Howlin’ Lord and Case Hardin at Ace Space, Newbury, on Friday, February 18
WITH folk-tinged music making its mark at the Brits last week in the form of gongs for Mumford & Sons and Reading’s Laura Marling, it was perfect timing for Newbury community venue Ace Space to prove that folk can rock, with a Friday night showcase of two bands influenced by the Americana strain of the genre.
Well, I say “rock”, but in fact Reading-based Case Hardin, featuring Ace Space stalwart Adam Kotz on banjo and mandolin - an instrument featured too rarely in popular music outside of REM’s Loosing My Religion - stripped back their more usual plugged-in sound for an acoustic, percussion-less set. Gathered around a single microphone for a performance reminiscent of the aforementioned Mumford & Sons on the Brits (although, Case Hardin pointed out, they’d been using that technique for years) allowed them to rework some of the more upbeat moments from their 12-year back catalogue into something more intimate yet still lively.
Hairy Bristolians Howlin’ Lord, led by their intriguing self-titled frontman, aka Mark Legassick, were a much louder entity, mixing some really quite lovely tunes - Bright Lights being a particularly highlight - with unexpected high-octane covers such as La Bamba. A sweaty, amusing and entertaining set from the trio proved that country-folk can get people up and dancing as much as thinking and listening.
Recently redecorated by its dedicated committee members and team of volunteers, Ace Space has been transformed into an excellent live venue, the small stage’s proscenium arch and star-spangled backdrop framing each act rather pleasingly. While the venue’s monthly Unplugged events are mainly quite sedate affairs in terms of audience interaction, Friday’s gig proved that with ample dancing space, when punters want to kick up their heels and have a rocking old time of it along with the bands, Ace Space is more than happy to oblige.
- First published in Newbury Weekly News, Thursday, March 3