It was an evening for bare feet, bare arms and baring souls. It was an evening for smiling, cheering and enthusiastic seat dancing. It was, for the third time (and very, very much delayed) an evening of INDIA ELECTRIC CO. at Downend Folk Club. And those are the best kind of evenings.

If there's one band that this folk club has taken to its heart then it is this one. Fantastic songs, wonderful musicians, and a huge dollop of joy; India Electric Co. are absolutely everything that makes the pilgrimage on the third Friday of the month so, so worthwhile.

Cole Stacey (guitar and vocals) and Joseph O'Keefe (accordion, keyboards, violin, loops and everything else) spend most of their time touring with Midge Ure and, from the moment that they start, it's obvious that playing with a giant of 80s music in big old theatres has done them no harm whatsoever. They are polished and slick, relaxed and warm and have a set packed full of oh-this-could-be-a-hits. 

Delving through their impressive archive they first pull out shining baubles from the first album The Girl I Left Behind Me. Lost in Translation is, very simply, a great pop song. Toes are sent tapping before they even reach the chorus. Heimat continues all of the stadium pop feels and Joseph O'Keefe's violin floats a beautiful folk sheen across it. From the same album Beirut is all tango stamps and ruffled skirts. All three are superb but they're just the start.

Every now and then something a little closer to folk music pops its head up. The Gulley/Alice Gray are old, old tunes driven along by accordion and guitars. Even the tradition is no match for India Electric Co. though. These old songs still feel new, alive, vibrant.

Equally vibrant is a sublime cover of Chris Issak's Wicked Game. Out go the faint twangy Rockabilly overtones, in comes O'Keefe's beautifully sun-kissed violin. Why didn't the original have that on it? It's also a testament to just how good Cole Stacey's voice is that he entirely does this song justice.  Another old favourite, The Thought Fox, is performed unamplified whilst strolling through the audience. Perfect acoustics helping the troubadours, more extraordinary violin playing conjuring a whisper of gypsy jazz.

The new songs that pepper the second half are mostly un-named, they are taken from a forthcoming album which currently isn't recorded. They do, however, point to further grown up, thinking person's pop. They are, without exception, gorgeous things that are destined for bigger stages than this one.

They are not the only ones, of course. Support for the evening came from SUSIE DOBSON. If India Electric Co. are favourites here-abouts so Susie is a proper homegrown talent. She's played here on numerous occasions but this is the first time for a while and she was welcomed back with open arms (ably assisted by Ant Miles on guitar). Her short set is remarkable; her voice is glorious, clear and pure, new songs are lovely and an expanding world view gives everything depth. She has charm by the hatful - The Girl in the Red Dungarees is just so sweet in a Kate Nash sort of a way- and is easily as good as any of the current folk-ish pop-ish singer songwriters. 

Two huge Folk Club favourites on the warmest day of the year, who could ask for anything more? Barely anyone.

Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Barry Savell