The rather clichéd title of Two Night somehow made me feel like I was heading for a grind-house kung-fu double-feature. I’d never heard either of the featured bands before and I hoped to be pleasantly surprised.
The introduction to the Max Clouth Trio that I’d glanced at on the Blue Frog’s event page was interesting to say the least. The lineup was formidable and highly accomplished, with the widely respected Karl Peters on bass, the very accomplished and experienced jazz musician Benny Soans on drums, and Max Clouth of course, on guitars, with a highly impressive resume at a relatively young age.
The gig began without much ado, and at a fairly decent time for a change. Each of them was somehow dressed completely out of sync with the others; Max Clouth in a shirt and trouser, Karl Peters in a t-shirt, track pants and a cap, and Benny Soans in a long, red bohemian tshirt and jeans.
Max started out on the electric guitar, and the band got into a nice rhythm playing some fine up-tempo blues. It was soon clear why Karl Peters was so highly regarded as, as they played two of his compositions. The bass lines were sublime and complimented Max extremely well, while he led the way, and Benny Soans on drums was solid as ever without being extravagant.
Max’s double acoustic guitar was a curious looking instrument (and for some reason also looked a little DIY). Its tone however, was mesmerizing. The trio went into a jam frequently which was an absolute treat to the ears. One of the songs they played was even based on a Hindustani classical raga, as Max indicated.
Although their music very clearly had a voice of its own, the fact that theirs was an entirely instrumental set meant that the songs seemed to blend in to each other at times. A little more engagement of the crowd by Max between songs might have covered that angle a little bit better. Nonetheless, the set ended with a heavier song that included some fantastic blues guitar riffs and was for me, the best of the night. The last ten minutes consisted of the trio going into another jam, and capping it off with a suitably big finish.
The second half of Two Night featured another band that I’d never seen before. I’d ventured outside the venue for some quick socializing during the changeover, and the guys from Bones For Bertie were already on their way when I re-entered. I hung back for a bit to get a sense of what they were playing, and I liked it.
They looked to me like a tight four-piece outfit; comfortable, in sync with each other and driven by some of the best vocals that I’d heard at Blue Frog in a while, courtesy Siddharth Basrur . On lead guitar and keys was Ayan De, with new additions Shantanu Basrur (yes, the two Basrurs are cousins) and Suraj Manik on drums and bass respectively.
The mellow ‘As it Was’, was introduced by Siddharth as being the first he’d ever written, following it up with another called ‘The Road’. But the point where I really sat up and began to pay attention was on the next song, a heavier number with dark lyrical content, called ‘Letters to a Father’, penned by Ayan. Interestingly enough, the demo of the same song that’s available to stream off the band’s bandcamp page, is vastly different and stripped down, and is definitely worth a listen.
There was a certain maturity and inherent appeal in their sound and it was evident that the crowd was getting increasingly involved. Ayan’s first-ever written song ‘Picture Frames’ was next. The composition was sublime with guest vocalist Namaah Kumar completing the acoustic arrangement, and her smooth high-pitched vocals complementing Siddharth’s more rasping style extremely well.
After an interesting composition called ‘Again’, the band was joined on stage by a vocalist called Eden. I was a little surprised when Siddharth mentioned that they’d be taking on Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’, but my aspersions were dispersed as soon as she began singing. The combination of smooth and throaty vocals once again sounded brilliant along with the piano accompaniment by Ayan, and as they merged in to Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade’, the vociferous crowd made it very clear that they were floored!
Eden stayed on to sing a pleasant and simple self-written track, called ‘Eden’s Song’. Following this was ‘This Saturday’; a dark yet uplifting tune written for Ayan and Siddharth’s The Venus Project, with the duo playing keys and guitar respectively. Shantanu and Suraj got back on stage for the last two songs; a louder and heavier rock song called ‘Untitled’ (for the lack of a better name) and the upbeat ‘New Shoes’, (for everyone with a shoe fetish) to conclude a truly brilliant set.
All in all, Bones For Bertie scored tremendously well on a number of counts. Their performance was intense. The creativity in their arrangements was refreshing. And above all, their compositions underlined the fact that there really is no substitute for solid vocals, and great songwriting. A highly recommended listen!