It’s always a warm greeting as you enter Trowbridge Town Hall, even if, like me on this occasion, you’re running late…..
Prior to my arrival I digested the fact I’d likely forgone the supposed support act, Gavin Osborn, but was dammed if I’d miss Gecko, as since reviewing his sublime second album Climbing Frame back in October 2020, I’ve been aching with the understandable desire to see him pull it off live.
Mellowed piano song oozed from the humble hall ahead, oh no, I figured, Gecko has already begun. Such it is that Gavin recently resigned event coordination at the hall to the capable hands of then sound engineer, Kieran Moore, I assumed he was billed as a kind of farewell to his previous position, unmindful I’d emerge from the Hall a Gavin Osborn fan too. Even by the evening’s culmination I was also dubious of suggestions the two were collaborative, or if it was just banter between them.
But it seems a tag-touring-team is a reality, and given I’d mistaken Gavin for Gecko in the vestibule, who could be more apt to work with for the reptilian-named poet-esque singer? For luckily, Gavin was still on the subtle stage, virtually stripped bare of instrumentation save a banjo, microphone, music stand and randomly placed hardback chair.
Yet a guy looking remarkably like photos I’d used of Gecko accompanied him on a piano, tucked away by a side door. After the song I’d made my stealth entrance to was over, the pianist sat behind me. Uncertain glances behind affirmed, if there was a gecko in the room it was undeniably him, giggling at Gavin’s witty prose. I suppose this, coupled with their styles so similar I mistook the pair, should’ve been damming evidence this was more than a headliner and support act thrown in for sentiment, but what can I defend myself with, naivety caused by surviving on powernaps?!
In this, is the delight of the communal venue too. If there’s a stage green room it’s unused every time I visit; awaiting performers merge into the audience. This is no venue for egotistical celebs, and with barely raised stage and modest lighting, it’s a non-gimmick venue which bases solely on performance rather than dazzling affects. Professionalism and proficiency given, if you can hold an audience spellbound with such minimal affects and props.
Both did with bells on, and while I suspected the case with Gecko, Gavin was the surprise element. Akin to Gecko, Gavin is more storyteller than singer, though splices of prominent points were executed through great folky vocals, and highly amusing prose. Unlike Gecko, Gavin’s baseplate is folk, who through exceptionally crafted verse reminded me of the sentimentality of our own folk hero, Jamie R Hawkins.
Perhaps more akin to Beans on Toast, lacking Ozzie tinge, through observational narratives he weaved through subjects with spellbinding accuracy, hinging on familiarisation; I identified with many, particularly the amusing banjo led ditty of an aged fellow sneaking out to gigs while his wife seemed blissfully unaware in her slumber! But with heart-melting twists, Gavin wraps them up amusingly, either echoing retrospective contemplation or hinting at his political stance.
Time for Gecko’s opening song; could be anything less than the hilarious start of his album, Can’t Know all the Songs, which counteracts those who shout requests. Virtually unplugged he executed highlights of the album acoustically, and gave us unheard of tunes too, passing off his lack of backing as witty repartee. Such as pausing the song to switch from singing to kazoo during an amusing and uplifting tale of the Tamworth Two pigs, Butch and Sundance, who escaped their fate at a Malmsbury abattoir in 1998.
On this note it’s appropriate to highlight the major reason Gecko is so utterly entertaining, for not through particular quality of musician, though he is a natural, rather his choice of content and subject is so original, and his method of metaphorically weaving it into a more general point. Who writes a song from the POV of escaping pigs, or a dog sent into space? But better still, who can bend such narrative into a point you identify with? It’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in song.
It’s a classic formula attributed to authors rather than songwriters, and Gecko reigns as either, acting with pseudo-confidence, encouraging audience participation to save him hiring a gospel choir, planning out a cliché encore by hiding behind the piano, even submitting profit margin differences between buying his CD here and streaming his music.
I think I put too much emphasis on hip hop in my album review, as his rap-fashion tendency contradicts his indie-pop overall, making it his unique style, part nerdy, part too cool for skool, but through stripped back live performance it is clear his devotion is with the latter, indie-pop acoustic goodness. A fashion with ageless attraction. But whatever pigeonhole you opt for, it’s undeniably entertaining.
If I’ve an only criticism the show was too short, the comeback is both Gavin and Gecko can suck you into their stories so time passes unnoticed, coupled with my late arrival of which I’ve only myself to blame!
Another wonderful evening at Trowbridge Town Hall, building a reputation for introducing a variety of interesting and upcoming acts, affordably; you need to be putting future dates in your diary.
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