April 11, 2024
The pub sign of the Hope and Anchor with its subtle tip of the hat to its punk heritage

The dingy basement looks pretty much like any other small music venue in London, but history certainly oozes from the walls of the Hope and Anchor in Islington. The Clash and The Damned played here, as did The Police and U2 (apparently to an audience of 6!). That rich heritage is even more remarkable when you see how small the place is – a capacity of 80 for tonight’s sold-out gig. Space is so tight that the tiny bar at the back was closed to allow it to act as the merchandise desk. For tonight’s gig, the evening opened with a special guest, Kunal Singhal, who used his own vocal improvisations fed through a loop station to create a unique and hypnotic wall of sound.  I’m not sure that the level of mystique created was aided by him wearing a bathrobe (!), but the audience were genuinely appreciative all the same. Candidly admitting that he’d finished his set early, he got members of the audience to improvise with him. All in all, it was an entertaining warm-up for the main event.

The first of the night’s double-bill to take the stage were Cabiria, a three-piece instrumental band.  Their music tended to veer between post-rock intensity, reflective stoner moments, and some quite ferocious pure prog metal riffing.  Guitarist Rory Padfield was certainly very confident in his licks and ably supported by some pounding drums, and some driving bass (from Stu Harris who with his exaggeratedly long curly locks looked the spitting image of Les Holroyd in the ‘70s).

Cabiria getting into the groove

There’s no doubt that Cabiria’s is type of music that works well in the live environment where you can physically feel the rhythm section and get lost in the groove. Their opening track had shades of Rush, while the third and most laid-back piece even had a surprising little jazz break in it. This variety kept things interesting. They played an excellent ten-minute stoner anthem called Trellick from their debut album, but then flagged that this was the only song they were playing from that album – the rest of the set was all new material from their upcoming sophomore release. The band were not forthcoming with the name of the new album, or songs played from it, but there was one standout track which they judiciously played last. Drummer Kye Philips did introduce that last song with the phrase ‘you can headbang to this one’, and indeed rather than heads turning to the bar for the interval, they did nearly all headbang away to a man (and woman) because it was a fine song full of crunching metal riffing and a great way to end the set.  

Teiger in the spotlight

The casual club-band attire of Cabiria was matched by two-thirds of Tieger: bassist Philip Eldridge-Smith, in a Teiger T-shirt and jeans, and drummer Jon Steele who could have stood by the entrance and everyone would have just assumed he was the bouncer. The third element of Teiger though was Talie Rose Eigeland, elegantly dressed in black and with a cream Stetson hat, all of which nicely offset her white Kramer guitar. She stood out like an elf in Mordor. You could have been forgiven for thinking Teiger were a similar band to Cabiria as they opened with an instrumental, The Crawl, with Eigeland’s fingerpicking having a bit of a stoner vibe to it. But as they moved through a set based around their debut album, a very different sound emerged, much more alt-rock with energetic moments mixed with more thoughtful and relaxed segments. But central to everything was Eigeland’s voice, at times delicate and meandering, at times soulful, and at others more forceful.

To these ears, and judging also by the reaction of the audience, the highlights of Teiger’s set were the two brand new songs they played. The lengthy slow-paced Luna was a wonderfully atmospheric prog piece, with a slow angelic vocal giving way to reflective instrumental breaks. Yes, Eigeland’s voice and guitar is what the audience will remember, but my eyes were drawn to how Steele’s light-handed and varied percussion kept the piece moving gently forward. This is very intelligently crafted music. In contrast, the second new song, Chalkduster, was a thrilling upbeat affair driven along by Eldridge-Smith’s bass, and with Eigeland’s voice taking on a distinctly Grace Slick tone. Teiger’s debut album is a fine set of songs, but with new material like these two, the eventual second album is shaping up to be something very special indeed.    

With the demographics at prog-related gigs frequently slanted towards the over-50s, it was a joy to see such a young, vibrant and appreciative audience. Credit also goes to promoter Chris Parkins of London Prog Gigs, and of course the Hope and Anchor who, rather than just milking their ‘70s and ‘80s heritage, continue to promote young and exciting bands. Long may they continue to do so.