Adam Cole at Monk’s Tap House, The Cave

The weekend of National Day … Friday night and I’m in, washing my hair, playing The Killers loudly enough to block out the sounds of people daring to have fun whilst I have no plans. Having left my hairdryer in the UK, I just wait for my hair to dry. On this particular Friday night I decide to do the social media circuit, in the order they appear on my iPad, whilst waiting for said hair to dry.

I only get as far as Instagram, however and only a few posts in because on scrolling down, a friend’s post leaps out at me and my night is sorted.

‘Can I just turn up?’ I message him, thinking he won’t reply because he’s about to get up and perform.

But he does: ‘Just turn up,’ he replies.

So off I wander, with demi-sec hair, down to the taxi station, to barter with a taxi driver over the cost of a five minute drive. On the verge of returning home to get my car and drinking fruit juice all evening, I reach a satisfactory conclusion with the taxi driver and off we go to Monk’s Tap House at The Cave, Darsait Heights.

A five minute drive but a ten minute farewell with the taxi driver.

‘I come later? Take you home?’

‘That would be good,’ I reply.

‘In one hour? In two hours?’

‘Er … I don’t know – I’ll take your number.’

Number taken.

‘Now you call me. A missed call.’

‘Why?’

‘Then I have your number.’

‘Why do you need my number?’

This goes on for some time until I tell him that it’s a nice night and I feel like walking home. Which is obviously a lie as that would mean walking down a busy multi-lane carriageway for quite some time, but I’m walking away from him anyway …

The Cave is a labyrinth of bars, clubs and restaurants pretty much inside a mountain. Hence the name. It actually is a series of caves. I found Monk’s Tap House and there was the star performer, sitting down to a platter heaving with … well, everything. He offered me a spicy chicken wing and I said ‘Aren’t you supposed to be performing?’

He looked around and looked back at me and I saw what he saw – an empty venue.

Adam Cole is one of the most relaxed people I know. Many would have reacted differently but when you’re as at ease with yourself as Mr Cole is and you have every confidence in your musical prowess (and quite rightly so) then why stress?

I joined him and his lovely wife and a friend of theirs (who turned out to be my niece’s friend’s uncle … and yes, it is strange that we managed to make that connection within minutes of meeting each other) and waited for him to make a dent in the heaving platter of everything.

At some point this happened and the show began … a few people had arrived by this time, so it was starting to feel like a proper gig. I was expecting one or two other band members to arrive but Adam is a one-man band. At times, he says, he is joined by a fellow musician or two, but not this night.

A few songs in and I realised that I had completely taken it for granted that I felt like I was listening to a full band. I only ever see Adam play a guitar but I know that he can play many instruments and this was evidenced in his elaborate set-up. He was lead guitarist but flanked by electronic representations of other instruments and considering the number of songs he played, this was clearly a reflection of many hours of preparation.

But what about his performance? Flawless, of course. This was my first experience of Adam at a gig; I have seen him play many times at his popular Open Mic sessions at Copper, but hitherto not at a gig.

Primarily a rock musician, we (not just the three of us – the venue filled at the same rate as our glasses) were treated to covers of Pink Floyd, REM, U2, Oasis … to name a few. All the best rock bands. And when it came to Breakfast at TIffany’s, I marveled at the fact that I had not heard that song for a number of years until the night before, when I was at another gig and here I was hearing it for a second time not 24 hours later. I came to the conclusion that rock music is a bit of a hit in Muscat.

I am in awe of Adam’s tenacity … he reminds me of one of those bunnies from the Duracell adverts. (Well, his tenacity does – you can see from the pictures that he doesn’t look like a bunny at all.) He just keeps going and he shows no signs of flagging and he even had the good grace to turn and smile, while I was taking pictures of his performance. By the time he finished, it was a full venue and by the way, it’s a cool venue. I did not sample their culinary delights but I could see that they were of a good standard. Pleasant staff (who even gave me the WiFi code because I ran out of data) and as with all the venues in The Cave, great ambience. Of course, being inside a mountain gives you a headstart but you have to get the lighting just right to get that ‘inside a cave’ atmosphere, which they do to perfection.

Adam Cole: catch him at Copper Restaurant (Sayh Al Malih Street) every Tuesday night and also performing all over Muscat, so look out for the posters!

Monk’s Tap House: https://www.facebook.com/monkstaphouse/

Reviewed by Lisa O’Connor on Friday 17th November 2017

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‘The T-Band’ at Route 66, Qurm Resort

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage and indoorHaving only been in residence in Muscat for a few months, I am still on a newcomer’s voyage of discovery of the live music scene. Initially, I didn’t think there was one. I asked around on arrival and I was told that Cliff Richard was soon to perform at the Royal Opera House Muscat; much as I liked Cliff Richard back in the day, it wasn’t quite what I meant. But gradually, I am peeling back the layers of this busy, bright city to reveal a hidden gem of rock and folk music (I’ll let you know when I stumble across any other genres – I am certain they are here somewhere!).

So when I went out a couple of weeks ago, having made an arrangement to meet friends at ‘a bar where you can dance’, I was unaware that I was about to attend a gig. I raised an eyebrow or two at the entrance fee, mumbling that there were other bars ‘where you can dance’ that do not require an entrance fee. That said, it was clearly one of the smarter hostelries in town, proffering that typically Muscat hospitality of a cornucopian supply of peanuts with your beverages (guaranteed to make you drink more of course, as your mouth starts to feel like the surrounding desert) and popcorn also. Not a personal favourite, but my friends enjoyed it and I managed to avoid telling them how wasteful their posh fragrances were, because all I could smell on them was popcorn.

But when a four-strong band hit the stage and confidently started to throw out some cool nostalgia, I realised that I had paid to see a live rock band.

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing and indoor

They had me at ‘Turn Back Time’ but then they had me a bit more with ‘Creep’ and then again with ‘Losing My Religion’.

When we reached ‘Breakfast at TIffany’s’, one of my friends commented that it was a good song.

‘You know this song?’

‘Yes!’ he said, while his friend laughed.

‘No,’ he admitted, ‘I never heard it in Pakistan but I can like it if I want!’

Absolutely – and testament to a good song – moreover a good cover of a good song, that you can hear it for the first time and like it.

Pink Floyd … Bob Marley … Police … this band has boundless energy and a repertoire to match. I started to jot down the songs but I was there for a drink and a boogie so when there was the inevitable migration from the edges to the dance floor at the centre, I joined my fellow revellers to start my weekend.

I recall a crescendo of Queen and Bon Jovi however, as I danced Thursday night into Friday morning and I was glad that they were playing covers, because much as I love original music, people don’t always dance to little-known songs.

Front man Tarek Khorshid is a powerhouse; flanked by fellow guitarist Adil and bass player Ashraf, he is ably supported by equally powerful musicians. But then my favourite – because he posed and smiled for my picture whilst continuing to maintain that all-important beat at the back of the stage – Akbar on the drums. The newest addition to the band apparently and clearly only there because his name begins with an ‘A’, but what a stroke of luck that he turned out to be as talented as the other three.

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The T-Band: worth checking out every other Thursday at Route 66 and other venues and more than just a rock band – it’s just that they played mostly rock when I saw them!

https://www.facebook.com/pg/The-T-Band-306340852718661/about/?ref=page_internal

 

Route 66: worth checking out at the weekend for a classy boogie and pleasant outlook over Shatti beach

https://www.facebook.com/Route66Oman/app/267091300008193/?ref=page_internal

 

Reviewed by Lisa O’Connor at Route 66 on Thursday 16th November 2017

Huffman: Swarm and Exist In Mist

Firmly established as a rock band, I was not expecting Huffman’s new release ‘Swarm’ to have an intro of haunting piano and equally atmospheric percussion (Paul Provensano). Despite Don Huffman launching into his rock star vocals early on, the piano continues to repeat variations on the same phrase throughout the song, coming to the fore during instrumental breaks and definitely giving this talented rock band an alternative/indie edge. With three accomplished musicians on strings (Kurtis Goad on rhythm guitar, Josh Pickeral on bass and Anton Tuvelman on lead guitar), as with all the best rock bands, the instrumental breaks are an integral part of the listening experience. Throw in some enigmatic lyrics with a slightly dark vibe, and this is one song to remember.

Swarm

A more upbeat offering, Exist In Mist hits you with full-on percussion and strings from the outset and continues with an energetic style throughout. Huffman’s vocals are more distant and deliberately less imposing, giving the boys on guitars their rock band moment, which they do to perfection. An abrupt end rounds off the song with as much confidence as the start. Pure rock.

Exist in Mist

http://www.indienink.com 

http://www.facebook.com/huffmanrock 

http://www.mantarayrecords.com 

Lisa O’Connor

Lazer and Levi’s ‘The Prologue’

Lazer & Levi The Prologue

I definitely felt a touch of nostalgia on hearing the opening bars of ‘One More Time’ – the first track on rock duo Lazer and Levi’s EP ‘The Prologue’. Iconic ‘80s rock band Dire Straits came to mind as accomplished lead guitar, then a confident drumbeat (David Laine) promised a rocking first song … which indeed it was. A more mellow opening to second track ‘Just a Game’ reflected a shift in mood; a slower beat (and still I’m reminded of said ‘80s rock band) and a platform for Levi Blehm to show off his impressive vocal range – his honeyed tones hit the high notes with as much consistency as any other notes.

Versatile and Enduring

Track number three, ‘Confessions’, begins with a solid bluesy feel, embracing rock about a minute in. The ability to adapt to a number of genres is the hallmark of a versatile and therefore enduring band, as is an ability to finish a song with a flourish, as demonstrated beautifully here.

Penultimate track ‘Go On’ has an overall feeling of flawlessness and takes us into a country genre with its folky strings and later on, some rousing drums, leaving us with some feelgood motivational lyrics to soften the blow of the (almost) finish.

The aptly-named  ‘Say You Want More’ hits the spot with a lilty, old-timey vibe and some gentle lyrics, fitting for a gentle voice.

Best New Artist

‘Those Boys from Colorado’ have written over a hundred songs and were nominated for the ‘Best New Artist’ in the Rocky Mountain CMA’s (iHeart) and listening to this EP, this is a deserved accolade. I look forward to hearing more from these immensely talented brothers, who have been making their way in the music scene from childhood. And I needed an alternative to iconic ‘80s rock bands …

http://www.lazerandlevimusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/LazerandLevi/

twitter.com/LazerandLevi

Lisa O’Connor

North Star (Markus and the Tenderhooks)

‘Markus and the Tenderhooks’ are a tangible representation of shifting dynamics in music. Just when you think you’ve identified their genre as ‘jazz meets ska meets Britpop’, they open their latest album, ‘North Star’, with a song title that is clearly classical. The magical ‘Prelude in Blue’, gives us Markus Napier’s rich tones narrating a snippet of a story against a backdrop of delightful piano sounds. Occasional phrases reminiscent of familiar classical pieces give an Oriental feel, adding to the mystery, especially with the spoken references to jazz clubs on Broadway.

A leaning towards country vibes brings us the second track, ‘Mother Dear’, which manages to impart a child’s tenderness towards his mother without the schmaltz.

Drawing you in with some stirring drum beats, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in for a rousing anthem, in the opening seconds of third track ‘Yolena’. But in true Tenderhooks style, the rug is pulled out from under you as frontman Markus Napier whisks you back to the ‘80s with a slick Britpop-esque commentary. With the afore-mentioned drumbeats and some pretty string sounds, this is a very musical song, despite the whole story being presented via the spoken word; the whole story being the lowdown on the intriguing and enigmatic Yolena. The latter is the narrator’s neighbour and the object of his affection in a remote, adoring manner and indeed, the catchy chorus is a chant of her name with the fun sounds of a tambourine in the background. With his slightly obtuse, yet very entertaining flair for writing clearly evident throughout the song, Napier has every art form – music, writing, acting – covered in just a few minutes and with its clean, abrupt finish, displays an easy flawlessness.

Definite shades of Billy Bragg are evident in the next track on this musical feast: ‘Little Stunner’, only to be followed by the more reflective ‘Sleep Tight’, which, as its name suggests, has qualities of a lullaby – but on the outside, as you’ll find a more upbeat element in the middle.

North Star

The second half of the album kicks off with the rock’n’roll ‘Russell You Up’, before sliding into the easy reggae beats of the aptly-named ‘Ease Yourself’.

Markus’s trademark saxophone – one of my favourite sounds of this band – makes an appearance in ‘Rubber Necking’ before the penultimate rock track ‘Cry Cry Cry’.

The final track – the album’s namesake – ‘North Star’, seems to be a revelation of the first track, ‘Prelude in Blue’, which is clearly a teaser. With keys, strings and wind, there is nothing short of a full orchestra supporting this enchanting number whose lyrics reveal more to the story of which we only receive hints at the start of the album. If ‘Prelude in Blue’ is pretty, ‘North Star’ is stunning; with minor keys building up to a crescendo of harmony, it is a fitting way to round off an album packed with a dynamic variety of musical genres.

 

‘North Star’ is currently available from Resident Brighton.

 

Lisa O’Connor