with Little Scout and Whitaker

Gold, love and Oxford Street... No, it’s not the Mardi Gras but rather Helen Croome a.k.a. Gossling in the form of a harmony-rich 4-piece band, rolling out a few numbers from new debut album Field of Gold and three previous EPs. In between playing guitar, keyboard and singing, Croome's softly spoken reminder to check out the CD stall for her long awaited album unexpectedly brought the audience to cheers. Also for sale were “sunflower seeds… so you can have your very own field of gold”, to which the ladies in the crowd went "awww".

Opening the night was the relatively stripped-down quiet Whitaker to an early fringe-dwelling crowd of about 80 chatty hipsters who later raised some whistles and hoots, mainly due to Whitaker’s strong vocals, fine guitar play and the night’s first (and probably best) beard. Though there were probably at least eight people who thought it was Matt Corby and maybe another five whose phone apps suggested Damien Rice, the momentum lifted slowly into songs like ‘Wichita’ while some others exposed bare bones, as though yearning for a whistle or hoot of their own, a loop, a woman's touch, or even that one extra instrument. As it was, Whitaker's pitch-perfect and ultra-humble simplicity made them probably the best acoustic male folk busker combo in town at that moment.

Little Scout = big energy! The band that looks like it should be selling books rather than records (in that endearingly odd Belle & Sebastian way) know how to write some great indie pop rock, but also how to stand and deliver. Driven by pint-sized Melissa Tickle's massive vocals and Miro Mackie's drumming, the 5-piece took it up to the nearing-capacity Art Factory, which quietly projected bawdy old dance hall films onto the walls, while the art space / glass cube contained an oriental origami expert busy at work whilst nude except for some tiny origami pants, or was that a nappy?

Little Scout rounded out their set with a stellar cover of ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ and threw lavish praise towards the mixing desk for "the best we’ve ever sounded", a mutual sentiment because other than the Turin Brakes gig earlier this year, I can't recall a better live mix & performance at The OAF.

Gossling was just as cool, calm and disaffected as that oft-seen promo shot of her saluting almost like a Thunderbird. That wholesome purity echoed in her delivery throughout the show as she sung and spoke in equally childlike and laconic measures. She obviously hasn’t just seen the freshly chundered landscape outside, on a muggy Saturday night that was beginning to resemble a scene from The Walking Dead.

Whilst supporting Wild Beasts here in 2011 as a newish solo act the only thing missing was her band, so this show was like an upgrade offering a few years' worth of extra material including songs like ‘Big Love’, ‘Wild Love’, ‘Ancient Love’ (bit of a theme there, Gossling?) and an almost unrecognisable, drifty cover of Everclear's ‘Santa Monica (Watch the World Die)’. As the juxtaposition of those songs echoed the immediate world around us, the entry doors opened up to a few extra rowdy, over-inebriated street cats spilling down the stairs to seemingly scare the songbird Gossling off stage, but a few chirps from her neatly sedated flock brought the band back out for one more lullaby before bedtime. Aww.
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