2nd October | Thekla
It’s often difficult to know what to expect when an artist known primarily as a DJ and an electronic beats purveyor is billed for a ‘live’ set. You can usually expect the act to be spinning their own tracks instead of delivering mixes, but that’s where the ‘live’ element comes into scrutiny. Is ‘live’ just the performance of their own tracks (avoiding the inevitable disappointment of little to no Ross from Friends original material in a Ross from Friends [DJ Set] billing, for example) or does it require some sort of non-pre-programmed instrumentation?
The cool thing about Ross from Friends’ Thekla set was the incorporation of both live track mixing and live instruments; everything was delivered with unexpected bundles of intemperate energy. Ross from Friends – or Felix Weatherall from Colchester as he’s otherwise known – was joined aboard the iconic boat by two session players, Jed Hampson on guitar and John Dunk on synths-cum-brass-instruments.
Although Weatherall – who borrows his pseudonym from everyone’s favourite problematic palaeontologist – is the leading writer and producer of his discography, Hampson and Dunk added some real joie de vivre to the live dynamic. Completing the trio, they acted as a kind of Joey and Chandler, with a combined chemistry to rival that of the original onscreen threesome. While Weatherall twisted and bopped from track-to-track, Hampson climbed across the stage and Dunk whipped out a saxophone to pack things out with a bit of wow-factor (who doesn’t love a sax?).
The Essex lad set the hype machine in motion way, way back in 2015 with ‘(Talk To Me) You’ll Understand’ – a live highlight which had the crowd throwing their hands in the air in raptured adoration – yet only recently released his lauded debut, Family Portrait. His songs were laden with vintage-tinged texturing and effortlessly blended into each other with aesthetic compliments from the background visuals: VHS tapes and trippy colour blots intimately connected with the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ music video.
It was easy to see why much of Bristol was scrambling for a ticket: Ross from Friends captures a certain kind of popular electronic sound that rumbles through our city. While this may be the birthplace of thunderous drum and bass, all kinds of dance music have a home here, even when it sits at the other end of the spectrum to wobbly basslines and thundering breakbeats.
Ross from Friends’ general sound resonates with the likes of DJ Boring, DJ Seinfeld and, to certain extents, Mall Grab, too. And towards the end of the set, the melodic tunes became girthy, seemingly heavily inspired by mighty Irish house legends, Bicep. And that’s not where the influences ended: admittedly, there were nuanced laser zaps that could’ve fitted in Ross Geller’s own iconic electronica set, but overall, we were glad Weatherall’s music is generally distanced far from his predecessor. After this trip aboard the good ship Thekla, Ross Geller must certainly be quaking in his leather trousers.