John Myrtle // Live Review & Photoset

4th August | Café Kino

Photos: Jon Kean

Obviously, it is eternally fitting to host a swathe of hip, indie millennials in the basement of a Stokes Croft vegan café. The only question being does the music outweigh the suitability of the venue? The answer is yes, but also partially no.

First on stage is the multi-limbed collective Hamburger, with so many musicians on stage that they almost congeal into one organism. This proves to be a fitting analogy as the band certainly harmonize and gel to an impressive extent, producing a communal and inviting presence. Their delicate indie bops, delivered in a raspy, pixie wisp offer hints of 60s psychedelia atop a summery haze. This lands as a truly infectious demeanour in a twee, Hugh Grant kind of way that spills into their stage persona as they trade jokes with the crowd. Their decidedly rom-com personality offers up, in my mind, the perfect description of the band ‘like The Strokes, if you swap New York for Oxford’.

The main support doesn’t quite offer up the same enjoyment as their predecessors. Benjamin Spike Saunders open up with blankets of flange and flair that is almost reminiscent of DIIV, without the weight. I’m initially hopeful, though unfortunately this peters out into poems about sphincters and humorous asides that take up most of the stage time. Despite the clear confidence, this is posturing – more a band that wants to be seen than heard.

Luckily the brilliant John Myrtle brings the night back on track. From his first notes, a dulcet, laconic air of nostalgia fills the room with trills of guitar and raspy snares backing up an uplifting and idiosyncratic vocal. It would seem that his live set-up substitutes some of his more psych production for a folk-twinged and endearing sense of personality that somehow bleeds into the compositions themselves. These tracks often dip into minor diversions before reaching a major cadence offering a sense of resolution that acts to amplify Myrtle’s charming yet humble delivery.

Whilst many tracks hover around a laid-back tempo, filled with spring blooms and splashes of cymbal, there is a surprising amount of diversity amongst the setlist. In particular ‘Beware of Love’ becomes an anxious jitter that immediately reminds me of In Rainbows-era Radiohead with the creeping energy of ‘Jigsaw Falling into Place’ or ‘Faust Arp’. These minor twists that poke their heads around every corner seem ripped straight from the pages of The Kinks or The Animals, though John’s highly personal vocal ability cements his work as truly his own.

Rounding out the night with some purely Americana, folk-inspired cuts filled with looming strokes of guitar, it becomes clear that Myrtle and his band possess the passion and ability to take this project to some incredibly interesting places. I’m truly looking forward to what comes next.

Listen to ‘How Can You Tell If You Love Her’ here: