Last week saw the arrival of Brighton Live, a six-day music festival during which over 250 local bands played free gigs around the city to poor people like me who wouldn't normally part with cash to go and see them. Sadly I missed a free concert on Tuesday night by Jake Shillingford of ‘My Life Story’, which took place only 200 yards from my flat, because despite my girlfriend being a huge fan of the band, she wasn't quite enough of a devotee to know the lead singer's name, and we therefore failed to realise who he was.
But fortunately there were no such mistakes on Thursday, when the Prince Albert in Trafalgar Street welcomed the legend that is Chris Difford. Both my girlfriend and I are big enough Squeeze fans to have heard of the man, and I’m pleased to say that despite being an international pop star for more than thirty years, he’s not above playing a free gig in a room over a pub at 1:15pm on a Thursday afternoon.
Well I say 1:15pm. That's the time he was due to start, but I can't be certain that he did, because sadly we weren't there. Yes, in a shocking twist of fate, my girlfriend and I arrived late, which is not like us at all. Unfortunately, due to our hectic schedule of engagements (which involved watching the first half of ‘Loose Women’ and eating crisps), we were unable to leave before 1:05pm. It then took us twenty minutes to walk to the pub, a further ten minutes to wander aimlessly up and down Trafalgar Street trying to find the pub, and a final five minutes in the pub trying to find Chris Difford.
But at 1:40pm, having spotted a handwritten piece of paper stuck to the wall saying "Chris Difford upstairs -->" (it was hardly the name in lights I was expecting), we eventually came crashing through a closed door into a darkened room just as he finished 'Black Coffee in Bed'. But the good thing about making a noisy entrance right at the end of an intimate gig is that it gets you noticed. So as we sat down on the floor at the front to worship at the man’s feet, Chris turned to the audience and announced how guilty he felt at finishing the gig just as we'd arrived. He then exchanged a few words with my girlfriend, who persuaded him to do an encore, and he duly sang 'Tempted'. It was possibly the finest four-minute concert I've ever attended.
So inspired by our brief encounter with Chris Difford, we decided to make the most of Brighton Live by going to the Joogleberry Playhouse that evening to see ‘Floors and Walls’. They might sound like a cleaning product, but they're actually an alternative pop-rock band who are almost young enough (although far too talented) to be my children. They were ably supported by Mascara (who were there to make-up the numbers), an all-girl trio who list among their influences 'each other' and 'chocolate'.
Both bands are signed to local record label South Coast Sounds, which in Mascara's case is a bit of a shame because it precludes them from entering The X Factor, and with the dirge which regularly passes for vocal talent on that show, I'm telling you now, they would walk it. Lead singer Stephanie had the kind of voice which would make Michelle McManus crawl under a rock in shame. That's if she could find a rock big enough.
As for ‘Floors and Walls’, they were excellent. It’s not every day you find a band who combine guitar rock, catchy pop melodies and rap in such a way that even a skinflint like me ends up buying their album. Visiting their MySpace site and watching the video for their second single ‘The Stand’, which was filmed in the multi-storey car park down at the marina, you don't realise just what a stunning voice Alex Adams has. If I were him I'd spend less time rapping, and more time showing people how well I can sing. But what do I know? I'm 34 and I can’t even get to a Chris Difford gig on time. I don't think they need my advice.