Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Playing With Fire is Playing With Power
A pretty woman with a bowlcut hovered by the merch table as my friend Poppy and I walked into Sneaky Pete's for the Sparrow and the Workshop gig last night. I barely noticed her and instead tried to push my way through the cramped Cowgate club to get a good view of the band. Little did I realize, that I already got my "good view" for that charming woman with the feminine cheekbones selling CDs and handmade paper skulls was Jill O'Sullivan, the frontwoman of Glaswegan Sparrow and the Workshop. Fittingly, the rest of the night was equally intimate, exhibiting the down to earth nature of a band I think will be very big in the future.
Sparrow and the Workshop is an apt name for the band given O'Sullivan's vocals warbling Emmylou-Harris-style like the bird the band is named after, but coupled with some rollicking drum and bass akin to the White Stripes. However no real musical comparison fits the band, who have been likened to Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, Franz Ferdinand, The Ting Tings, Florence and the Machine, and many more acts that don't even sound similar. In short, S&W have their own unique sound. It's Chicagoan O'Sullivan's voice that can croon like a country singer and wail like a punkrocker that allows the band to transcend so many genres. Coupled with Scottish (the only true Scot in a group that originates from Glasgow) drummer Gregor Donaldon's vocals- S&W can sound like old school folk singers. But it's when Welsh bassman Nick Packer lets his guitar rip that the band cascades into the intense live show they put on for us last night.
Poppy and I lucked out to be at their second gig since they released their latest album "Spitting Daggers" on Monday. They had an enthusiastic stage presence and were ready to play their tight set for us, but the stage itself wasn't ready. After dodging two dead leads and multiple microphone problems, O'Sullivan led the audience through a brief rendition of "Always Look on the Brightside of Life" during these gaffes, keeping the crowd entertained and in good humor. Eventually she mused that her "lucky" peacock feathers were causing the bad juju in the room and passed them out to the crowd.Perhaps that did the trick because after they lost the feathers of another bird, the sparrow was able to really soar. Forgiving my cheesy metaphor, the band played a nice mix of ethereal folk ditties and rocking loud numbers during which you could almost feel the soundwaves pulsating through the cave-like venue.
I wasn't familiar with S&W before Poppy dragged me along to the gig, but by the end of the night I was dancing along. I'm a new fan, but one that's in for the long run. I hope to catch S&W whenever they're back in 'Burgh and given their residence is only a 50-minute train ride away from here, I hope that's sometime soon. In the meantime, get your hands on their albums. You'll thank me when they get the success they deserve.
UPDATE/EDIT: Posted this link to twitter and got a lovely response from the band itself! Definitely the nicest and most well mannered rock stars I've ever met.
[Sorry I'm too technologically illiterate to figure out how to link this]