This was a night for duos, for friends, for partnerships. Tobias ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater have been 'round these parts before but Filkin's Drift - Chris Roberts and Seth Bye - are all new to most.
In lots of ways the dynamic duo of JACOB & DRINKWATER aren't really a folk band at all. They're a sublime indie-singer-songwriter-jazz-country-acoustic-pop band. There are moments - as on a lovely cover of Leonard Cohen's Bird on a Wire - of intricate guitar playing and vocal harmonies. Equally there are moments that almost sound like androgynous pop superstar Antony & The Johnsons. Tobias ben Jacob possesses a voice capable of gorgeous swoops and on We Are the First Ones Now he performs open heart surgery simply with the power of song.
Where Tobias is the weary, wary, heart crushed voice of the band, it is Lukas Drinkwater that is the excitable puppy, galloping by his side. He is a one-man folk music industry - an amazing producer and double bass player for hire - and, tonight, he plays piano, guitar, that wonderful bouncy double bass and provides the dubious dad jokes. On The Devil and Tobias ben Jacob he helps layer the spooky voodoo over which Tobias can whisper his malevolence. As the maelstrom ceases, Lukas pauses, beams and says "we're available for children's parties…".
They might not play "party music" but there's enough to stir the soul. For much of the second set they return to the theme of friendship - heartbreakingly so as Lukas is about to disappear off to Australia - and the deepest love that can be found. To Call You Friend is exactly that profound, reminding us all to find "solace in the arms of music" and doing so in the most delightful, beautiful way.
Three songs from the latest album, More Notes from the Field, mark highlights of a set packed with brilliance. Sargasso Sea has a muted, country-ish feel while Nowhere On Sea allows Tobias to explore his full range of indie mannerisms (somewhere between Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch and Michael Stipe) whilst delivering a piece of immaculate storytelling. It's the title track of the album, More Notes, that really delivers though. A fantastic song, it's toe tapping, clever and witty.
FILKIN'S DRIFT are as traditional a folk duo as you can imagine. Two intense looking young men, clutching a guitar and a fiddle, playing old songs or, at the very least, songs that sound old, hovering around a single microphone. In the way of these things they are utterly mesmerising. Annabel's Set is a set of instrumental tunes, full of waterfall guitar and fabulous violin. The "Welsh Song" (Clywai'r Tabwrdd / Can Aberhonddu) is beautiful, reminding you just how poetic, how moving that language can be and a brave cover of Beeswing brings roars of approval far more enthusiastic than any support band can rightly expect.
This might be the last time we see Jacob & Drinkwater for a while but, with ties this strong, these are friendships that will endure.
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photos: Barry Savell