24th March 2019
It’s lovely to know there are institutions that last and give a city character, yet the flow of the new passes through. Like a river – always the same, always different.
It must be 20 years or more since I was last in the Grove and it hasn’tc hanged. A really friendly small back room of a pub, full of hardcore folk enthusiasts. And the new (new to me) talent was The Goat Roper Rodeo Band. Already on their third album and with years of individual experience behind them, they still feel new and exciting. A little like first hearing early Pogues, the band shocks by stripping old traditions down to their roots and it feels like hearing some moonshine band rattling the bottles. Yet the musicianship is amazing, perfectly practised yet loose and thrilling.
Tom on bass twists and grooves. He is constantly in motion, doing little twirling hippie dances, slapping at the bass and keeping time with his hips and shoulders as much as his fingers. He sings quite adenoidal, like some Appalachian prospector. To his side, Sam on rhythm guitar, sings quite high in the register. Jom, Tom’s brother, pulls lead guitar duty alongside other lead vocals. All preferring character over tone in lead (and we wouldn’t want it any other way), they harmonise and the effect is sweet as syrup. The sound is fresh and live as they alternate new and old songs – the new standing out as particularly tuneful. There are blues rocker belters, there are melancholic bittersweet ballads, and a bit of everything in between. They play an hour, it feels like half that and I would happily have doubled what we got.
With frantic energy and good humour, they power through the set at speed till, the crowd demanding more, they abandon the mics and lights and stand in the middle of the crowd, playing and singing totally acoustic. They completely won the room over and after the set the audience was clustered round the tiny merch case. This band channels the spirit of live music and are a great good-time band as well as celebrating the sadness of endings and beginnings. Exciting to see such energy in a great Leeds institution.