First up we have a performer we’ve never come across. We’re glad we stumbled upon him tonight. Originally from the US and now living in Shanghai, Ross GB kicks off the evening’s musical proceedings. Armed with guitar, pedals and a good voice to boot we’re treated to a set of songs catchy enough to leave us wanting more. Ross GB’s influences are not immediately obvious. So we’d assume they must be wide-ranging. An interesting artist. Find him on Bandcamp here.
Given the fact he’s been traveling all around China on the weekends and this is his final spring tour date you’d be forgiven for assuming John Carroll would be a little worn out from the road. But he emerges seeming as energized as ever, a lean, mean songwriting machine. Opening with ‘Gravedigger’, it’s immediately obvious the constant gigging has made him very much on top of his game – those arms and fingers fully whipped into shape. The voice is slightly on the hoarse side and whether that’s the result of singing his heart out show after show or the air pollution is anyone’s guess. But a bit of a rasp can often add more than it takes away and with tracks such as ‘Ambushed From All Sides’ and ‘Thin Air’ this is definitely true. Also benefiting from a bit of grit tonight are ‘If You Know How’ and ‘Snare Traps’. Whilst golden oldies such as ‘Don’t Shield Your Eyes’ and some interesting cover versions in the form of ‘Ask’ (The Smiths) and ‘Never Talking To You’ (Husker Du) are extremely pleasing on the ears, when Carroll drops down a notch for some tender moments with the songs ‘Migrant Bird’ and ‘Great White Shark’ the natural talent really stands out – songsmithery at its finest.
Whilst Carroll’s most recent album ‘Aviation’ forms a marked contrast to what preceded it in the form of ‘Cenotaph Tapes’, in that it is arguably a lot more expansive and experimental in its layering of different textures and sounds, this evening we are reminded that at its core it’s still all about the songs, as it should be. In essence, it’s striking how well this material works with just vocal and a guitar, once everything else is stripped away. Let’s hope it’s not too long until we have a new EP or album and that we see both of tonight’s artists playing live in Hangzhou again before too long. In the meantime, purchase some music here.
Photos by Noora.