Bastila @ Proud Galleries, Camden 05/08/09
August 14, 2009 by Hannah Lanfear
Sunday Best, the home of Bastila, is the record label of Rob Da Bank, a man whose Bestival festivals are the clear winner on the circuit. Bestival (and Camp Bestival) are renowned for their exquisite and inspired musical programming, so it stands to reason the signings to Sunday Best will show that same integrity to superb music. Doesn’t it? Tonight at Proud Galleries Da Bank uses his Sunday Best night to showcase last year’s signing, Bastila, a stint of DJing from Mr Hudson, as well as folky headliners Smoke Fairies, an unsigned act that recently caught his eye while sharing a bill on BBC4’s Loose Ends.
Having won Bestival’s local talent award in 2007, Bastila have beavered away to release a self titled album for the summer, tracks from which they’ve come to show out tonight.
Bastila seem to be a band with a split personality. On one side of the sheckle, they’re a celtic/ska band, all jaunty horns and jangly guitars, which in honesty are a little wearing. On the flip, they’ve an introspective, down beat side, that is a welcome salve to the brash chutzpah of their impish party ska. Guitarist Adam Clarke creates moving guitar solos that roll and melt away. They close their set with a track head and shoulders above the rest, ‘Ghosts’, and despite the echoing, distant sound in the sound engineer’s nightmare that is Proud, they have the room in thrall with its beauty.
Between the bands Mr Hudson ‘ghost djs’, with a trusty side kick to press all the buttons while he oversees the song playing. People shuffle about looking a bit bored. I could have been mistaken however and they are actually looking very cool. It’s hard to tell in Camden.
Smoke Fairies are a pair of pretty young things who’ve captured the attention of some high calibre fans, including that of our festival hero, RDB. Their songs have new folk as a foundation and are interweaved with a number of eclectic influences, taking in Baroque madrigals, New Orleans soul, bluegrass jigs; they seem to have taken inspiration from their extensive travels of North America. Though the music is good, it seems anticlimactic to put on these gentle carousers after the energetic Bastila and their lovely songs are somewhat lost in the cavernous venue.
In summary, it was a pleasant evening of mostly gentle melodies. In a more snug venue it may have worked very well, but in Proud, it was all to easy to feel disconnected from the music. It could be the bands picked for the night didn’t suit the venue, but if Rob Da Bank can’t make Proud work, then it begs the question, who can?
By Hannah Lanfear