Live Review: Park Bench Society + Support, Bodega (18/11/12)

It’s not often you go to a gig and see your module convenor standing side of stage, but then John Young, Nottingham’s own Professor of International History, has a vested interest. His son David is multi-instrumentalist in Loughborough four-piece Park Bench Society, whose EP launch comprised a Leicester matinee show and an evening performance in Nottingham.

Delays in the transfer of kit between the two venues resulted in delayed stage times, but if anything this aided Frankie Rudolf, the 16 year-old local singer-songwriter, who chooses this gig to perform with a band for the first time to a decent-sized crowd. Standout tracks such as ‘Heart on Fire’ were given some weight and his fragile vocals took on real emphasis in the more serene tracks. There is more than a hint of Ben Howard about Rudolf, but he handled emotion in a manner above his age – Marcus Mumford he is not.

Next up was Saint Raymond, who I thought was the son of Nottingham lecturer John Young, and as such wondered why his father seemed a little disinterested. So apologies to Callum Burrows, the real Saint Raymond, who did enough to have John nodding his head in approval by the end. Set closer ‘Bonfires’ was the highlight, fusing a upbeat verse and passion–filled chorus to fine effect. “An acoustic Kooks” is a slightly odd assessment I heard near the bar, although it’s not completely wide of the mark – there are elements of Bon Iver and King Charles to be found here too.

Park Bench Society have enjoyed a successful few months, being playlisted on Radio 1 and playing the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds. They’ve built up a steady fanbase, despite being only seventeen, and the turnout of over one-hundred at a Sunday evening gig was impressive. As is the level of their fan’s passion – much of singles ‘Room 66’ and ‘Back on the Town’ were sung back  to singer Murray Matravers. Matravers is the band’s lynchpin, a frontman with a touch of Chris Martin about him – at once the audience’s best mate and chief cheerleader.

The sound of the band is somewhat difficult to pin down; the most noticeable aspect is the considerable usage of xylophone from Young and brass from Matravers and Sam Hewitt. This has led to Park Bench being tagged as ska, but there are more innovative and alternative aspects to their music. Trumpet and sax solos came at the end of their second (untitled) song and took the song to another level, helping to build the song to a thrilling crescendo. Whilst another new song used synths and drums to create a more psychedelic feel.

It was the double salvo of ‘Room 66’ and ‘Back on the Town’ that really excited the audience though, the crowd bounced at Murray’s call and made the floor shake. As they left the stage to the words of their songs being sung out, one gets the feeling that the only way is up for Park Bench Society. Professor John Young was certainly impressed.

Jonnie Barnett

…Jonnie has been listening to Foals – Inhaler…


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