One of the joys of living in Bath is the proximity of Moles to my flat which is situated just a five-minute walk away. After a frustrating day dealing with a variety of tradespersons haplessly endeavouring to fit my new kitchen, it was something of a relief to step outside into the chilly Friday night air and wander across the High Pavement to one of Bath’s most erstwhile institutions. Since it first opened its doors on New Year’s Eve in 1978, Moles has hosted an eye-watering list of bands many of whom gravitated to household name status including Oasis, The Smiths, Radiohead and, uhm, Ed Sheeran.
On a personal note, I used to manage a local band back in the day and I vividly remember humping their gear down into the subterranean stage area for a couple of showcase gigs frequented by the influential A&R men who had the power to make or break an artist in the pre-internet age. Ironically, it was whilst playing at one of these gigs that my band management career was curtailed as the group in question were easily seduced by the smooth-talking promises of a ponytailed muso who only had to namecheck David Bowie and a few record labels to ensure that I was unceremoniously sacked. Needless to say, all of those promises turned out to be as empty as the venue itself as an unknown band fromWarminster failed to draw a crowd from Bath’s oh so cool indie fraternity.
The passing of over thirty years has done little to dilute these memories which always come flooding back to life whenever I enter Moles. Unpretentious and decidedly lacking in glamour, I always think that Moles fails to make enough of its illustrious heritage despite the cheaply framed monochrome posters and ‘wall of fame’ collage in the upstairs bar referencing those who have graced its compact stage. Perhaps it is due to my age that I increasingly recognise the significance and contribution that venues such as Moles have made to the indie music scene throughout the decades especially when so many similar venues are closing.
These thoughts aside, I am genuinely excited at the prospect of seeing Bristol-based Emily Breeze after stumbling across the video for her debut single, ‘Limousines’, a few weeks ago on Facebook. Clearly, I am not alone as Moles gently fills with a mix of reassuringly arty types ranging in age from millennial to mid-life. A sense of anticipation gently evolves as the support band, Charivari, display considerable promise with their blend of sonic indie-rock awash with reverb. Refreshingly, Emily and her band were also in the audience to support the support (if you know what I mean) which typified the spirit of the evening.
During the interval, the good-natured atmosphere intensified outside as hitherto smoking strangers swapped cherished stories and a shared a reverence for The Sisters’, Bauhaus and Siouxsie, plus the enduring fashions of Viv Westwood and Boy. These reference points seem more significant than ever and I love meeting people who appreciate the genuine pioneers of a movement that transformed notions of music, fashion, publishing and art. Encouragingly, this appreciation increasingly transcends the generations as typified by a thirty-something girl in a leather-mini and ripped tights who told me she wished she grew up in the early eighties; I would swap her twenty odd years on me any day, but I get where she was coming from.
And so to the star attraction. From the moment she takes the stage, Emily Breeze exudes a brooding confidence that captivates the room. Striking in a white dress, snakeskin heals and the reddest of lips (like sugar) with a low-hung Gretsch that screams pure rock n’ roll, she casts a mesmerising focal point for the band that comprises bass, guitar, drums and keys. Inevitably, it is Emily who will grab the headlines, but this was a genuine collective performance characterised by an uber-cool back line groove, delicate synths and a restrained guitarist who instantly won my respect by wearing a Suicide t-shirt.
Effortlessly in synch, the tempo seamlessly switched from latent anger-fuelled aggression to gentle but somewhat menacing ballads; Emily’s heartfelt words alternate between the venomous and the loving, but her poise remains unwavering and devoid of compromise. Lazy writers would perhaps reference Lana del Ray or Amy Winehouse, but neither tell the whole story. Refusing to adopt the role of diva or victim, Emily’s intoxicating persona transcends comparison and obliterates the myriad of ‘women in rock’ clichés doing the media rounds; I suspect her mantra would be something along the lines of, “take it or fucking leave it”.
After just a couple of songs, I sense that the audience realise they are witnessing something special; I feel exactly the same and note hitherto reticent individuals moving closer to the stage to record the spectacle. My height stops me from doing the same as I am always conscious that anyone standing behind me will have their view obscured by a lanky, balding bloke waving an iPhone. The early inclusion of ‘Limousines’ destroyed convention and heralds a breath-taking increase in intensity as the band cruise through the heart of the set; each and every component in unison and it beggars believe that this is only their fifth gig. A brilliant rendition of Amanda Lear’s ‘Follow Me’ crystallises the bands’ provenance reinforced by an impromptu encore of ‘Raining in My Heart’ by Buddy Holly.
I have always admired bands that acknowledge their influences and Emily Breeze clearly respects her place in the rock n’ roll lineage and adds a sprinkling of God-given talent and natural charisma. The bands willingness to mingle with the spellbound audience upon leaving the stage typified the spirit of the occasion which will live long in the memory.