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SoundsXP Presents
Next show:

BAD FRIDAY!
Peluché,
Dead Coast,
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The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
3pm till late

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Latest Forum Posts
Gig Review

Sean McGowan
The Forum, Kentish Town

Article written by Alan M - Sep 18, 2014

seanmcgowan
Back in the summer the missus treated me to a couple of tickets for tonight’s gig. And ever since then, the date has been winking at me in my diary, and my anticipation levels are nearly as high as the time I thought I was going to get a pair of George Best Stylo Matchmakers for my 11th birthday. (I didn’t). So here we are, it’s Friday afternoon and I have an hour left at work. By rights I should be joyously humming ‘Here Comes The Weekend’ (there’s one for the teenagers) and ruffling the hair of my students wishing them a good weekend. But I’m not. I’ve fucked up. It’s not his fault, but I’ve just found out that Sean McGowan will be on stage tonight at the unearthly time of 6.40 (PROMPT), and because of this bombshell I’m now having a toddler tantrum.

Let me explain, it’s entirely my own fault. Casually relying upon the tried and tested stage time algebraic equation x - m = stage time (where x = Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and m = minutes) I’d cockily calculated that Sean McGowan would be on stage at approximately 8.15pm. Perfect. Plenty of time to get home, get showered, get changed and crucially, get fed. Leaving ample time for a leisurely walk to the train station, with just enough time to pop into the off licence to purchase some can action to lubricate the journey to The Smoke. Perfect. Or so I thought.

Fortuitously my gig companion had the cheek to question my mathematical reasoning and insist I call the venue to confirm the timings. He’s rather old school like that and has earned a reputation for bravely calling barmaids direct to establish running orders in the toughest of boozers. I’m trying to be new school, so I send Sean McGowan a message via Facebook and within minutes I receive his reply, “I’m on at 6.40, see you there dude”. Oh and he also sent me one of those smiley face thingamajigs as well to presumably show how touched he was that we were coming. I’m so chuffed with the intimacy of the exchange that I am prepared to forgive him calling me a ‘dude’. So an arrival time disaster has been averted, but my perfect schedule was now in need of repair and inevitably some part of the plan had to fall by the wayside. It was the getting fed bit.

To compensate for missing my tea I planned to eat as much food as possible at work before the gig. Had OFSTED paid a visit they would have witnessed a bloke supervising a frenetic game of football, whistle in one hand, banana in the other, sporting a shirt fresh with the stains from a swiftly snaffled sandwich. Combining the rigours of physical exercise with a nod to healthy eating would have qualified as outstanding in my book, but when I blew the final whistle I was greeted with high-pitched grumbles, children in various states of distress hobbling off the pitch, a football flying through the air towards my head, and I’m sure, above the hubbub, I heard someone call me “a nob”. On reflection, definitely room for improvement.

We arrive at the The Forum with twenty minutes to spare leaving ample time to get a drink. There are about a hundred or so punters scattered around this big old space and the sparse crowd inspires us to reminisce of more crowded times. We daydream about sweaty, heaving nights back in the Town and Country days going to Wendy May’s ‘Locomotion’ club and The Smiths Queen Is Dead tour. For a moment time stands still and our heads are full of the sounds of Tamla Motown and Johnny Marr’s guitar. This wonderful musical memory is destroyed as we take the first gulps from our plastic glasses. Even by music venue standards this lager is a shocker. I think we’ve ordered an alcopop by mistake. We appear to be drinking Budweiser that has been poured through a Mr Whippy ice cream dispenser. All that’s missing is the fucking flake. Not ideal, especially on an empty(ish) stomach.

Sean McGowan is true to his word and appears on stage at 6.40 prompt. He’s on his own tonight (guitarist mate Dean is absent), and perhaps sensing the magnitude of the occasion (it’s the final ever performance from headline act GCWCF), Sean has had his haircut, and had a shave. Or maybe he just wanted to disassociate himself from all the Hoxton hipster beardy twats. Either way, he’s made an effort and that’s to be applauded.

I’ve always thought it’s practically impossible to like an artist’s music unless you like them. This adage tends to be especially true with singer-songwriters, as their lyrics tend to be more personal and autobiographical. I like Sean McGowan. He’s a 21-year-old West London lad now living in Southampton. He’s been writing songs for about 4 years: confident not cocky, laddish but not lairy, opinionated not preachy. Plus I’ve always been a sucker for an authentic dropped aitches accent. (Not to be confused with mockney, yeah I’m looking at you Mr Albarn).

McGowan’s songs are a wonderful combination of the polemical, emotional, passionate, brutally honest and downright hilarious. He’s writing truthfully about being a young bloke living today, and all that entails. This is captured best on ‘Never Let Us In’ a magnificent homage to binge drinking, friendship and the perils of getting pissed “I dread the thought of waking up in Shirley towers to a girl who looks like that bloke from Austin Powers”. The audience has a collective shudder, let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.

We hear the anger and frustration of ‘Neverland’ where Sean spits out the lyric “You know nothing about my England” and the Braggites in the crowd share a nod and a wink when he sings, “other kids at school are already pushing prams”. The track “£5.25” is a defiant tirade where the message is more important than lyrical subtlety “corporate companies pay us pennies they’re all cunts in disguise” whereas ‘This Town’ paints a thousand pictures with the simple, poetic “She looked so nice, down by the docks lit up by the ferry lights”.

In between tracks McGowan pays a heartfelt and moving tribute to his mate Sam Duckworth (aka GCWCF) citing him as the man who changed his life. High praise indeed. The audience cheer and whoop and it’s at this point in proceedings that I feel like I’ve just gatecrashed a wedding. I have never heard a single track by GCWCF and I’m feeling guilty that I’m sharing this momentous occasion with friends and family. Let’s hope I’m not called upon to make a speech.

The only track that McGowan plays that doesn’t work for me is ‘Come Unstuck’. Completely unfairly I compare all songs about friendship and sticking by your mates to ‘Stay Free’ by The Clash, which for me is peerless. So despite mixing pop, politics and fashion “button up your Fred Perry, tense up these lads are lairy, and there coming for you by any means necessary” it’s the one song where I feel like an out of touch old duffer.

It says all you need to know about the type of bloke McGowan is by his choice of final song. He doesn’t conclude his set with an obvious sing-a-long, crowd-pleasing number. Instead he signs off with his manifesto, his ‘call to arms’. ‘All The Best’ is a stunningly powerful part a cappella, part spoken vocal that reminds the audience “we’re all in this together” and thanks us all for coming. “This means the fucking world to me” he roars. And it means a lot to us too - he’s been tremendous.

It’s still early by gig standards and we’ve got 2 hours until Sam Duckworth takes his final bow as GCWCF. I could really do with some sausage rolls and vol-au-vents appearing but we’re out of luck so we pass the time by popping over to the merch stall to press the flesh with Sean, buy the CD and say well done. We order some more ice cream lager. The venue is starting to fill out now so we decide to stand towards the back, intrigued interlopers, desperately hoping we don’t get rumbled, “Who invited you two?”

That’s never going to happen. I’m staggered by how nice everybody is here tonight. It’s an incredibly polite, friendly, smiley crowd. And that’s not a criticism. I’m all for a being nice comeback. Everybody is having a terrific time, and I saw and heard enough to appreciate why tonight was such a big deal. But this was never our party, so we leave before the end. Like a couple of drunken uncles, jackets off with loosened ties, we decide it’s best to catch the train home before we make a show of ourselves and start singing ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’.

And as the immortal words “Double Whopper please” are being slurred at Victoria Station before we board the Burger King Express back to Brighton, up the road in Kentish Town, I hope that Sam Duckworth’s swansong is inspiring his mate McGowan that one day he’ll be headlining the very same stage.

Sean McGowan is currently recording his debut album and will be touring later this year. Buy it, download it, tell your mates, go see him.

Links:
https://www.facebook.com/seanmcgowanmusicuk

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