Thursday, 23 August 2012

H.Hawkline Review

H Hawkline
22nd August 2012
The Hop, Wakefield

After a rather mad spring into summer period, it has been a treat to actually take a bit of time off from going to local gigs. A couple of festivals have instead taken their place with new musical discoveries being made. I guess it’s no surprise to need that break, especially after six months of compiling a book and then organising a festival. But after enjoying seeing Runaround Kids produce some new noises at Beacons last week, tonight The Spills treat us to some fresh material, in support of the fantastic H.Hawkline.

I think, due to the headliner, I was expecting an acoustic set, but I was wrong. Although relatively laid back and less fired up than usual, they worked through a set of newer numbers which on first listen are hard to judge. There’s no radical departure (thankfully) and the same grasp of the hooks and the interesting dynamics. Certainly nothing to worry about and I could happily have stood through the set a second time round just to try and get an idea what’s going on. So, pleasing that things are moving forward towards a second record, I look forward to catching them again soon,

H.Hawkline is visiting Wakefield for the third time this year as part of a four date tour to support his BlackDomino Box EP release (on Trash Aesthetics). He must be as fond of us as we are of him. Funny how the Merrie City takes certain bands to its heart. Sadly, the extensive tour has taken its toll on his wilting welsh voice and he struggles through the set, albeit in good humour. It’s no major disaster and on most occasions adds something to the songs, an extra layer of hurt if you like.

H.Hawkline’s songs are almost always built around very simple refrains, the same chords bouncing round and round. Compositionally, it is minimalism showcased but as with many great songwriters, it is his ability to infuse them with his own character that stands him apart. So the strained notes and uncomfortable air don’t take anything away. Tonight he is joined by a drummer only (who occasionally switches to guitar) and the set is his usual mix of dainty bare boned balladeering and the more guttural, ground out dirges – a balance that certainly helps keep the interest. And as an advertisement for the new EP – fantastic.

He’s a performer not afraid to engage an audience with stories and he had the whole room laughing away on many occasions with jokes and asides that simply wouldn’t make sense here. For his last song he got the room to bully Spills guitarist Chad to play with him on bass, then taught him the track on stage, before unleashing it on us. I think this air of the carefree is certainly part of the appeal with H.Hawkline and perhaps why he is so loved in Wakefield. I hope he makes it back soon.

Dean Freeman
Photo: John Jowett

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