Purson

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Rosalie from Purson

I think it was January when Purson played a set for Mark Riley on 6 Music, but I think it was on Gid Coe’s show that we heard Purson for the first time. Their sound was different, 60’s-70’s classic rock but with a fresh feel. About 20 minutes of googling later, and Lampy and I had tickets for Purson’s homecoming gig at Chinnery’s on the seafront at Southend, a Premier Inn booked for the night (Rock and Roll!) and a weekend of adventure on the Essex Riviera lined up…

Southend yielded a fascinating afternoon’s exploring (and some excellent crepes) before we eventually wound our way to the venue. Chinnery’s is one of the more inviting looking hostelries wedged in between the arcades and chip shops on the quintessentially English seafront that lurks on the Marine Drive opposite the rides and amusements of “Adventure Island”. The venue itself is behind the pub and is accessed through a dark (and winding) corridor that is both part wormhole to another dimension and part Wardrobe-like gateway to a twisted subterranean take on Narnia. Once through the portal we found ourselves in the near perfect darkness of a black-walled venue surrounded by a crowd dominated by portly, black-clad, ageing metal-heads and couples dressed as hippies complete with a prevalence of velvet, tie-dye and eye make up (several of which I could have sworn were, like us, denizens of the Premier Inn that night too). As the eyes and tried desperately to take in the menagerie a far older more primeval part of the brain (you know, the bit that tells you “that smell means bad things – don’t lick it! ” and causes the “monkey falling out of tree” twitch as you drop off to sleep), knocked insistently on the back-door of the conscious mind to report on the floor… Or to be more correct, the texture of the floor… The spongey, stickiness of the floor could have only been the effect of years of spilt “fluids” (let’s call them “drinks” for now…) combined with tramping feet depositing who knows what from the world beyond the wormhole on a once lush and hard wearing carpet that had only wistful memories of “fresh air” and “being dry”. I did not look down for fear that some resident of the floor-level ecosystem might look back accusingly as I’d just trod on its neighbour…

13048265_1019513101419250_4547703836621329568_oInstead we made our way to firmer and more texturally familiar ground by the stage to take in the evening’s entertainment. It appears very much that the stage was originally “next door”. With the liberal application of a sledge hammer, two large (sight-line limiting) pillars and an RSJ, a roomy performance space had been thoughtfully added to the venue. At first I thought the builders had left some scaffold behind, but on closer inspection, the heavily built and well nailed down scaffold rail was clearly there to separate the crowd from the performers. Perhaps hinting at sorrowful events rumoured to have occurred at tribute band gigs past that nobody will talk about today but instead shakes their head sadly and looks away when asked. The subterranean-vibe of the venue was fully cemented, despite being at ground level, by the buckets between the monitors catching drips of yet more unidentified “fluids” making their way from ceiling to floor….

Chinnery’s gradually filled as Person’s support acts of Howling Black Soul and David Woodcock and the Fixtures played their sets. Both were a great entertainment, especially David’s antics at the keyboards. With the venue shoulder-to-shoulder full, an expectant hush descended on the crowd as Purson took to the stage. In demonology, Person is the Great King of Hell, a lion-headed man, riding a bear carrying a ferocious viper and is served and obeyed by twenty-two legions of demons… Luckily, lead vocalist, guitarist and the creative force behind the band, Rosalie Cunningham, does not look like Wikipedia’s description of Person. Although she may have borrowed the mane, and it’s quite possible that at least part of the the twenty-two legions may well have been in the crowd at Chinnery’s.

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The emergency Dad capo…

Retro may describe the hair (of which there is rather a lot) and attire of the band, but it does not describe their music. There’s a curious and seductive blend of soaring but incredibly precise Hendrix-esque guitar solo’s, rolling Deep Purple riffs and the melody and rhythm of the Small Faces. Sadly the fairly awful sound quality Chinnery’s was able to serve up didn’t do justice to Purson’s set and caused a little consternation on stage more than once. One wonderful moment in the set which ignited smiles across the board, was when the stage swallowed Rosalie’s capo, and her Dad, Mark, bravely stepped in to provide an extra finger and allow the song to carry on – he got a well deserved round of applause for his efforts!

In today’s world of meticulously defined genres Purson’s distinctive sound simply does not fit. They’re not Metal, their sound is more accessibly poppy, guitar- and organ-led classic rock. They’re not Indie or Psych. No gazing at their shoes for Purson, no introverted concealment of personality behind fuzzy soundscapes of reverb and feedback. Purson’s stage show is to assured to the point of being brazen, and dares the audience not to give in to the primal need to bounce to the beat and in so doing engage with, and become part of the performance too. I can imagine the more Metal end of the musical world wholeheartedly embracing Purson. In many ways it’s a very knowledgable, open and innovative community with innate sense of curiosity and humour spawning music that’s always mutating and evolving. A lot will depend on how Purson’s new album “Desire’s Magic Theatre” is received, Kerrang Magazine loves, it and I am looking forward to it turning up in my post box soon…

If you’re wondering why the photo’s are a little more ‘grainy’ than usual that’ll be because the little Olympus struggled with metering the strong and quickly shifting back-lighting and getting the auto-focussing to lock. In fact it got so confused it “crashed” several times and needed the battery to be taken out to get the poor little creature to reset… I thought I’d be clever and travel light leaving the beast which is the Pentax at home… Poor choice.

Chinnerys’s Southend 15/04/2016

More photos here…

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