underneath the surface.
All in Cahoots from the last album, early in the set, was a particular highlight, all floating pop harmonies, a song that Brian Wilson would have been proud of writing. This was the moment when This Is the Kit would have won over any doubters left in the room. We wouldn’t have thought there were many anyway, but it’s such a great song that you can’t help to be moved by it.
Maybe it was just a way of softening everyone up for the unveiling of the banjo. Now, banjos are the sort of instrument that can polarise opinions. As Kate Stables picked up the said stringed instrument, you could see a fair proportion of the audience shudder involuntarily. Banjos do have that fingernails-down-a-blackboard reaction. Clearly not everybody feels that way, as there the majority appeared relaxed about the whole thing. But for those of us who normally run a mile at the mere sight of a banjo, well, we needn’t have been worried. It worked so well with Sometimes the Sea, that you hardly noticed it was there. In fact, you could go so far to say that not only having the banjo in the song but having the banjo as the lead instrument, was the thing made it work so well. Who’d have thought it!
Kate Stables did one more solo song before the end of the set and it was striking that all you could hear was the sound of her voice and her guitar. No-one at all was talking, no mobiles were out, no one even coughed. You could have heard a pin drop. It was magnificent.
After an hour or so they concluded the set with Bashed Out. A cue for well-deserved applause from everyone that was there.
It may still have been drizzling as everyone headed off, but on a damp November evening in Liverpool, This Is the Kit gave us a all little ray of sunshine to take home.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Tom Adam.