Local label Phlexx Records chose to host its latest event at Peggy’s Skylight; quickly becoming one of the city’s favourite venues, it channels an intimate jazz bar from years gone by, serving middle eastern food to candlelit tables, with musicians’ pictures on the walls and quirky antique finds throughout.
But this wasn’t just any gig, this was the Fallen Leaves EP launch party from the label founder’s new band, Benjamin Zięć and The Rarebreeds. As a known name in the Notts music scene, naturally, the place was packed by 7:30pm and I sat myself down on one of the red cinema seats while the bands set up, and the crowd were buzzing.
First on were two supporting acts, Stacey McMullan followed by Marco Woolf. McMullan’s guitar playing stood out as his best asset, especially in his last song, which he described as a kind of ‘flamenco grime’ (you heard it here first). Starting off with a sweet acoustic tune about love, he moved through lots of narratives, varying from break-ups, alcoholism and even midlands legend, Robin Hood. On occasion it felt like the head banging that took place might have been a little too enthusiastic in what was otherwise an acoustic show, but generally the genre bending worked well, especially with the Spanish guitar twist.
Equally ambitious, Marco Woolf began his set with a monologue, spoken over soft music. Accompanied by his band, made up of the piano, guitar, trumpet and drums, the instrumentals were smooth and smoky. The lyrics themselves were reflective and sensitive. Being the second act of the night was a tricky spot to fill though and the group were sometimes slightly too soft to grasp the full attention of the crowd as they enjoyed their meze and talked, but were a real treat for those who tuned in.
Phlexx founder Benjamin came on stage at about 9pm to debut his new work. After a solo performance, he was joined by his band - an eclectic mixture of people and instruments, including drums, piano, double bass and two violins. His deep and rusty voice sounded great with the bluesy folk music of The Rarebreeds, the combination resulting in a twangy grungy feel. There were definite moments when the performance bought me back to my Irish heritage, the violins and high energy reminiscent of Riverdance and traditional fiddle playing.
All the band members were individually very talented and created an incredible atmosphere together. A mixture of original songs and covers filled the set, recreating iconic blues and folk tunes including Bill Withers Ain’t No Sunshine and The Dubliners Dirty Old Town. Tracks from the new five-piece EP including Dusty Old Boots, Hold on and Heart in Beat sounded even better live, and Zięć brought great stage presence to the show, only shadowed by his even better music.
Overall the night was a great success, in equal measures because of Benjamin and his astounding band The Rarebreeds, marking a bliddy brilliant launch overall for the new project.
Benjamin Zięć and the Rarebreeds launched their Fallen Leaves EP at Peggy's Skylight on Wednesday 10 July.