Live Review: Pinegrove, Robert Craig Oulton & Lomelda - Ceol Castle, Birmingham 25/02/2017
It feels like only a couple weeks ago that Pinegrove were here on their last tour when they played at The Sunflower Lounge in September, and now they’re back in Birmingham playing at Ceol Castle. A small venue with no barrier, it had a slightly more intimate feel to that of The Sunflower Lounge which of course, is never a bad thing, but it did feel as though they could have easily packed out a bigger venue too. Joining them was Lomelda, and for their Birmingham date only, Robert Craig Oulton.
Robert Craig Oulton is a local singer/songwriter performing with backup from his friends who play the relaxing melodies to match the folk-like vocals. The band of musicians introduced the night with some mellow, laid back songs that really helped to set the scene for the night, and actually reminded me of Pinegrove themselves in some ways. What I appreciate about Pinegrove’s gigs is that they tend to bring local talent on stage with them that really match the mood of their own music. Oulton also noted his appreciation for Pinegrove and talked about how starstruck he was to be supporting them, which was humbling to hear. The music the band delivers is really refreshing with unique vocals that carry a lot of power that make you really listen to the lyrics, and melodies that remind me of Ben Howard with a hint of Turnover, which gives an end result of something new and unheard of. Through out the set, I could see Oulton making an effort to interact with the crowd, which was also refreshing to see as more often than not, opening bands can shy away from this, which lessens the overall performance and doesn’t engage the audience as well as they could.
Next up was Lomelda, more often a band, but tonight only consisting of an endearing female artist named Hannah Read, all the way from Texas. Read was straight away humbling and had a demeanour about her that made you want to pay attention to her and want nothing but the best for her on stage. Carrying only her electric guitar, she continued on with the folk vibes Oulton delivered, but this time with more delicate, yet just as powerful vocals. Just like Oulton, Lomelda’s music was the sort you’d lay down in your room and listen to alone, feeling every emotion Read portrays through her melodic voice. It’s this powerful emotion that had the whole room hooked on every word that flowed from her mouth. She awkwardly spoke to the crowd in between songs, but awkward in good sense of the word where she had almost a nervous laughter in between what she was saying, which was again, endearing as well as humbling. After her set, she had members of the audience asking for her name and asking to talk to her and she took the time to really interact with them, which further showcased her friendly personality.
As Pinegrove appeared on stage, the room felt filled to the brim and yells of excitement came from across the room. Unfortunately, they were a member down compared to when they came last September, as Nandi Plunkett was caught up in America focusing on one of her more solo projects; Half Waif. Whilst the band were a member down, and it would have been nice to hear the keyboard and harmonies from Plunkett, the rest of Pinegrove managed to deliver an abundant amount of energy, which made up for her absence.
Opening the set with ‘Recycling’, Pinegrove delivered a well-known classic by this point, which the crowd sang each word to with joy. This introduced the set with the energy and emotion Pinegrove are known for on stage, and led well into the rest of the set, which included old and new favourites such as ‘Old Friends’, ‘Aphasia’ and ‘Angelina’. Part way through the set, the band left the stage temporarily leaving Evan Hall to perform a solo set. During this set, he performed ‘Toast’ by the request of the crowd; a song with a much lighter and jokey mood to it, and just as you can guess from the title, it’s a song all about the classic breakfast item, toast. Hall wrote the song as he was looking for something quick and easy to get him playing one day, and thus ‘Toast’ was created.
In between songs, Evan Hall would keep up the light-heartedness that ‘Toast’ provided by talking about funny things on his mind. It’s this banter with the crowd that makes me enjoy Pinegrove even more as it keeps things fun and exciting. It’s easy to see how Pinegrove have gained such a big fan base and I see this growing more and more, especially as they release further music such as the newer unreleased songs they played tonight. Hall has a uniqueness to his voice that’s difficult to find anywhere else, and the music matches this with layers coming from a wide range of instruments that create a tough competition for the usual standard of bass, guitar and drums.
Overall, Pinegrove delivered a positive and fun night as always, even if the songs are emotional and raw at times. Whilst they sound amazing on record, I’ve found they’re even better in person as they deliver an amazing intimacy you wouldn’t usually expect from bands of their size.
Words and Photography by Hayley Fearnley