The Deslondes / Gullivers, Manchester | 19th of January

The Deslondes / Gullivers, Manchester | 19th of January

The upstairs of Gullivers is a long way from New Orleans, but on January 19th The Deslondes make this warm and welcoming sweatbox feel like it’s part of the cities rich musical history. The unfussy yellow curtain backdrop and narrow space create a great setting for an Americana/bluegrass/country/rocknroll band, who can barely fit their standing double bass on this stage.

Robbie Cavanagh’s tonight’s support, he fills the room with his heartfelt, soulful voice. Light percussion and lap steel bring Robbie’s sound more in line with tonight’s feel, taking it away from its potential acoustic-popstar in making. Small talk about the percussionist’s cooking and slightly awkward harmonies in places don’t distract from a fundamentally pleasant set. The gig was sold to Robbie when ‘Chris the Promoter’ described the slot as “opening for the best musicians in New Orleans.” This doesn’t alleviate any pressure, but Robbie and his band hold their own, giving us the blues before the headline act shake them loose.

The Deslondes have a relatively unique set up, each of the five members taking lead vocals pretty effectively on at least one occasion. Their albums split composition between each member, and they make sure to credit each other on stage. There is an amorous, mutual respect and admiration between the band members, each clearly endorsing each other’s musicianship and separate styles, styles which culminate in an incredibly refreshing take on a genre that struggle to cement itself in modern British society. The crowd is mostly respectful, abundantly validating the band’s summons for twists and two-steps when invited. The occasional misplaced request for mushy peas or songs that have already been played are strange but the band bounce off it well. It’s rare to find a band equally as engaging between and during their music. They do give in to salesmanship of the industry, albeit with a smile, when encouraging us to pick up Hurry Home, for any era of car, on cassette, overpriced 45”s (their words,) an opportunity to invest in pre-WW3 vinyl. The most admirable stories are the quite literal, of being stuck in traffic, the muse for Less Honkin’ More Tonkin, and not caring about football (our football) results for Who Really Loses, (you’re Arsenal fans right?)

Nelly, Louise and (This Ain’t A) Sad Song, some of their highlights on record translate just as well in a live setting. Muddy Water, crafts nostalgia, a longing for the towns we grew up in before converging in the big city. It makes us feel unified and celebratory in its almost drunk slow burn. It’s at this point British draught beer is commended by the band, for being ‘so goddamn full.’ We carry those cheers throughout the remainder of the set, heightening them only when John pulls out a fiddle, Those Were (Could’ve Been) The Days noticeably invigorating us, initiating uncontrollable foot-tapping. A flurry of covers populate the second half of the set, the crowd listens intently, and sing along to some of the decipherable numbers. A particular highpoint is John singing a traditional French vocal over an appropriate Deslondes-blues backing. It’s the songs penned by him that standout for me, Hurricane Shakedown and Tres Grand Serpent, giving the listeners the chance to wiggle a little, arguably branding the faster, more excitable Deslondes material their strongest.

Early in the set, Sam Doores gives the crowd commendation for listening. They’re more used to people just dancing at their shows. We’ve bridged that ultimate connection, showing total respect and appropriately engaging. That connection reaches its understated climax during their last number, a J.J. Cale cover, Sam invites us to “sing if we feel” and we do with maximum, rambling effort. I haven’t often seen gigs in this corner of the music world, but it’s foot-tapping, blues shaking, inclusivity has won me over. The Deslondes are incredibly talented musicians, who synthesise the better elements of several styles and harmonise with a passionate intricacy. They are well equipped to lead a charge in a resurgence in rock’n’roll, and to maximise its popularity. They have an immediacy woven into both their high energy numbers and their softer melodies and inspiring storytelling, which could take them very far indeed.


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