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JJB and Music Choice - Sunday (Staffs)

22 August 2004

Sunday lunchtimes at festivals are hazy at the best of times, ideally suited to nursing queasy hangovers with a gentle soundtrack of acoustic musings.

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So we find ourselves in the company of Mohair, an outfit who’ll never set the world on fire but who nevertheless appear content to continue peddling a combination of inoffensive indie-lite and uplifting harmonies. Lead singer, Tom Billington, steps up with a voice reminiscent of James Walsh and possesses a head of hair not entirely dissimilar to Justin Hawkins. Unfortunately, he lacks the star quality of either. Only recent single 'Brown Eyes Blue' breaks the blandness and nudges the band into more absorbing territory.

Our horizontal semi-slumber is then shattered by the arrival of several hundred Muse fans jostling for space in which to swoon to York’s Colour of Fire. It’s too early in the day to be subjected to sub-Placebo symphonies so we retire to the Bacardi B-Bar where Martin Brew’s masterminding an Ibizan cafe ambience. It’s also the bar with the friendliest and funkiest staff who manage to retain beautific smiles whilst knocking up Mojitos with style. Even an order of four different cocktails doesn’t put our man out of step as bottles fly from hand to hand in flawless synchronicity to the beat of the dancefloor; Class in a glass.

Back in the Music Choice tent, Radio 2 chanteuse, Polly Paulusma, breezes into view wearing a floaty flowery dress and cowboy boots. Her friendly inter-song banter ranges from a confession about setting her hair on fire this morning with a camping stove to a sales pitch designed to flog live albums. Such is her amiable exuberance that part of the show almost turns into a Q & A session, which only ends as she takes place at a piano and asks the front row to point out if her knickers are showing, to which one wag retorts, “No!” With a repertoire that harks back to the best of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, it’s also telling when Polly announces that she can’t wait to catch both Keane and Elbow’s sets later in the day.

It’s a shame to miss Mike Skinner’s mate, Kevin Mark Trail, who’s street soul vibes are due to be showcased on a forthcoming debut album, but the black Puma logo of JJB lures us back for Aqualung. The brothers Hale are plagued by sound problems initially that result in the first song being re-started but from this unsettling beginning, a genuinely captivating spectacle emerges. Bathed in Silk Cut purple throughout, Ben and Matt’s every move is subjected to rapturous appreciation from the capacity crowd, none more so than as when the final note of 'Strange And Beautiful' (I’ll Put A Spell On You) rings in our ears. All in all, especially with 'If I Fall' and 'Brighter Than Sunshine', it’s refreshing to observe a haunting and enigmatic collection of songs presented without the accompanying po-faced attitude so beloved of Aqualung’s contemporaries.



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Article by: Wayne Hoyle

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