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WPGM Reviews: Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles Live At Café Drummond


Café Drummond, along with The Tunnels, is the place where young bands in Aberdeen cut their teeth. This outing saw three bands covering all corners of rock, seemingly, and doing so at the top of their game.

The Cliftons were first up, and probably could be one of those ‘young bands’ aforementioned. They consisted of vocalist/guitarist plus guitarist, bassist, and drummer. Proceedings seemed to be kicking off about an hour later than expected. But no matter, they were more than just your young opening band. These guys could really play.

They opened with a driving rocker, with some tasty lead licks over their sound. This was followed by a good melodic chorus. The whole band had a bit of a swagger, especially with their lead guitarist’s solo. His second got even busier. Again, the whole band chipped in, this time for an extravagant flourish to finish initial proceedings. What followed was a jittering number, punky with unashamedly dramatic lead playing. The chorus took a step up from plodding rhythms, a good dynamic tempo change. The finale was slightly more restrained than the one from before.

Next were drums punctuated by stabbing guitar chords. Raucous and jiving guitar, too, with swagger still very much being the word. Again, good change in tempo with chorus. The song was then given space to breathe, with only one guitar playing during the verse. Really groovy and syncopated.

This groove, this vibe, continued with a bluesy and right in the, rhythmically speaking, pocket. The bassist putting in some fine fills. Pity sound levels appeared to be cutting him out every so often. Basically a sonic assault of everyone and everything fighting to be heard. The guitar solo, however, got wild and tasty.

This was a chugging number, and the bassist discarded his pick in favour of his fingers. Again, to an extent, he was drowned out. The bass was intermingling with the guitar, and it was maybe a tad too busy to work. Better levels might’ve made it work, however. The song evoked the more dreary of life, a touch of melancholy. What followed was a nice, expressive solo, deep and gutsy.

The next song was a bit more upbeat and a tad wistful. The theme seemed generally presumptuous, which would’ve been about right, as it was titled “I Suppose”. It was a tight performance with the drums cutting into the vocals, punctuating the lyrics with blasts of drums. There was also a refrain that accentuated the vocals.

There was then a brief and funky intermission, a workout between guitarist, bassist and drummer. After that, there was some beautiful work from the guitarist. Really from the gut and with plenty of heart. This continued, the song very much his moment, and at times very wild.

Again there was the evocation of the dreary in life, so plenty of space and time to get busy and convey heart with his lead licks. The tempo was then knocked up a notch, and the lead got tapping crazy and intense. The volume then came down a step, dynamics to let the song breathe. This ended climatically.

A powerhouse bass riff began their set closer, which in fact was a cover of Artic Monkeys’ “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”. I daresay this best encapsulated best the range of their influences. The vocalist at times stamped their swing on it, whilst also, at times, detracting from the overall performance. However, the drummer definitely had his moment with this one, doing a power of work.

The Strives followed. They consisted of vocalist/bassist plus guitarist/vocalist, and drummer. Powerhouse drumming was their opening salvo, with some dirty, distorted bass thrown in for good measure to give the song real character. The guitar was also really bassy, as discombobulating as the seemingly equally shared vocals duties.

The start of their next track was more subdued, but right in the pocket, rhythmically speaking. It was a good one to dance to, if you didn’t mind getting sweaty. The drummer kicked in with a good hi-hat moment, key to the rhythm of the song and irresistible to head nodders.

Next, the shoegazing belied the groove and syncopation. The distorted bass was commanding. There were totally out there moments on the guitar, really building an atmosphere. It broke for a rocking out moment that segued into an evermore nodding groove. Following that was ringing and trebly bass, heralding the next song proper. It was a high octane, fast chugger.

This was a bit at odds with what followed. It was like a slow Fifties-esque rocker that got a tad weird with disco bass. This was tight and rhythmic. The song ponderous, and with a lot of swing to it. The drums breathed briefly before the bass kicked in, and then the band came in proper. No vocals, then just drums, again. Guitar playing was tasteful and chordal.

Intense guitar kicked off the next song. This guitar was solo with the vocals until the drums eventually kicked in. The subsequent flourish of the band indicated the energy of the song about to commence. There was swirling bass, which somehow locked in with a cacophony of drums.

The aforementioned flourish recurred, epic and earnest. The middle section was syncopated and intense. A rollicking solo, wild but not a note misplaced. There were good vocal harmonies that, although in unison, had a jarring effect. A recurring ringing and trebly bass kicked off some monstrous proceedings, featuring a gargantuan guitar riff. It was doomy but accessible. A touch of dissonance with sqealing, off, chords added to the excitement as the vocals howled.

What came next was definitely a good way to end. A furious, cyclical riff really got going when joined by the rest of the band. The rhythm section were definitely in eachother’s pockets. The guitars were chugging slabs of hard rock. The cymbals crashing and heralding the middle section. An addendum to this begun, and twice as intense. The drummer hit every note the guitars fired forth.

Finally were Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles, their frontman formally of indie rockers Catfish & The Bottlemen. They consisted of vocalist/guitarist plus guitarist, bassist, and drummer. It’s a point to note that Bibby was ill and choked up, but sang well throughout. In fact, he said he was barely able to speak four hours prior to the gig.

They kicked off proceedings with what can only be described as a rambling man’s song, called “Girl”; tuneful but acknowledging the struggles of life and generally happy go lucky. Really good vocal harmonies, too. “This Kind Of Summer” started off with a lead harmony, spacy but evocative of summer days, interlocking well with sparse rhythms. What followed was a tasteful, fingerpicked, semi-acoustic guitar conclusion.

They then introduced “I Got A Woman”. A bass introduction was padded out with busy drums before coming in with the band proper. It was like twelve bar blues; nice, chugging and busy. It intervened for a classic rock and roll choppy stop start. What followed was an even more elaborate, classic rock and roll ending. A slow an searching song, “Are You Ready?” suddenly surged with energy, and some tasteful lead melodies. The bassplaying had similar traits, furthering the searching vibe. The click of the bass drum met perfectly with the bass guitar.

Bibby’s aforementioned band, Catfish & The Bottlemen, got an airing next, with “Pacifier”. His own band, for this one, took a backseat as Bibby went for a stripped back performance as his bassplayer filmed footage. The strumming built to add to the intensity. Considering his condition, he sang good and well. Not only that, he appeared to show himself as also an expert guitarist.

Believe Me” went in a similar, contemplative vein. It built, though, into a brooding rocker. The tom roll gave the song some power, character and oomph. The next song, “Waitin’ For You”, was bluesy, from the gut and expressive. It was really powerful, with a descending and looping bassline that hooked, while the guitar built in intensity. It slowed for the chorus but was still vibrant and immediate. The refrain, by the hands of Billy Bibby alone, was brief.

Then came a triumphant solo heralding the recommencement of the raucous proceedings. The backing vocals added to that intensity. Again, there was pondering and searching for meaning. “Don’t Fall” then broke away for a crawling riff before diving, again, into the song proper. The solo was rip roaring, like the growl of a wildcat.

Finally, the drums pounded for “Hideaway”. This cued something fast and immediate. The bass, drums and vocals helped the song breathe without contending with two guitars. Bending and wild guitars did commence, however. This rung out, making a wall of noise. There was a refrain for the crowd to clap to, chugging guitars muted. Some high register bassplaying combined with the lead melody for intensity.

Listen to more of Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles here.

Words by Andrew Watson

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