Sometimes music is just right for the moment. Sometimes it really isn’t. In those cases where, like planets of astrological importance, physical tiredness, emotional state and musical style do not align it doesn’t matter how good the band is you can still find yourself leaving the venue feeling a little hollow. In short, not the auspicious of moments. Whilst being at the gig was almost certainly better than being in many other places at that given moment, not all music heals or energises to its full potential all of the time.
On some occasions the very act of looking forwards to the gig is what’s important. It’s an anchor to hold on to and an event to count down to through the turbulence of the week. This can make a lot of things more bearable, even if when the moment arrives you’re so shattered you’re not sure you’re going to make it through the whole evening although the excuse to leave the office at a sensible hour is very welcome!
It was at the end of one such chaotic, tumultuous and exhausting week that I wound my way to Rough Trade in a state of general mental disarray to see Ultimate Painting unsure whether this was really a good idea or not.
Ultimate Painting are the duo of Jack Cooper and James Hoare who are joined by bassist Will Young and drummer Bill Roe when playing live. Lampy plumped for a simple and effective lighting scheme for the show lighting the backdrop in blue using the house power-bricks, whilst washing the front of the stage with warm white light from the pair of birdies mounted on the crossbar of the speaker truss. This picked up bassist Will standing in the centre of the stage, and on the left of the stage, James either on guitar or sat at his keyboard perfectly, but as usual the pillar on the righthand side of the stage resulted in some troublesome lighting in that area.
With the stage extending behind the pillar and lighting truss on the right of the stage, the lighting kit tends to end up more or less in front, or at an acute angle to the performer on that side of the stage. All of this meant that Lampy had to angle the power-bricks very carefully in order not to completely blind Jack on guitar and vocals and meant that unless he was right up close to the microphone Jack mostly lurked in the darkness. That set up a challenging shot to play for. By waiting for Jack to lean in close to the microphone where he was just about caught by the edge of the beam from the birdie overhead, and by spot metering on Jacks face I was able throw the rest of the scene in to shadow and use the darker background to frame his face.
Together the augmented Ultimate Painting play beautifully crafted music rich with atmospheric harmonies and soft electric guitar hooks oozing charm twined with wry, observational lyrics. Ultimate Painting play the kind of melodies that, if you let them, tend to get stuck in your head and are hard to shake. These aren’t songs that push the musical envelope. Ultimate Painting’s the songs feel familiar, comforting and there’s a splendid simplicity and lack of clutter to the soundscape the band creates. Ultimate Painting might not be the most challenging music, but their songs are done incredibly well and it’s impossible not to feel good and relax into their sound.
There was even a little moderate “rocking out” (lower case) to finish off the set. Admittedly this not the kind of Rocking Out that sends shards of drumstick scything towards the crowd or expels mic-stands from the stage, that would have seemed out of place. Instead the set finished perfectly with guitars set to “jangle”, some significant head bobbing and potentially some uncharacteristically firm foot tapping.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say I left Rough Trade in a much better state than when I arrived. I was definitely smiling much more!
Rough Trade East 07/10/2016