Picture NOT from night!
HIDDEN MASTERS / THE SEE SEE
After following thee trusty iPhone's Sat nav through non descript side roads, crossing bridges over the M11 and finally arriving at a beautiful Victorian pub in a suburban area, it is at first hard to get your bearings. This is the London of Guy Ritchie movies, an ungentrified enclave behind the site of the Olympics that still fits the stereotypes small towners have of The Big City. The bald headed patrons and their cockney chat seem like an odd home for a Shindig! friendly DJ spinning cool sounds and a make shift stage set up on the floor by the bar for The See See. But once acclimatised; the bar staff, the decent real ale and the awakening presence of younger and older music fans mingled in with the boxers soon takes over.
The See See grace their corner with a new guitarist and a new album Fountayne Mountain to promote. Although the East Enders at first seem cold to the lengthy psychedelic intro even they soon warm to the lads' jangly guitars, fine harmonies and warm banter. It's as if they were made for the Working Man Club's circuit. But as good as the latest record is it can't match The See See's pub performance. Tonight they were comfortable, harmonious, loud and edgy. Songs old and new sounded great... And they knew it. As Richard told me. "We are playing the least fashionable music, but our fans are building." And yes, if people like me note The Byrds and Monkees, The Factory and Who or The Rain Parade and The Stone Roses, The See See play great pop plain and simple. What's not to like?
Scotland's Hidden Masters appeared 15 mins after and the crowd had somewhat thickened with evident music fans. We at Shindig! have supported the Masters since day one, as we have The See See, but I had unfortunately missed every one of their London and South East England shows. Although privy to unreleased recordings, owning their 45 and having included a track on a Shindig! comp I was a live Hidden Masters virgin. During the opening chords of Dave's lovely guitar, the clarion call of the harmonies, the rush of Alf's bass and John's jazzy drums I was instantly as smitten as young girl would have been over Davy Jones in 1967. Honestly, they were as revelatory as hearing Nilsson, Song Cycle or The Fallen Angels. What made this trio special beyond their exemplary musicianship and singing was their free form grasp of genre breaking. In any one song Dave could veer from Johnny Kidd & The Pirates styled rock 'n' roll to searing Avalon Ballroom acid-rock into full blown progressive rock time signatures that veered from folk and classical into proto-metal and back again. Call it excessive if you will, but it always worked and was never over blown. Everyone sang brilliantly, and Dave with his Robert Frippish meets Buddy Holly speccy appearance although every inch the anti rock star, mixed in droll humour with some nifty foot moves and knowing glances, giving off a presence you couldn't quite put your finger on whilst the long haired and bearded Alfa in boating blazer, polo neck, amulet, flares and zipper boots added a venerable UFO touch to match the constant psychedelic flourishes. Laid back grizzly man John propped up the show with both manic and restrained drumming and further stellar vocal support. But if the band were a cohesive unit, it was still the whooping and soaring backing vocals of the versatile and energetic Alfa Mitchell who stole the show. A star waiting to shine! (Okay, he's already playing bass with July, but he could quite easily sing with The Association too.) Amazing.
So there we have it, a few music fans, some pro'er Londoners drinking Fosters and possibly the most unique band in the entire world. In a pub in Leyton. They should be playing to thousands, but music this undeniably hard to classify, eccentric and consuming is just too good for the masses. Rock 'n' roll to pop, West Coast rock to gospel, Disneyish sinaglongs to mind melting Vertigo era prog... all in one song. These are clearly masters of some hidden truth. No pretence, lots of energy and wry humour. One may think of The Move... But it's only halfway there. A bizarre and memorable night.
Jon 'Mojo' Mills