Despite arriving in the UK to officially promote the second album Smooth Big Cat and it’s rather cool, psychedelic vinyl re-release, Angus Stone‘s solo project Dope Lemon opt to play just a handful of tracks from the record tonight in Manchester, relying instead on the mystical brilliance of its forerunner Honey Bones to provide the simmering kinetic energy that the show generates.
By the time the Australian ambles on to Gorilla’s low stage, the crowd is fit to burst. Accompanying him are a slick quartet of musicians that all have fundamental roles throughout the evening, contributing to the rich, darkly hypnotic tapestry which Dope Lemon have established on record. To be brutally honest though, the international audience in attendance tonight are hear to jive with the man from Sydney.
Once the band have settled and the enthusiastic welcome has abated, ‘Stonecutters’ starts to emerge through the chiaroscuro lighting. Its tone is lugubrious, the pace measured, guitar licks repetitive but the atmosphere that is generated is charged. There’s a static hum in the air when ‘How Many Times’ follows and the crowd sing back the chorus, contributing to the mellow vibe that is gradually building. ‘Marinade’ alters the tone slightly. There’s a more tangible narrative and the rhythms are delivered with more compulsion. Angus brings out a female friend to add the gentle harmonies that exist on record and we all gently sway to the spaced vibe.
We eventually get a taste of the new album with the blissed-out hedonism of ‘Hey You’. Judging by the response, perhaps the crowd would have appreciated more from the very hip Smooth Big Cat because the sold-out venue joins in unison to sing along to the song’s mantra, helping to cultivate the generally bohemian atmosphere of the entire evening. ‘Coyote’ moves towards the darkness a degree, Stone’s vocals developing a more bluesy cadence, the guitars more dissonant for once before we return to the utterly beguiling glide of ‘Hey Little Baby’ and the hypnotic ‘Fuck Things Up’. The esoteric mysticism of ‘Honey Bones’ follows though and once again we seem to have dropped down a more tenebrous rabbit hole, adding murkier tones to the chilled hedonistic vibe of earlier. The nefarious tones remain as Angus unapologetically informs the crowd of the subject matter of ‘Salt and Pepper’. “It’s a song about, well… cocaine…” he says and there’s a whoop of delight at his honesty.
There’s still time for the hip jive of ‘Home Soon’ before the band depart but we all know there’s still one more to go and when the band return and fire up the fuzzy opening strains of ‘Uptown Folk’, the packed Manchester venue starts to bounce. This is as upbeat as Dope Lemon get but the bohemian vibe of the whole evening and the animated reaction of the crowd to Angus and his band has been a chilled-out thrill. More Smooth Big Cat next time though!
Words & Images by Iain Fox