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Review: 'Rodrigue, Dylan / Sam Forrest / Sie Sie Beinhoff'
'Mickelgate Social, York, 3rd March 2019'   

-  Genre: 'Alt/Country'

Our Rating:
The last time I was in this room, it was part of Bar Lane Studios and accessed by a different door. The walls were bare brick and there were no plush leather sofas and armchairs. Still, this fantastic basement space remains fundamentally unchanged: a perfect rectangle with a magnificent tiled floor, it has great acoustics and is simply ideal for music.

With the sofas, etc., its less stark and austere, and less grimy basement and more plush hipster hangout, and it’s perfect for this lineup of gentle acoustic acts, the first of which, ELK, is a gem of homegrown talent in the form of duo ELK. Both play in reputable noisy local bands – shy, retiring, and awkward main songwriter Joe who sings and strums, is one half of thrashy punk duo PUSH, while Mikey, who plays keyboard, glockenspiel and sings (as well as doing most of the talking and wearing a dubious wolf-and-trees design fleece as beloved of carrier-bag toting oddballs of a certain age) drums with racketmongers Manscreams. This is more than a bit of a departure. Their songs are magically soft, mellow, and understated, yet utterly spellbinding and absorbing in their delicate harmonies which offer post-rock vibes and even hints of Sigur Ros. The between-sing chat carries a self-effacing humour which builds a nice rapport with the intimate audience, and it really is an incredible pleasure to see them play.

In a change to the scheduled running order, Dylan Rodrigue’s touring buddy, Sie Sie Benhoff, who’s also over from the US, is up next. I’d clocked her across the venue knocking back wine, and she takes the seat in front of the mic, equipped with an acoustic guitar and a fuckload of attitude in a Minor Threat T-shirt and jeans with jeans so bust at the knees The Ramones wouldn’t wear then. She plays raw, gritty country songs with soul. She has a remarkable vocal vocabulary: she does riffing on a par with Christina Aguilera, but is equally capable of pulling it tight and direct, and as much as she can soar, she’s at her best when dives down to the low register, and even delves into a cracked 20-a-day drawling rasp. More than anything, it’s a voice that sounds like it’s lived the heartbreak, all the shit as she singer her songs about ‘Jesus, doing it, drinking whiskey, and blowing it -in a non-sexual way’. It’s a voice that’s bigger than she, than seems possible for her physique – but then, she’s wiry and comes across as vaguely crazy, someone you wouldn’t want to fuck with. And way, way, cool.

Sam Forrest seems way less cool in her wake. His song are heartfelt, and his acoustic ballads are played with an admirable proficiency. They’re pleasant, hooky, but somehow predictable. He pauses to ask how his hair’s looking, and dedicates the jaunty ‘Better than Nothing’ to his locks now three inches shorter. Deep, man.

Touring debut album ‘Cat’s Game’, Dylan Rodrigue – having duetted on Sie Sie Benhoff’s set – gets off to something of a shaky start, halting the first song of the set mumbling that he can’t play it. But he can play, and he plays exquisitely for the remainder. Quipping that all of his songs sound alike, he delivers a thoroughly enjoyable set: he has a really pleasant voice (and that’s not a vague criticism), with heavy hints of Neil Young (and the plaintive tones also echo J Mascis, but that again returns us to Neil Young). After Benhoff joins him for a handful of songs, and some relentless hassle from his travelling pals the understated performer yields to close his set with a cover of Neil Young’s ‘After the Goldrush,’ and it’s truly special, making for a memorable end to a lovely night.

  author: Christopher Nosnibor

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Rodrigue, Dylan / Sam Forrest / Sie Sie Beinhoff - Mickelgate Social, York, 3rd March 2019