Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Tuesday 7 November 2023


I was back at Todmorden's Golden Lion on Saturday night for a gig by Red Snapper, the four piece halfway through a tour that continues next week with shows Tunbridge Wells, Hertford, Ramsgate and London. Rich Thair and Ali Friend have been playing together as Red Snapper since 1993, starting out riding on the early 90s acid jazz wave but then branching out into spaces way beyond that. They signed to Warp in 1996 and released the compilation Reeled And Skinned in 1995 and then Prince Blimey a year later. Since then they've released a further seven albums, and most recently a live album recorded at The Moth Club last year. The Golden Lion is sold out for the gig, an audience of Red Snapper devotees getting the opportunity to see them very close up, and Red Snapper do not disappoint, firing on all cylinders and Ali Friend's bass and Rich Thair's drums showing the benefit of playing together for so long, a telepathic understanding clearly evident between the two. 

Ali's stand up bass (perilously close to the light fitting in the ceiling at times) is at the centre of the sound, almost lead double bass. They kick in from the off, with sudden bursts of energy and the dynamics of a rock band. Rich Thair switches between rhythms and tempos and at the back of the stage Tom Challenger plays keys/ synths and wigged out saxophone. On the left is a relatively recent recruit, the ridiculously young and effortlessly cool guitarist Tara. Opener Wanga Doll lures us in slowly, bass line and hi hats, and then building into a dubby jazz/ psychedelia. After that they move between space jazz, trip hop and downtempo, each track drawing the crowd further and further in. Ali Friend, centre stage, occasionally steps forward to provide vocals but its largely instrumentals, at times the band so locked in and heavy they threaten to become a jazz Zeppelin, the front row losing their cool and dancing. Highlights include the self titled Snapper, the dubby skronk of Space Sickness (from Prince Blimey), the dark funk sci fi of B Planet and Tarzan (both from last year's Everybody Is Somebody album) and a wonderfully chilled cover of Bowie's Sound And Vision. At one point, the bass and drums locked into a lovely slow and low groove, the ghost of Beth Orton's Galaxy Of Emptiness drifts past (a track Ali Friend played on back in 96). As the gig nears its conclusion, a night after the Sabresonic 30th anniversary (and with Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns both still in the Lion with Jagz ready to DJ after the gig), Ali pays tribute to Andrew Weatherall, who supported the band early on and remixed Hot Flush, a key Sabres Of Paradise remix. Hot Flush, with its jazzy double bass line, acres of space and wandering 60s spy film melody line, fills the stone floored, red lit pub. This version of Hot Flush is on last month's Live At The Moth Club album...

After Hot Flush we get the one- two of Wesley Don't Surf and Suckerpunch, the former dating from the early Warp days and a wild ride through areas groups such as A Certain Ratio inhabit and the latter, the finale, low slung punk funk with clipped guitar, sax and insistent rhythm. The band depart and then reappear at the stall, selling and signing merch. Jagz Kooner begins his second DJ set in two nights, spinning electro and hip hop- unfortunately get to I don't hear it all, I have a train to catch to get home. Waiting at the platform Todmorden's old style British Railways platform sign stands out in the darkness, a roaring lion standing over a wheel.


Nick L said...

I've long felt there were quite a few similarities between Red Snapper and ACR. The Lion really does deliver the goods doesn't it?

Swiss Adam said...

So much going on at the Lion this month Nick.

Swiss Adam said...

David Holmes next Saturday

Anonymous said...

Top night cracking tunes, great vibe.

First time and definitely not the last.

The Lion is the bee's balls.