Venue & Support: Various throughout the Summer of 2008
Despite Phil confidently predicting on a sunny Saturday morning that it was the first day of summer, my chronometer (with the handy calendar function) told me we were well into September already, and that, wishful thinking and global warming aside, Summer was now Over. A good summer, all told, as I took to behaving like an uncommitted student with a line of credit and generally did Grand and Noble things (at least in my eyes, especially after four or five large quaffs of the regular, please, landlord). However, the highlight of the Summer of 2008 has been without a doubt having the privilege and pleasure of following The Further Adventures of Vodka Boy on their travels around Milton Keynes. They’ve been creating a bit of a stir...
In simple terms Vodka Boy are, as they tell us in their eponymous, autobiographical track, Martin on guitar and Matthew on voice, and simplicity is certainly part of the duo’s charm. Each a composer of particular parts of their oeuvre, they seem to resonate best when pared down tunes match thoughtful, mainly wistful but oddly hopeful lyrics, with the odd finger click. While the chords are sparse and clean, the singing is powerful and pure. The diction is so good there is absolutely no need for lyric sheets, while each strum of Martin’s guitar is delivered with Swiss timing. It’s catchy. First time listeners have been known to sing along to choruses at the first repeat.
But it isn’t all simplicity. There really is something about these guys, something that captivates. Martin broods into his guitar, and amazingly keeps himself to himself on the stage. It seems to leave Matthew with sole possession of the stage, onto which he graciously invites all to partake of the experience. The man has chutzpah, huevas, balls. Listen to him singing ‘Blonde Girl on a Summer’s Day’, or Bon Jovi’s ‘Blaze of Glory’ and you get a sense of the fun that these two have together – it leaks out toward the audience. Matthew has a stage presence that seems to amplify ‘Essence of Band’ by a factor of 10. Used as headliners, they wrap up an evening so comprehensively, you know they were meant to be, were born to be, the headliners of that particular show. On their ‘Back To The Land Tour’ this summer (the resultant ‘Live’ CD is due for release at sometime in the near future), they’ve played without support, in fields, in woods, in corners of poetry stages, but always Convincingly. Festival season in Milton Keynes was continually augmented by their presence. Their music was mixed up with a few catchy covers, and a new track ‘Thistledown’ getting it’s first airing. But throughout, the delivery was a matter of professional consistency. This is Milton Keynes ‘Premier Acoustic Duo’. But they already know this. They’ve added in the lyric to their story track.
But the highlight for me was as a warm up act at a vast July evening party where the drinking and socialising had not yet begun. Everyone was in their own little groups, minding their own business, and wondering what the night was going to bring them. Vodka Boy took the stage to murmuring, chatting little groups, uninterested in any entertainment they could not provide themselves. Matthew greeted them to little effect. Martin hit the first chord meaningfully, Matthew hit the sing button and scores of heads snapped round, suddenly, unwillingly, unavoidably hooked. The party was a Great Party.
If there are any criticisms of the band I have to make it’s that Vodka Boy still play locally, unfazed by their burgeoning reputation, just seeming to ‘want to get the music out there’. There are rarely large crowds, but a large crowd would add to the magic. It’s charming, but the talent is obvious and you are left to wonder what the hell they are still doing here. Not that you’ll complain. I’ve yet to see anyone do so who has come across them. They are even starting to get together a ‘Stable’ of acts together and putting ‘Evenings’ on. Not that they need it. You have every opportunity of getting to see them. The Monkey Kettle editor is well apprised of their movements and should be able to tell you of their next appearance. I advise you to see them. They really are that good.