Review: Gerard And The Watchmen – The Leper Chapel, Cambridge

Whilst the decadent stars lit the night sky, our path was determined by tea lights. A potent trail of rustic incense goaded us in through the ornate oak door, revealing a smaller than anticipated interior, yet it wasn’t long before we ascertained that the venue was much to the evening’s advantage. The congregation of wooden chairs enabled us to be as close knit as pieces of patchwork, which in its wake, depleted the stone walls chill from cloaking our bodies. Only during the intervals, were we able to cast our eyes away from the musical foray, to immerse ourselves in the showcase of artwork to the left and right of us. The illustrations complimented the otherworldly spirit of the evening; artist Chen Xi’s style had that slight reminiscence of Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham, known for his Alice And Wonderland illustrations. What was more, the transition between the three acts passed unnoticed, courtesy of Leanne Moden’s entertaining delivery of her performance poetry, whilst the night’s finale came from local musician Paul Goodwin.

Lester. J. Allen commenced the evening, with his solo act of troubadour folk and sharp witted vocals encouraging bouts of laughter from his attentive audience. His performance was like the first log to a fire, setting the evening alight and our faces aglow, but the subsequent act set the fire ablaze. Gerard and the Watchmen, a three-piece from Bishops Stortford played their entire E.P I Climbed A Tree unplugged, no doubt excelling their record by its obvious epitome of raw talent. Frontman Dave Gerard politely asked us if those at the back could hear okay, stepping back and forth, acknowledging possibilities that ”this may end badly” as he nudged the abandonment of leads at his feet. Much irony lay in their first track ‘Sophia’ with memorable lines: “So-phia So-phia here’s my hand and I’ll spend this here darkness with you”; the band started as they meant to go on; the night was dark and during their sets entirety, we never once escaped their clutches.

Gerard glanced about his eerie location, indicating its rather fitting setting for their next song Brother what with its murderous plot. Between tracks moments were precious, snatches of spoken word enabled us insight into their personalities. The banter between tracks revealed the band’s rather charming companionship. Gerard prompted guitarist James Frid to keep us entertained whist he re-tuned his guitar or exchanged for the banjo: “Well I don’t know what to say…I guess we’ve been working really hard recently on our EP…which in a sense should have been called an LP…because…well it’s eight tracks long…and copies are here, with us tonight…” It was polite promotion delivered in a fashion that had us all smiling.

The cover which followed was a delicately rendered rendition of Portishead’s Glory Box which could have easily been mistaken for material of their own; unpretentious lyrics and harmonious vocals with tight acoustics. What was more; the banjo transition from said track to Stables could (with your eyes closed) have you in the heart of Cambridge’s farm fields, basking amongst bales of hay and poppy beds. Fittingly The Cambridge Folk Festival was mentioned, their performance there this summer, was a memorable time for its honour and perhaps their fiddle player, Jessie Moncrieff, forgetting her instrument, which Gerard jokingly shared with us. All little nuances amalgamated into portraying the band as stripped bare of bravado, and equipped with a distinct and mature sound. Be sure to catch them while you can at niche venues of the like, before you know it, these will be our next alternative folk purveyors.

Rachael Crabtree