Live Review: Midnight Bonfires + I Am Anushka + Dong Fang @ Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath – 13/06/2014

“I just wish for once this thing would work…” Dong Fang frontman Thomas Hughes wrestles with his guitar which is already a string down before the four-piece launch into their set closer, an extended cover of Hawkwind’s Silver Machine. Protopunk with a dirty blues edge, Dong Fang are rock and roll at its rawest, Hughes on the floor at the close. A complete contrast to Anna Palmer who stands amidst her string trio plus drums ensemble, a keyboard to each hand, the Kate Bush ringleader of I Am Anushka. Beginning with Reasoning which really shows off Palmer’s vocal range, we’re steered through half an hour or so of a-typical timings and a-melodic explorations, double bass to synth to unaccompanied, fragile notes. Tonight sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s completely novel and endlessly interesting to watch and to listen to, the talent onstage immeasurable. It’s a work in progress but it’s already pretty special.

Beginning with their backs to the room (which is respectably bustling, given we’re on night number one of the World Cup), Midnight Bonfires burst into Wait, their wonderfully jovial mandolin-enhanced single which prompts a singalong from its first chorus. Lights Out and “an old song which sounds like a new song,” (a beautifully reworked version of Misbehave which is given a turbo powered electro boost) follow beforeĀ  Misery, Someone Else and a cover of St. James Infirmary Blues, for which they’re joined by Anna Palmer for a really euphoric singalong. The single they launch tonight, Exhale, follows before the night of fun-infused folk pop is drawn to a close. 50 minutes of well-chosen, powerfully executed party tunes; Midnight Bonfires are standing firmly on the feet they found a while back – a real tour de force.

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